The search for ‘Britain’s Best Volunteer’

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Markel UK, the specialist charity insurer and Small Charities Coalition, the support organisation for small charities, have come together to launch the Britain’s Best Volunteer award,  to reward those who volunteer their time to help small, and often local, charities, community groups and not-for-profit organisations.

The UK public will be given the opportunity to nominate a volunteer they know who they think best deserves the award.  Nominations will be judged against a range of criteria including how long they have volunteered for; if they have overcome personal challenges; how their work has inspired others; and the impact their work has had on their charity.

The winner of the award will receive £1,250 for the charity or charities of their choice and a personal prize of a holiday voucher worth £1,000, while runners up will receive £250 for a charity of their choice and a personal prize of an iPad mini.

Members of the public will be able to make their nominations online, until 21st February.

Following the nomination stage, a judging panel of Alex Swallow, CEO of Small Charities Coalition, Michael Scott Investing in Volunteers (IiV) Manager – England and Andy Partington, Director of Markel UK, will select a shortlist of finalists.  Members of the public will then be able to vote online for their favourite finalist from March 3 to March 21.

Nominees must be over 18 and must be volunteers for a charity or community group with an income of less than £1m. Volunteers may hold any position within the organisation providing they are unpaid.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Two months into an uprising that has claimed at least two lives and brought thousands to the streets, Ukraine’s political crisis still seems far from any resolution. President Yanukovych has refused to declare a state of emergency, though by all accounts the protests are escalating.

Amidst burned buses, tear gas and barricades, however, there is another sight that stands out on the frontline: The strong numbers of Orthodox priests who have turned out, not to protest, but rather to pray.

Earlier this month, Ukraine’s government threatened to ban prayer services at the protests, but even that didn’t keep the priests from showing up with their robes and crosses and holy books.

As one priest said about the proposed ban, “It is illegal. It is immoral. Nobody can forbid people to pray.”

Check out these incredible photos:

Church in CAR gives shelter to Muslims fleeing Christian militia

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A Christian church in the Central African Republic is currently providing shelter to a group of 700 Muslims, who are attempting to flee the vengeful “anti-balaka” (anti-machete) Christian militia.

For months, violence between Christians and Muslims has ravaged the country, leaving more than 1 million displaced from their homes. Following a series of atrocities committed by the Muslim Seleka rebel group targeting Christian communities, Christian “anti-balaka” militias have undertaken retribution attacks against Muslims in the country.

The pastor of the church in the city of Boali, which is currently being guarded by about 70 French troops, however, wants an end to the violence.  He told France 24 news,

“I am not going to let anyone hurt the people inside my church, it doesn’t matter whether they are Christians or Muslims,”

and encouraged his congregation to greet their Muslim neighbors with a “kiss of peace.”

Church and local officials are working on an evacuation plan for the Muslim families taking shelter at the church.

The World’s 85 Richest People Have as Much Money as the World’s Poorest 3.5 Billion

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You could read that headline every day for the rest of your life, and it’d probably never fully sink in.

Here are some truly staggering numbers from Oxfam, who released a study on the world’s income disparity that is absolutely eye-popping.  Just a run down of the bullet points is incredible:

  • Nearly 50 percent of the world’s wealth is owned by one percent of the world’s population.
  • The richest one percent of people in the world are worth about $110 trillion—65 times the sum total of wealth owned by the world’s poorest fifty percent.
  • 7 in 10 people live in countries where income equality has decreased over the past thirty years.
  • The total wealth of the world’s poorest 3.5 billion equals the wealth of the richest 85 individuals.

Food bank issues parcels for those too poor to heat dinner

Trussell Trust food bank

Whilst unemployment is going down, I was horrified to read how food banks are now having to give out “kettle boxes” to clients who can’t afford to use their cooker:

Food banks have started to issue specially prepared “kettle boxes” to clients who cannot afford to switch on their cooker to boil pasta or rice, in the latest sign of the cost of living crisis facing Britain’s poorest.

The kettle boxes developed by volunteers from the Trussell Trust charity contain products that can be prepared by adding boiling water, such as instant soup, Pot Noodles, instant mash and just-add-water porridge, as well as staples such as crackers, cereal and tinned food.

For even more destitute clients, a “cold box” food parcel has been created, containing three days’ worth of mainly tinned groceries that can be prepared without the need for heating or hot water.

The boxes, which the trust accepts do not meet the nutritional standards of its regular food parcels, were developed in response to clients who had refused to take basic items such as rice, pasta, tinned tomatoes and baked beans because they had too little credit in the electricity meter to cook them, or had been cut off by their gas supplier.

The trust’s quarterly figures show 355,000 people received food parcels last year between April and the end of September – more than the total fed throughout 2012-13.

More than half its clients were referred as a result of benefit delays, sanctions or because of welfare cuts such as the bedroom tax, although ministers have insisted there is no causal link between welfare reform and charity food-aid growth.

10 Things Food Banks Need But Won’t Ask For

Food Bank

This article on the 10 things Food Banks need but won’t ask for is a really helpful list of things to consider picking up and donating to your local food banks:

1. Spices.

Think about it. People who rely on the food bank eat a lot of canned food, rice, oatmeal, white bread, etc. They love spices. Seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, oregano, basil and so on.

2. Feminine Products.

Can you imagine being worried about affording these? Pads, tampons, panty liners, etc. Recommended: Buy in bulk at Costco for donating.

3. Chocolate.

People don’t need it, but think about being in their shoes and how nice it would be to be given a chocolate bar or brownie mix along with your essentials.

4. Toiletries.

Grocery stores are great about donating surplus or unsold food, but they have no reason to donate toilet paper, tooth paste, soap, deodorant, shampoo, etc. Food stamps often don’t cover these.

5. Canned meats and jerky.

This isn’t true of all food banks, but some struggle to give users enough protein.

6. Crackers and tortillas.

They don’t spoil and everybody likes them.

7. Baby toiletries.

Diapers, baby wipes, baby formula, baby shampoo, baby soap, baby food, bottles, etc.

8. Soup packets.

Sometimes you look at rice, beans, instant potatoes, and cans of vegetable and think, “What do I make with this?” Hearty soup is a complete meal.

9. Socks.

From a former homeless person: “Socks mean the world to you. They keep you warm, make you feel like you have something new, and just comfort you.”

10. Canned fruit other than pineapple.

Food banks get a lot of pineapple donated. Their clients love it when other kinds of fruit are available.

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And remember! Food banks love cash donations because it allows them to buy whatever they need!