Sunday, 14 June 2009

Simple Acts

I spent the afternoon soaking up the sunshine at the Celebrating Sanctuary Fun Day in Queens Square. There were stalls and workshops and food and drink and some amazing music. We arrived to hear some Ghanaian drummers, followed by Polish and then Ethiopian dancers and finally a Middle Eastern band.

The fun day was one of a number of events to mark National Refugee Week, which started on Friday 12 June and runs until Monday 22 June. For those of you living in Bristol see here for details of all that's on offer. One thing that caught my eye was the Simple Acts campaign, which invites us to 'do something small to make life better for refugees and everyone else around you'. The list runs as follows:

Cook a dish from another country
Tell a child a story from another country
Watch a movie about refugees
Do a quiz on refugees
Say a little prayer for me
Read a book about exile
Sign off your emial with a note about refugees
Find five facts about refugees
Find out who you REALLY are
Visit a Refugee Week event
Smile :O)
Learn to say a few things in a new language
Have tea with a refugee
Share a song
Join a big action campaign in support of refugees
Share your sweets
Give a book about refugees as a present to someone
Define the word 'Refuge'
Take a picture of you and your pro-refugee banner
Play football with a refugee

The website states that if everyone does at least one of these acts then we can make a big difference to the way refugees are perceived in the UK.

Which simple act will you do this week?

Thursday, 4 June 2009

'Vote Early and Often!'

Random thoughts on polling day:

I meant to vote first thing this morning but didn't get up in time so I had to wait until this evening. When I arrived at the polling station I had to queue to cast my ballot. Unheard of! I also met three sets of friends on the way in.

I live just around the corner from the my polling station and one of my favourite sights is the stream of people making their way along the road to cast their vote. Elderly couples, mums with their children, young people on their way to or from work. Democracy in practice is a wonderful thing.

I well remember listening to the Today programme on the morning of the first elections in South Africa after the abolition of apartheid. Brian Redfern's humbling interview with an elderly woman who had walked miles to vote for the very first time moved me to tears.

I have voted in every election since my 18th birthday, with one unforgettable exception. I was a student. It was a local election. I had other things to do. When I returned to the family I was living with that evening and admitted to not having made it to the polling station I was left in no doubt that I had betrayed the sacrifices made by the brave suffragettes. Thanks to Irene I have never missed an election since.

I voted Scottish Nationalist on the first occasion and Labour ever since - until today when I voted Green.