Tag Archives: charity

Being poor at Christmas: you can help people in Cardiff

Today, Hana from We Are Cardiff Press talks about what it’s like to be poor at Christmas, and what you can do to help people in your community.

At this time of year, while frenetic consumerism takes hold, we get a pang of guilt.

We see the homeless people scattered around the cold corners of the city, the charity chuggers on Queen Street, the leaflets through your door, and the emotional appeals on TV. We all know that spending £20 on bath bombs is ridiculous, but we do it anyway.

Photo by Ben Blyth Photography, from his Behind the Streets project
Photo by Ben Blyth Photography, from his Behind the Streets project

In my day job, I’m a political writer specialising in equality, human rights and poverty. I also grew up in a household that would be classed as ‘in poverty’. I want to try and illustrate why this time of year is particularly hard for people who don’t have enough money to buy food, pay rent, heat their home, and do social things that other people do like buying presents. It’s not ideal to just consider these things once a year, but it’s better than nothing.

Christmas in our house was filled with embarrassment. My mum was embarrassed that she couldn’t give us proper gifts. We were embarrassed that our Christmas decorations were very old, very rubbish donations. We stayed quiet to avoid making our mum feel bad. We were never homeless, but we got very close.

My brother and I knew that we couldn’t have Christmas lists or any kind of requests for presents. We knew that we ‘weren’t as lucky’ as other kids. Anything we received on Christmas day was greeted with a childish joy alongside an uncomfortable understanding – how was it paid for? What would we do without next month? We got into even further debt in winter, and relied on the help of family friends to eat warm dinners and to replace worn-out school clothes.

Going back to school in January was something to absolutely dread. New clothes, bikes, and holidays in particular, were all things we couldn’t compete with. I usually feigned an illness straight after the Christmas break to avoid having to go through the comparison game.

Our family was on a knife edge throughout December, emotionally and financially; the end of Christmas was a relief.

This isn’t an unusual or extreme example.

Nearly a quarter of people in Wales (23%) live in poverty. One third of children in Wales live in poverty. It’s particularly high for lone parents (most are women), disabled people and ethnic minorities.

‘Not having enough money to get by’ is something that becomes much more pronounced at Christmas.

Below I’ve given a crude, and likely not comprehensive round-up of the charity campaigns that I’ve spotted that are running this Christmas in Cardiff for people who are in that 23%. If you know of any more, leave a comment.

  • The number of people declared homeless because they are fleeing domestic abuse has risen in recent years. We recently promoted Project Shoebox, but donations END ON SUNDAY 6th DECEMBER. If you want to give more help to women in refuges, check out Welsh Women’s Aid and Refuge’s Christmas present appeal.
  • Cardiff Foodbank provides emergency food for people in crisis. You can donate food, money or time to help them out. Donating food couldn’t be easier- simply download the shopping list, pop to the shops and purchase one or two (or ten!) non-perishable items, then donate them to the warehouse.
    The Foodbank is normally open Monday-Friday from 10am to 1pm, but please call 029 2048 4120 to make sure someone is there to accept your donation.  You can also donate food at Foodbank Centres when they are open, or at one of these locations: Central Library; Fair Do’s, Canton; Llandaff Surgery; Lloyds Pharmacy, Rhiwbina; Tesco Western Avenue; Parkview Cafe, Canton; Sainsbury’s Local, Albany Road; St Mellons Library; Llanishen Library, or Waitrose Pontprennau
  • The Huggard Centre is a Cardiff-based charity tackling homelessness. Services focus around the day centre that open 365 days of the year, a 20 bed hostel with additional emergency spaces, 14 shared houses with tenant support that accommodate 52 clients. In extreme weather conditions they also open the day centre at night, to provide shelter for people who would otherwise be forced to sleep rough. You can help them by donating money, clothes or your time by volunteering in their kitchen.
  • Oasis Cardiff is a centre for asylum seekers and refugees. They offer classes, employability workshops, dance classes, a women’s only area, mother and toddler groups and support with letters and phone calls regarding asylum and refugee issues. You can help them out by donating clothes – they post requests on their Twitter feed.
  • The Bevan Foundation is an important political voice for people in poverty in Wales. They influence politicians and decision makers by producing excellent research and policy proposals. You can become a member of the Foundation for £36 a year.
  • Llamau provide safe places for hundreds of vulnerable young people, women and children in Wales. They need donations of gifts or items to make up a gift for the hundreds of people they will support this Christmas, who without help would not receive anything. Why not make the most of 3 for 2 offers and donate your free item?
    If you shop online, sign up for Giveasyoulive and choose to support Llamau. Every time you shop online, the retailer will make a donation to us, at no extra cost to you. If you’re shopping online anyway, sign up and help unlock donations towards the cause.
  • The Wallich give vulnerable people the accommodation and support to live safer, happier, more independent lives and to become part of their communities. There has been a 64% increase in rough sleeping in Cardiff over the past two years- the charity’s winter appeal asks you to help bring people in from the cold.
  • The Salvation Army is running a Christmas present appeal, asking people to donate new unwrapped toys and gifts for children, families, older people and homeless people in need this Christmas.
  • Cardiff South Debt Centre is run in partnership with The Bay Church and gives free debt help to anyone who feels weighed down by debt. You can find out more about how CAP can help here.
  • Shelter Cymru helps thousands of people every year who are struggling with bad housing or homelessness, and they campaign to prevent it in the first place. They are an effective campaigning voice for homeless people in Wales. You can make a one-off donation to them to help fund their work.
  • Safer Wales is an independent charity based in Cardiff. They work to help people feel safer and improve the life of our communities in Wales. They offer support and services to people who are suffering domestic abuse; hate crime or harassment; or who are being forced to do things that they do not wish to do. They also work with young people in the Riverside Warehouse youth centre and in schools across Wales. You can volunteer for them or donate money.
  • Barnardo’s Cymru run incredibly important service for children in Wales, around fostering and adoption, young carers, sexual exploitation, child poverty and domestic violence. You can help them in loads of ways.

If you’re worried about money this Christmas, Step Change provide debt advice to people in Cardiff who are struggling with money.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation have produced this great video about how the public define poverty:

From Cardiff to Istanbul and back, on a bike

In 2012, John Chick decided to ditch his job in Cardiff for a few months and bike to Istanbul…. nope, he wasn’t escaping the law, he was raising money for charity. On 28 March, he released an e-book documenting this adventure, and within a couple of days it made it into the Kindle top ten cycling books! Today, he tells us a bit about how the bike ride became a best-selling book. Kind of.

man on bike

Writing a book about my adventures rolling around Europe’s less travelled roads was never on the cards at the inception of the 10,000k challenge. The ‘challenge’ of the title was supposed to reflect the difficulties of a solo bike ride from Cardiff to Istanbul and back. That, as it transpired, was the easy part – the cycling turned out to be an extended holiday with me sauntering across the continent, getting lost, getting sunburnt and getting drunk with friendly locals (repeat to fade).

It would be more accurate however to say that the challenge actually refers to two other things: raising £1 for every kilometre that I cycled for local charities; and finally putting pen to paper – or rather finger to keyboard – and capturing the adventure for posterity.

I always anticipated that the fundraising was going to be a difficult slog, the real challenge where my mental fortitude and resilience were to be tested. In the year before I set off, I spent countless hours on a variety of cunning plans to try and persuade, bribe, cajole, or emotionally blackmail people into parting with their cash. In return, all I could offer was that they could avoid having a guilty conscience for a short while. And maybe a raffle ticket.

Selling emotional salvation though isn’t an easy gig but luckily there are some energetic, optimistic, creative people out there who, unlike me, are fantastic at this kind of thing. Even more fortunately, I managed to round up a gang of them to support me. The result was that we eased passed the £10,000 target not long after I set off and finally raised over £15,000 by the time I sauntered back. Every penny I should point out, as was our mantra, went to charity.

A decidedly short while after returning however, when the pain of the fundraising and the joy of the cycling had diminished, I decided to submit to underwhelming public demand and ‘publish my memoirs’. This, it has to be said, sounds rather grand and was also very optimistic on my part. Up until that point, the sum of my written body of work extended to signing birthday cards and scribbling notes around the house telling the kids to tidy up while I was in work. I immediately wondered if I actually knew enough words to fill a book (personal research revealed that you need at least 60,000, but fortunately you can use the same word more than once).

Apparently everyone has a good book inside them and so maybe the story of cycling to Istanbul and back would be mine. The motivation of course would be to share my experiences with the world, leave a permanent record of my adventures and demonstrate my literary credentials. And become rich.

I had kept brief notes on my smart phone during the trip which could possibly form the basis of a book but converting the excited ramblings of an endorphin-fuelled and occasionally drunken cyclist into any sort of coherent order was another matter. Most cycle-touring books are written by cyclists who write, as opposed to writers who have cycled. Unfortunately, I am neither cyclist nor writer, but that wasn’t going to stop me. I envisaged knocking off the novel in a month or two, then kicking back and watching the royalties flowing in.

The final book!
The final book!

When you’re a kid, you dream of being a racing driver or a ballet dancer, maybe an astronaut. As an adult, in my experience, people dream of opening a coffee shop somewhere exotic or maybe writing a best seller. In this technological age however, the opportunity to actually be a real live novelist is open to any of us who have access to a PC and a modicum of imagination – it’s like the new punk, anyone can do it! Although again like punk, there is no quality control and for every Clash, there are many thousands of Crispy Ambulances and Stinky Toys.

As I write, I have just finished the long ordeal of having my work re-written, deconstructed and rebuilt, and then battled my way past the Amazon survey process which bizarrely included a check that I am paying the correct amount of income tax. Amazon being in charge of income tax checks is akin to putting McDonalds in charge of a healthy eating initiative. After Amazon had conscientiously ensured that I wasn’t avoiding my tax obligations, my crack IT team (daughter and her boyfriend) then suffered endless formatting problems as we converted a Word document into the correct format for web publication.

The book has finally just been published and its already been read hundreds of time! Unfortunately each time by me as I corrected and re-corrected things I had earlier missed, ad nauseum. After two days sales, my son proudly informed me that it was at number 503,114 in the worldwide eBooks best sellers list. Never mind encouraged my wife, it’ll be different tomorrow. She was right. I was at 613, 438. It may be a while before I can add writing a resignation note to my oeuvre.

You can download the 10,000k challenge e-book for just £2.49 here: 10,000k challenge

“I love Cardiff” – Justin


My name is Justin and I love Cardiff. I feel like I’m at an AA meeting…!

I write for Buzz Magazine from time to time and go to many gigs, I enjoy my life and these sort of things keep me happy.

Y’see it could’ve all gone a little bit different from this. For a few years certainly did.

I was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of 27, which was a great shock. At least it was found in time. It had to be monitored at first as it was on the brain stem and in a dangerous position to remove, but after a couple of years it had grown too big and it had to be gone.

After the operation (which was carried out in London) I went into a coma and woke up a vegetarian (after dreaming I was a dead fish on a boat at sea). A few years of recovery has seen me walk with the aid of a stick, which is quite amazing considering the state I was in.

But after this operation some part of the tumour found another place to regrow, in a part of the brain that affected the sensations in my face. So I had a steel cage on my head fitted with pins while they attacked it with lazers in Sheffield, and I then had radiotherapy in Velindre hospital in Cardiff which involved getting a tattoo on my spine. They gave me Christmas Day off the treatment though!

The help of family and friends has helped me all the way though. I now attend Headway once a week. Headway is a charity that helps and encourages people from various brain injuries and it has done so much for me and many other people.

I now arrange a fundraiser every summer for Headway Cardiff with help from Cardiff musicians, promoters, and friends. Clwb Ifor Bach is one ‘friend’ who helps with everything. Clwb is probably my favourite place to go to gigs and I try to go at any opportunity.

The Cardiff music scene has endless bands and styles that could and does cater for everyone, so local music is my favourite and here is a list of (I know I’ll miss some, sorry!) my favourites: Islet, Them Sqirrels, Kutosis, Pagan Wanderer Lu, The School, Gindrinker, Threatmantics, Brandyman, Evening Chorus, Barefoot Dance of the Sea, Ratatosk, Right Hand Left Hand, Them Lovely Boys, She’s Got Spies, Strange News From Another Star, Future of The Left, Winter Villains, Little Arrow, John Mouse, Spencer McGarry, Sweet Baboo, H-Hawkline, Francesca’s Word Salad, The Method, Houdini Dax, Gruff Rhys, The Gentle Good, Euros Childs, Richard James, Cate Le Bon…

I could go on but I suppose you’re bored by now. So go to a gig instead, or ask to listen and  buy at Spillers Records, which is another favourite haunt of mine for info, cds,vinyl and tickets.

The things that have happened to me make me appreciate smaller things a little more and Cardiff is a great place for these experiences and has such great people. I shit you not.

News update: the most recent scan results for Justin were positive – he now now moves on to annual treatment, and his doctor at Velindre believes he is on his way to being completely cured.

Justin was photographed at Spillers Records by Simon Ayre


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