Celebrating 30 years of the MS Readathon: Over 10,000 Irish children set to take part

Celebrating 30 years of the MS Readathon: Over 10,000 Irish children set to take part

What? The MS Readathon takes place annually, with more than 10,000 young readers in schools around the country taking part last year, reading 87,000 books in total and raising funds for people with Multiple Sclerosis in their community.

Who? MS Ireland is the national organisation providing information, vital services and support to the MS community. Multiple Sclerosis, meaning ‘many scars’, is the most common neurological disease of young adults in Ireland. MS affects the motor, sensory and cognitive functioning of the body and is usually diagnosed between 20 and 40 years of age. There is currently no known cause or cure for the condition.

When and Where? The Readathon takes place from October 13th to November 13th 2017. Please visit www.msreadathon.ie to find out more. You can register as a school, class or individual.

Why? Funds raised by young readers around the country directly support vital services, for example the MS Ireland Information Line, enabling one-to-one support for those newly diagnosed, physiotherapy and exercise classes to help people with MS remain independent, and respite care. More than two-thirds of the 9,000 people living with MS in Ireland access these resources.

How? Young readers can get their reading lists ready by checking the 2017 lists on www.msreadathon.ie featuring great books for kids from the new to the classics. To get involved with the 30th MS Readathon 2017, visit the websiteFor more information on MS and MS Ireland, visit www.ms-society.ie.


At the launch this year, Felicity Dahl marked the milestone for the sponsored reading initiative, along with official proud sponsors, Heinz. Felicity’s late husband, Roald Dahl launched the first ever MS Readathon in 1988, beginning three decades of adventures in reading.” Over the past 30 years, MS Readathon has encouraged children all across Ireland to make friends with books and the reading habit whilst raising funds for a highly worthwhile cause.”

Cecelia Ahern, author, also praised the initiative: “MS Readathon has been so influential in encouraging children to read over the past thirty years. Reading is so important because it broadens our imaginations, and imagination is so important because it give us the opportunity to envision new possibilities, charges our creativity, and enhances our life. ”


Abortion rights activist Goretti Horgan shares her dream dinner party guests to set the world to rights

Abortion rights activist Goretti Horgan shares her dream dinner party guests to set the world to rights

Cork native Goretti Horgan is a lecturer in social policy at Ulster University and a child poverty and abortion rights activist. She carries out extensive research to publish studies and reports on both these subjects in partnership with NGOs. Goretti tells us the five dinner guests that she would invite to help her put the world to rights.  

Kate Tempest – because her poetry really ‘gets’ how growing up in poverty in a society where there is also huge wealth. This poem about the “Cannibal Kids” who rioted in East London in 2011 is a great example: Check it out here.

Katha Pollitt, American feminist and author of the book Pro which argues that abortion should be seen as a “social good”, as opposed to something women should be ashamed of – surely it’s good for society that no woman is forced to give birth and that every child is a wanted child?

Fiona Ferguson, a young activist from Belfast who has the confidence to go on the BBC and stand up for radical and pro-choice politics….at her age, there is no way I’d have had that nerve!

Brid Smith, People Before Profit TD who held up a packet of abortion pills in the Dáil and told women where to get them. The feminist websites that supply pills to women in Ireland tell me that her action gave this information to many women for the first time.

Eamonn McCann who has been an activist for civil and women’s rights for over 50 years and my partner since 1984; he inspires me every day to keep on keeping on to “put the world to rights”.


Pictured above: Goretti speaking at the March for Choice in Dublin in Sept 2016

Women for Refugee Women: Empowering those who have fled across borders

Women for Refugee Women: Empowering those who have fled across borders

As our 8×8 Festival continues this week in NUI Maynooth, Women for Refugee Women write for us about the work that they do to help refugee women rebuild their lives. 

Women for Refugee Women works in the belief that every woman who crosses borders in search of safety deserves a fair hearing and a chance to rebuild her life. Each week, over 100 refugee and asylum-seeking women come to us for English lessons, therapeutic activities such as drama and yoga, advice and nutritious lunches.

The women involved say:

“Women for Refugee Women helps me to understand my potential; who I am, what I can accomplish. They allow me to be in my element with people around me who are likeminded.”

Coming here makes me feel empowered. Before I was in darkness. Now I have learnt so much. Women for Refugee Women is like family to me. Here we can get ideas from each other about how to improve our situations.”

The asylum system in the UK is set up in a way that means many vulnerable women are detained in immigration detention centres like Yarl’s Wood or end up living destitute. Women seeking safety are dehumanised: disbelieved, locked up, plunged into poverty and isolated. Our #SetHerFree campaign calls for an end to the routine use of indefinite detention, which is deeply traumatic and distressing.

We enable asylum-seeking women, who are so often unseen and unheard, to build their confidence and communication skills in order to tell their own stories. They have used their voices to inform a range of audiences, including urging policy makers to build a fairer asylum system.

We’ve had some major breakthroughs, for example there is now a 72-hour time limit on the detention of pregnant women. But detention is still a routine administrative process in this country and we need your support to change this!

You can help by:

  • Giving or fundraising – we rely on the generous donations of our supporters to run these activities for refugee women. Please donate here or contact admin@refugeewomen.co.uk if you’d like to take part in a sponsored challenge for us!
  • Spreading the word:  Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to share refugee and asylum-seeking women’s stories, or why not host an event? We can provide flyers, films and even speakers.
  • Volunteer: We are often looking for people to help out with our English lessons, social media or on creative projects.
  • Stay in touch: Sign up to our mailing list here.

The 8×8 Festival continues this week in NUI Maynooth. Check out their Facebook event page here for more information about what’s on this week.


This world Mental Health Day, Irish support service Aware encourage those struggling to reach out and ask for help

This world Mental Health Day, Irish support service Aware encourage those struggling to reach out and ask for help

Aware write for Stand this World Mental Health Day, offering advice and support to students and non students alike. There is always people willing to help, and you should always reach out if you are feeling depressed or overwhelmed. They also suggest great ways for us all to get involved and take action through fundraising.

Aware is the national organisation providing support, education and information to individuals and families impacted by depression, bipolar disorder and related mood disorders. Aware is also committed to working towards preventing mental illness by educating and empowering people to look after their mental health through adult, school and workplace based education programmes.

If you think you may be experiencing depression, Aware recommends that you speak to your GP or a mental health professional. This will help you to get a correct diagnosis and decide which approach to treatment is best for you. It is very important to reach out, ask for help and avail of the services available.

Aware provides support, education and information services to include:


Aware support services offer a space where people can talk through concerns, explore available options and learn ways to manage depression, bipolar disorder and minimise the impact it has on their lives.

  • Support Line (Freephone)

Call 1800 80 48 48 seven days a week 10am-10pm.

  • Support Mail

Email anytime at supportmail@aware.ie and you can expect an answer within 24hrs.

  • Support Groups

Nationwide face-to-face support groups. See www.aware.ie for information on times and locations.


Aware aims to educate and empower people to look after their mental health through adult education programmes.

  • Life Skills Group & Life Skills Online

6-week programme based on principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

  • Relatives & Friends Programme

4-week education and support programme for relatives and friends of someone who is experiencing depression or bipolar.

*All public programmes are free of charge.


Take Action!

There are many ways to fundraise for Aware. You can get involved by making a donation online, holding a fundraiser or taking part in one of our events. Examples include hosting an event such as a coffee morning or fancy dress party, taking part in our Christmas Run or St Patrick’s Day Harbour2Harbour Walk, challenging yourself to a sky dive or Camino trek – or design your own fundraiser! We are always delighted to hear about the fun, inventive fundraising ideas that people have. More information and ideas at www.aware.ie/fundraise

The annual Aware Christmas Run is coming up on Saturday 9th December in the Phoenix Park. The event now attracts over 2,000 people and is getting bigger and better each year. All are welcome – serious runners along with those who are more interested in a fun and festive walk/run with friends, family or colleagues. There is a 5K and 10K option and the run has an AAI permit and chip timing. Get into the Christmas spirit with friends, colleagues or family – Santa hats, elf costumes and Christmas jumpers are all welcome, with spot prizes on the day for the most festive outfits! For more information and to register, visit www.aware.ie/events/christmas-run-2017/


Safe Haven: plain sailing for refugees and Irish communities

Safe Haven: plain sailing for refugees and Irish communities

STAND’s 8×8 Festival continues this week in NUI Maynooth, with an exhibition that highlights the challenges faced by refugees around the world. Safe Haven Ireland write for us about the work that they do here in Ireland to promote integration between refugees and other communities through sailing. 

Safe Haven Ireland is a not-for-profit organisation which brings together young people from diverse backgrounds, including asylum seekers and refugees, to learn how to sail. Our aim is to promote integration between communities in Ireland as well as empower young people at risk of exclusion.

Our sailing project provides opportunities for young people to take part in voyages along the Irish coastline. The trainees recruited by Safe Haven Ireland come together to undertake the experience of a lifetime: a week or more at sea as the crew of a Tall Ship. Each of our voyages has a mixture of participants from different backgrounds. We prioritise young people from ethnic minority backgrounds, such as migrants and refugees. We offer places to Irish-national participants, often from inner city areas, who would not otherwise have this kind of opportunity.

During their time on board the participants learn how to sail a ship and how to navigate in challenging Irish coastal waters, making their own decisions about what course to plot over the week. In the process they learn the vital importance of working as a team 24-hours a day, as they take the helm, raise and lower sails, stand watches, cook for each other and keep the vessel ship-shape.


Each group of young people step onto the boat as its passengers and disembark as its crew. To date, our project has developed positive intercultural relations in Ireland by impacting the lives of more than 80 young people. Our programme enables the participants to gain much more than sailing skills. They build strong bonds with each other by virtue of a shared experience, which in many cases will go on to have a profound influence in the rest of their lives. The young people
educate each other about their backgrounds and different cultures and together forge a new vision for their shared futures on the island of Ireland.

The 8×8 Festival continues this week in NUI Maynooth. Check out their Facebook event page here for more information about what’s on this week.