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. ”

 

It’s European Week of Sport, let’s get active!

It’s European Week of Sport, let’s get active!

No matter what your age, fitness level or background, European Week of Sport wants you to get moving. The main message this week is to #BeActive in your everyday life, taking simple steps to achieve this. This year there are 27,000 participants taking part in 250 events across Ireland. Will you be one of them?

One organisation in Ireland who always encourage young people’s activity and integration in sport is Sport Against Racism Ireland (SARI). SARI have been promoting social inclusion, cultural integration and peace building through sport since 1997.

On Saturday 23rd September, they had their 21st annual Soccerfest in the Phoenix Park, which brings ethnic minority communities together with indigenous Irish through soccer. It encourages everyone to have fun, while also raising awareness of the issues ethnic minorities can face. At this event, the European Week of Sport was launched.

While European Week of Sport is about fitness and health, according to SARI “Sport also has the potential
to build bridges and reinforce citizenship throughout Europe. There are now significant numbers of people from new communities living in every county in Ireland. People with ethnic minority backgrounds are most at risk of unemployment, marginalisation, poverty and discrimination”.

So why do they hold events like Soccerfest? “The European Union recently called for increased support and integration of people from ethnic minority backgrounds. While some progress has been made to address the needs and concerns of ethnic minorities in Ireland, integration is a long term process that requires continued efforts at local and national levels”. For more information on their events and how to get involved, visit www.sari.ie

There are many events happening in Ireland this week, including Family SportFest, which takes place on Sunday 1st October in Sport Ireland National Indoor Arena. Check it out here for more info. For a full list of Irish events, take a look on the European Week of Sport website.

So get out there and get involved. And if you feel like taking greater action, why not take the #BeActive challenge? All you have to do is take a photo or video of yourself moving; you can run, jump, or even skip, it’s up to you! Then post them to social media. The most creative entry can win prizes including a GoPro and tickets to the European Championships 2018. Get the full details here and get snapping!

Thanks to EnviGreen you can now eat your shopping bag

Thanks to EnviGreen you can now eat your shopping bag

Every minute, two million plastic bags are used, that’s one trillion a year! Most of these will end up in landfills, but some will end up being consumed by wildlife in both oceans and on land, often with fatal results. Meet the solution, EnviGreen bags. Made from 12 ingredients, including potato, corn, natural starch, vegetable oil, and banana, they are India’s first 100% biodegradable and edible bags, so they can be thrown away without harming the planet or animals. Get started on your Irish compostable bag journey by visiting compostablebags.ie and write to your local restaurants and cafes asking them to start using biodegradable products like those from down2earth.

Photo Credit: EnviGreen via thebetterindia.com

Take a Stand this month against period poverty

Take a Stand this month against period poverty

Period poverty is a growing problem in Ireland. It can be an off putting topic for some, but the fact is that women and trans men who are homeless or living in hardship cannot afford sanitary products, which can be dangerous to health and take away a person’s sense of dignity. According to CSO statistics from 2015, just under 9% of Ireland’s adult population lives in consistent poverty.

Take a stand against this injustice with Period Poverty Ireland, who have started a gofundme campaign for those with no access to sanitary products, or sign their petition asking our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to provide free supplies to those in need. The Homeless Period Dublin also accept donations of sanitary towels and tampons to provide homeless women or those in direct provision with what is a necessity. Let’s follow Scotland’s example, who recently decided to give out free sanitary products across Aberdeen.

Follow Period Poverty Ireland on Facebook for updates

Cooking up a better future in Bhutan

Cooking up a better future in Bhutan

Globally, 3 billion people – almost half of the world’s population – still use open fires to cook their food, causing more deaths than AIDS, Malaria and tuberculosis combined. Sari Perdana highlights a safer alternative.

Whether you are a smoker or not – you probably know the feeling when you accidentally breathe in the smoke of a cigarette, leaving you with a heavy cough and stinging eyes. Can you imagine that there are people who are exposed to the smoke of 400 cigarettes an hour on a daily basis?

Danger of household air pollution

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), this is the case for 3 billion people globally who still rely on open fires for cooking using firewood, coal and animal dung as their fuel. Burning solid fuels produces high levels of toxic fumes, also known as household air pollution, causing a range of diseases such as pneumonia, stroke or lung cancer.

“Every hour approximately 500 people die from the diseases attributable to household air pollution”

Every hour approximately 500 people die from the diseases attributable to household air pollution. The victims are predominantly women and the children accompanying them throughout the long process of cooking, they spending several hours in front of the fire every day.

Open cooking fires are not only a threat to the health of millions of people, they also entail environmental consequences. 21% of global black carbon emissions are generated by inefficient open cooking fires – having up to 1,500 times higher impact on global warming than CO2. Chopping down trees to fuel fires also causes deforestation as well as soil erosion.

Solutions

Although a stove that is designed to eliminate the smoke and consequently all smoke-related disease has been on the market for years, the high cost required to purchase and maintain these stoves has been a barrier for people living on less than $2 per day.

To counter this challenge, the Bhutanese Cooperative Dazin developed a social business model that includes impoverished communities in the distribution of smokeless stoves and the production of the fuel ‘cookies’ (small, dense briquettes). This is how they explain this model:

‘A woman living in a rural area of Bhutan gives her wood waste to us, instead of burning it as she normally does. We turn this crowdsourced wood waste into condensed fuel ‘cookies’ and in return, give her a smokeless cookstove on lease and enough fuel cookies to cover her needs. The surplus fuel (70%) made from her crowdsourced wood waste, is sold at a competitive price to urban customers ensuring economic sustainability and further development. The stove cost in rural areas is recovered within 7 months due to the fuel sales in cities.’

Satisfied Customer (1) Dazin

Impact

Open cooking fires are a huge problem that can only be solved if the needs of the beneficiaries are at the core of the solution.

Social Entrepreneurship is a way of combining the solution with a business model to ensure long-term impact.

During their yearlong pilot project in 2014, Dazin has proven the beneficiaries’ interest in a collaboration, and that their inclusive approach reduces wood consumption by 50%, eliminates black carbon entirely and reduces C02 emissions by 4 tons per stove every year.

Following their pilot success, Dazin is now running a crowdfunding campaign to expand their impact from 180 to 2,000 beneficiaries in Bhutan this winter.

Check out their Crowdfunding page and become part of the solution!

Author: Sari Perdana

Sari Perdana is an undergraduate student at the Dublin City University where she studies Global Business. The 21-year-old German is currently spending her mandatory internship in Copenhagen at the non-for-profit cooperative Dazin. She firstly got in contact with Suas during a Global Issues Course which amplified her interest for development work. View Sari’s LinkedIn profile.

Photo credit: Dazin, http://www.dazin.org/
The fear-bola crisis

The fear-bola crisis

Laura Hussey analyses recent Western news coverage of the Ebola virus and finds that it leaves much to be desired.

‘All flights from West Africa should be immediately discontinued to the USA, and Europe should do the same thing’. This pearl of wisdom was bestowed upon the American people from none other than Bill O’Reilly on his infamous segment, ‘The O’Reilly Factor’, which aired on Fox News recently. Thinking rationally, surely no logical person could legitimately consider such a crude suggestion? It is broadcasters such as O’Reilly who undoubtedly promote the alienation of Africa in Western eyes by portraying the groups affected by Ebola as ‘the other’.

Promoting fear

While, of course, the Ebola virus should not be played down; is it really necessary to promote fear and anxiety for the sake of entertainment or higher ratings? It seems that comedians have been the latest group to notice the almost comic effect of some of the hysteria-inducing reports by certain Western media outlets.

Russell Brand, in his video series The Trews, deconstructs this recent report by Mr O’Reilly on the Ebola Virus in Western Africa. Brand urges his viewers to try to be rational, and rather than worry about the spreading of Ebola, to focus efforts on helping those in West Africa who are affected.  ‘It exists in our minds that we will have some banishing virus which will wipe out humanity’, Brand explains, ‘there’s an obvious sub-textual consideration that people don’t mind as long as Ebola is in certain countries or in certain continents that’s okay, it’s a manageable concept.’

Whose story to tell?

Brand and his guest on the show, Morris from Sierra Leone, illustrate the huge importance bestowed upon media executives to fairly and accurately report this disease. Morris explains, ‘Africans are not given the opportunity to tell their own stories, to own their own narratives about the issues that are affecting them, for people to listen to their ideas about how they feel their problems should be solved. The media in this crisis has a massive role to play because one of the things that’s going to cause this thing to keep spreading is the disinformation, misinformation and the hysteria’.

Contained or out of control?

Similarly, Russell Howard’s Good News – whose aim is to bring to light optimistic stories from around the globe – took some time during his show to poke fun and compare the reporting of this virus on British and US news stations. The comic cut to British news clips in which the message to stay calm permeated the reporting stating, ‘a small number of cases will reach the UK’, ‘we can contain it’. The accounts are measured and level-headed.

Meanwhile, their transatlantic cousins, Fox News, took a slightly different approach, ‘Fox News Alert’ the reporter proclaims, ‘the Ebola emergency here in America…(is) spiralling out of control’. Titterings of laughter could be heard throughout Howard’s studio audience as they watched these sensational reports delivered in such panicked tones. ‘The media have worked the American people into such a frenzy!’ exclaims Howard.

Unreal paranoia

However, it is unfair to judge the US media by one news channel, there are other news outlets, such as CNN who have similarly tried to highlight the preposterous frenzy that has been generated by the media.

In an article by Saeed Ahmed and Dorrine Mendoza, the journalists attempt to relay their frustrations over some of the coverage of the virus: ‘This is getting ridiculous’, they write, ‘while the threat of Ebola is very real in Africa, the paranoia it’s generated in the United States is unreal.’

The article also notes that a Nigerian student was recently declined a place to study in Navarro College, about 60 miles from Dallas. The college sent out rejection letters stating that they weren’t accepting students from countries with confirmed Ebola cases. Evidently it seems the advice doled out by Fox News is being adopted; it is incredible to see the rejection of students solely based on which area they’re living in. If institutions of higher education are allowed to reject African people because of this issue now, where will it end?

Biggest threat

Western media outlets have an integral role to play in the management and dissemination of information about the Ebola virus, and the subsequent perceptions of Africa. Russell Brand asked a question which clearly permeates this entire debate, and is one that desperately needs to be considered – “it is worth questioning what the biggest threat to our collective wellbeing is: rare tropical diseases, or the media coverage of them?”

Author: Laura Hussey

Laura is a Masters student of Irish Writing and Film in University College Cork. She is Community Engagement Officer of the UCC Societies Guild and hopes to pursue a career as a journalist when she’s a legit grown up. Laura enjoys reading, maintaining a subscription to Netflix and saying the word ‘like’ a lot.

Image credit: Community Health Volunteers with Ebola prevention kits walking through West Point in Monrovia, Liberia. Volunteers conduct general Ebola awareness and prevention of Ebola and are teaching people how to isolate and care for the sick in their homes. UNDP, Creative Commons license