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Thursday, 14 December 2017

Giving Back This Christmas - A Personal Post

Shop the look: Jumper and similar here / scarf

Hey guys! A bit of a personal post from me today, something close to my heart. I've definitely changed a lot in the last few years, I often think about the things I've been through and how they've shaped me as a person and I'm glad these things have happened some days because at least I'm a better person for it (at least I hope anyway). I at least try to be a better person every day but no-one is perfect. There are many things I've seen, experienced and dealt with, and they've only made me stronger and made my passions for certain things stronger too. Open to read more. 
For the last few years, I've been donating to a few different charities on a weekly basis and whilst I know shuvving a random charity down someone's throat and forcing them to donate isn't the best thing to do, I'm sure we all have causes very close to our hearts. Giving back at Christmas isn't just about giving money to a charity, there are a lot of other things you can do and I'm a big believer in raising awareness for certain things too. I often get sad when I see certain situations in the world and it angers me that we can't fix them all, which is why this year I've stuck to focusing on three charities incredibly close to my heart. Hats off to people who spend their lives dedicated to amazing causes and making the world a better place but I guess this is why this year I chose to massively focus on three main ones. I really do think charity is such a personal thing and that's why there are three I've been pushing and working behind to scenes to make money for/raise awareness for over the last year. Whilst Christmas gift guides are flying around everywhere (not saying it's a bad thing, I'll be mine is here haha) there are a few little things you can do to really make someone's Christmas. Christmas is an incredibly joyous time for many but at the same time, for those who have lost people, it can be incredibly sad. So, here's my guide to spreading a little bit of joy this Christmas and giving back. 

Smiling at a stranger - This is the most simple of all. Smile at a stranger. You simply cannot judge someone as you have no idea what battles they are facing. I lose faith in the world every time I see nasty comments online, the fact that some people would make it their mission to destroy/upset/hurt someone they don't even know, going to the extent of making new accounts etc, it's really worrying. Put your energy into something positive and realise that you do not know what someone is going through. Sally over there? She might look like she's having the time of her life on Instagram but how do you know that that's her reality? You don't. Before you start to write a nasty comment without thinking, or start a hate campaign against someone, ask yourself what kind of person that makes you. Similarly, smile at people. The nurse you got angry at, she's probably had a hard day too. The cashier taking a few minutes to serve you? Maybe they're having issues at too. Are you taking your anger on the world or at life out on other people? I know it's easier said than done but just be nice, it could really make someone's day. I go out of my way to smile at people I see who are sadly living on our streets too, because they are real people too, with hearts and just having a chat to them and giving them a coffee will make their day. 

Not judging - similar to the above but just don't judge. My brother has been chronically and seriously ill for over a year now. The last year has been hell for my family and I don't know how we've got through it. It's taught me never to judge: he looks fine on the outside but actually, he's not fine at all. He needs to sit down but would be too embarrassed to take a seat on the bus or the elevator at a football match in case someone judged and thought he was being lazy. Him taking the seat on a bus would come with sneers from people who feel he should give it up for example, but people just don't know his story. With mental health and chronic illness, they are invisible so you just cannot see what someone is going through on the outside. The truth is, he can't stand for long without getting incredibly ill. I've witnessed the nasty comments mutual friends have made about illnesses like this too, asking if he's lying or putting it on. I beg you this Christmas, and, this year, don't judge because you don't know what someone could be going through. Make their Christmas by spending time with them and letting them know you're around.

Time - Time is a good present to give this Christmas. Make time for someone, whether it's your grandparents or your long lost friend. Meet halfway and grab a coffee. FaceTime if you're at other ends of the country. Laughing is like therapy, so laugh loud with someone you love or someone you wish you spent more time with. This year has taught me how lucky I am to have my brother still by my side, kicking and fighting and how lucky I am to have my grandad too. Cherish the people around you. Yes life is hectic but press pause and see those you love. Never spend so long making a living that you forget to make a life. Work can always hang on and I know I'll only be full of regret if I don't spend quality time with those I love. 

Giving to a charity - This is a completely personal opinion as you simply cannot give to every single charity. Your biggest passion may be veganism or heart disease, it doesn't make someone a bad person if they're passionate about something else. I put my energies into three charities: 

1.Mental Health UK, who I've raised money for over the last year after seeing the destruction and devastation depression causes, not just for the sufferer but for the family too. I have no words to explain how much mental health problems have affected those closest to me this year and it is beyond crippling to see. 

2. My second charity is POTS UK, this is one of the illnesses my brother has and it's crippling alone, let alone with the other illnesses he has on top of it. Imagine not being able to go to the gym or even walk across a corridor because your heart rate is so incredibly high you constantly feel ill, imagine having to nap after brushing your teeth. ME is another one, I am yet to find a charity for that though so instead I try to talk about it to raise awareness. These are illnesses that don't get enough coverage in the press or enough funding. Thousands of people a year are struggling and they literally get their lives taken from them and one day just can't do anything, so many young people are killing themselves because these illnesses are so debilitating and crippling. I never want to see another person going through what my brother is going through. I have no words to describe it. It's dreadful and I guess this is why my passions are so strong for my three chosen charities, they're close to me. To ridicule someone and make them feel like a bad person just because they don't support your passion, is not okay. I wouldn't ever ridicule someone who didn't donate to these charities, I'd just understand it isn't close to their hearts. We are all doing our bit for the world, in things we are passionate about. 

3. Number 3 is Behind Closed Doors, a domestic abuse charity based in Leeds. I rarely touch on my experience with domestic abuse but one day when I feel strong enough I will. Every day I feel lucky to be alive and every day my past pushes me to work harder, look after the ones I love and give them security, as well as helping other women or men in this situation. Behind Closed Doors offer help for people going through the same thing and what they do is incredible. 

I know I said three, but finally, I couldn't discuss sarcoma. My incredible friend Dean Eastmond (read about him here) sadly lost his battle with cancer this year. I think it hit me so hard because if anyone was gonna beat it, it would be him, with his resilience and his positivity. I've never come across such an inspirational person and every day I ask myself why the world is so cruel and why Dean? Out of everyone, why choose someone who did everything he could for the world? Dean Eastmond will never be forgotten, if I see a rainbow, a heart-shaped leaf or, have a glitter cocktail (his request) I know it's Dean sprinkling his glitter everywhere. How someone can impact your life so much says a lot about that person. For that reason, cancer charities will forever be close to my heart. People shouldn't be dying from cancer in 2017. Not at aged 21. Not at any age. I know Dean is reading this and I know he'd want us all to be campaigning and helping his cause until the end. 

So, whether your charity of choice is animal welfare, cancer, a rare condition - please know that whatever you can do, is brilliant. No-one expects you to save the world and support a million charities and nobody should force you to support the charities and causes they believe in, charity/causes is such a personal thing. In fact, no-one expects you to even give gifts, or money to a charity, even just by reading and sharing someones story, or by giving your time, you are helping. Even just by using your voice to raise awareness about something, that is giving in itself. It has to be incredibly close to your heart. Please never belittle someone because they don't connect with your cause, they're not bad people, they probably just have passions and energy elsewhere. 

Gifts that give back - There are some incredible gifts that give back this year from some of our favourite brands. I mention some of them on my gift guide video which you can watch below but The Body Shop are a good one. I also read something about choosing love this Christmas where you can buy real gifts for refugees. Details are here. 

Contact a local children's home or domestic abuse charity - and find out if they need gifts. I've been giving gifts to a local children's home for the last few years and it feels incredible. It may feel like nothing to you but to them, face wipes, a new lipstick and some fresh pyjamas may mean everything or, in some instances, I give things which are then sold and the money then goes towards buying Easter eggs or toys for the children. I also give bags full of clothes every other week to local charities. Just drop a line to a local charity and ask them if there's anything you could do for them this Christmas. 

So there we have it. I didn't want this post to come across as preachy, there is no right or wrong here, but if you are passionate about something or you are wanting to do a little (or a big) something this Christmas, then this post may be a great way to start! 

Other charities/causes to consider:

Macmillan - They care for people with cancer right up until the end and I've heard from so many incredible people that what they do is incredible. They help out the families and everything of those affected. 

One punch kills - A friend of my family was killed by one punch a few years back and I saw the devastation it caused to every single person affected. For this reason, I am 100% against people fighting in general and there are a few different charities for this.

Andy's Mans Club - An incredible charity which helps to break the stigma of mental health within men, telling men it is okay to talk. Male suicide is incredibly close to my heart and male suicide rates are incredibly high, scarily so and Andys Mans Club let men know it's okay to talk. Definitely share their Facebook page if you get a chance as their videos are great and could really help someone who needs it.

Dean Eastmond - Please read my post about Dean Eastmond, his story is incredible and I am heartbroken that he is no longer here with us. His story and bravery needs shouting from the rooftops as he is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met. I miss talking to him so much. 

Aspire - Aspire are a spinal chord charity and receive no government funding. I did the Aspire channel swim this year to raise awareness for them and it's a really important charity as they provide support to people who have been paralyzed by spinal chord injury. 

Leave a comment below with any charities you support or any passions close to your heart so I can look into them and share them too! Thanks for reading guys. 

Lots of love, Em x

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