Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Are we a dyslexic nation or is it an excuse that we hide behind?

People tend to criticise things that they don’t understand and they run scared of things that seem ‘abnormal’. It is difficult for both children and adults in today’s society to come to terms with being told that they have a learning disability – the fear of judgement from others, the fear of being rejected for a job all because of a ‘learning disability’ it all contributes to a self-confidence crash.

Arguably, children have it hard when finding out that they are in fact not illiterate, they are dyslexic - which is why they struggle with spelling, reading or writing. They need extra resources to help them move forward and in some cases, when dyslexia goes undetected it can cause illiteracy and severe learning difficulties. Not only do they have to cope with finding out that they have a common ‘disability’ but it is made obvious to their peers that they are struggling, which unfortunately leaves them prone to bullying.

I frequently went through my school years thinking that I was incapable of learning and often mentally punished myself for being unintelligent. I used to sit next to my best friend trying to copy her work – not because I could not do the work myself, but because she had such neat writing. It strikes me as being really silly now, I did not often confer with other peers for answers (except in maths – which the less said about at this stage the better) – I just really liked her handwriting. I was envious of how her intelligence seemed tie in neatly and flow through the tip of her Parker pen.

Needless to say, I was one of the ‘lucky’ ones. Nobody even knew that I am dyslexic. Not the other children, nor the teachers and neither did I. In fact, it was not until I was sat in my A-Level Media class and we were given five minutes to read a page – when asked if everyone had finished reading, I was the only person in the class that answered “no” in a chorus of “yes”. It was then, that the first person noticed that I was that little bit slower and found it more difficult to engage in reading than my peers and advised me that when I get to University I go to be tested for dyslexia.

At the age of 20 I have to say that neither the test, nor the results bothered me in the slightest. I have always known that I struggle with reading – black text, white background, forget it. It takes me approximately five minutes just to read through a paragraph because the white is so piercing and bright. I tend to find the nice shade of apple green acetate helps me read at a slightly less than average speed but faster than my normal white with black text speed. Spelling, well I am okay, not brilliant but then who is?

So enough about me and back to my main point. It is now being acknowledged more in classrooms, children appear to be getting more support now than ever, which is great news for whatever statistic the government wants to brandish at dyslexia. Hold on, I seem to be missing out one important thing – the cynics.

There are two parts to our society, those who tolerate and those who do not. Fine. A minority of people are blind sighted by the very thought and understanding around dyslexia and appear to think that it is not a case of children or adults having a legitimate learning disability, and that it is a case of laziness or lack of intelligence. This is simply not the case. Like I said in previous paragraphs, I am dyslexic. I completed GCSEs, A-Levels and received a First Class Honours at University – all because I worked extremely hard. I took no extra help, but it was the knowing about the condition as well as knowing measures that I can use to help myself that made me achieve more than I could ever imagine.

In 2010, BBC Three broadcast a documentary about Kara Tointon (Dawn, Eastenders) and her living with dyslexia. ‘Don’t Call Me Stupid’ was broadcast to raise awareness of dyslexia and how to live with it. It was like looking in the mirror. Like Tointon, I struggle to read books from cover to cover and wish I could experience the same depths of imagination as a non-dyslexic person experiences when they read books. By watching this documentary, I realised that what I have to work through, is what many other people with dyslexia feel too. It helps to know that there are always people out there who are willing to help and advise.

Through the lack of understanding many people dismiss dyslexia too easily. Dyslexia is a broad learning disability that does not affect everyone in the same way – those who live with it, will do so for the rest of their lives – some of who do not realise that they have it. Dyslexia Action say that approximately 10% of the UK population has some form of dyslexia. They also state that ‘it doesn’t affect intelligence but predominately causes difficulties with reading, writing and spelling… The social impact of dyslexia is extensive. If you cannot learn to read, you cannot read to learn and everything we do at school and throughout life requires us to have the skills to be able to access written information. Above and beyond the difficulties and barriers dyslexia presents it is the damage that low self-esteem can have, which is life-long’ (Dyslexia Action, 2010).

So are we a dyslexic nation? Well, like I said in the previous paragraph, 10% of us are. Do we hide behind it as an excuse? No, it is essentially a matter of tolerance and understanding towards those who have it. I will not use the phrase ‘suffer with it’ because it is not necessarily something that we have to suffer with – I certainly did not. Though there are many who do struggle through because the help they need is not as readily available as it should be. If awareness is raised, then we are certainly going in the right direction to help others who are feeling held back by something that should be seen as insignificant to their lives.

To find out more about Dyslexia Action, visit
Please take a minute to sign a petition for Initial Teacher Training (ITT) to provide mandatory teacher training in dyslexia - to sign, just follow the link:

Over and out.


Sunday, 8 April 2012

Good things come in small packages, better things come from small charities...

So you have all heard the phrase ‘good things come in small packages’ – a phrase that indicates that the smaller things in life are more valuable. In many ways that notion rings true. When a doctor delivers a baby, it is a small bundle of joy that is precious to both the family to which it has been a blessing to, but also to the pure existence and evolution of mankind. It is the small things that we value more in life – they are usually the things that we consider to be insignificant and take for granted, though without paying close attention to detail they are the things that we work hardest for and endeavor to maintain.

Charities exist for the mere fact of making a difference in the world – whatever the cause, their individual objectives all strive for a communal primary objective – to provide help and aid to those in need. 

Small charities appear to be the shiny diamonds that are so rare to come across. They work hard to secure things that will make a difference to the cause, rather than adopting the ‘spend money to make money’ model. Many of the larger charities employ large amounts of people to dictate vast areas of the ‘business’, although they are run under a ‘not for profit’ structure they rely on methods that involve large sums of money being spent on advertising and paying the wages of street fundraisers to generate an income. So really how much money is generated and given directly to the cause?

With smaller charities, there are fewer beneficiaries and it is notable that any money raised (through fundraising events or other charitable causes) goes directly to the cause in which it has been raised for. Take for example, the two surgical tables that have been donated by St. Thomas’ Hospital in London to a desperately under equipped hospital in Uganda. Through the Ganda Foundation and Dr. Sangeeta Mahajan (Ambassador of Ganda Foundation), two six year old hydraulic operating tables will be handed over at a prestigious ceremony being held at Kawolo Hospital Uganda in a few weeks time. This is a huge deal. This small charity has provided a hospital that has had no new (or even used) equipment since it was built in 1967 (see Ganda Foundation website for more information). Instead of appealing for funds through advertising and street fundraisers, this charity has taken the bull by the horns and approached establishments that can make a difference immediately upon receipt.

Another noteworthy charity that I have had the pleasure of being introduced to is UK Travel Goods Industry Support for Schools, which is a small charity aimed at rebuilding community schools and raising awareness and funds for orphans in Zimbabwe. This charity, like Ganda Foundation, puts the cause at the heart of everything they do – any money raised from events (like the recent That’s Entertainment gig held at IndigO2), functions and donations get pumped directly into building schools and providing basic amenities that we take for granted to the communities in Zimbabwe.

This leads me directly to my point that neither of these small charities that I have mentioned, rely on hounding people for money or spend a small fortune on advertising – they simply do things that earn recognition and support. I am in no way saying that large charities don’t do their part for the causes in which they support, because they do it to the best of their ability. However, I am saying that it is the smaller charities that seem to be overlooked because they are not publicised to the same extent. They seem to make a noticeable and dramatic impact to communities but somehow still go by unrecognised. These charities are run by the hearts of their founders, volunteers and workers – not by their organisations. It seems to all boil down to charity awareness.

For more information about the Ganda Foundation or UK Travel Goods Industry Support for Schools follow the links below:

Over and out for now. Weez

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Street Fundraising VS The People

I am constantly hounded by street fundraisers in my local town, I have grown to resent their mere existence – and although I have an incredibly big heart when it comes to charity, I dislike being hassled and given the ‘hard sell’ in order to extract money out of me. Crossing the road was once the advisable thing to do when you saw a street fundraiser, you were safe then to go about your business – but these days street fundraisers have evolved to another strain of irritant that you don’t want near your skin in fear of contamination and the very fact that it will burn a hole in your pocket.

Like I said before, I have a big heart when it comes to charity, but it has to be on my terms. I don’t want to be forced into parting with my money – particularly when I know that charities these days ask for a direct debit to be set up and it will be taken straight from my account. I like to walk up to the (arguably ‘out-dated’) man with the collection box and put in the loose change that I can afford. Unfortunately, these are few and far between – now they have young and aesthetically pleasing (both male and female) street fundraisers approaching people with charm and whit. Regardless of whether you pretend to be in a phone call, or if you are talking to your friends, they are fearless and interrupt what you are doing to persuade you to set up a monthly transfer.

I am actually not against street fundraising – I think that if it is executed properly then it is a wonderful thing. I am against the fundraisers that do not leave you alone if you say no, or tell them that you simply cannot afford that monthly transfer. What really got to me was when I was walking through my local town and was hounded by a girl from an animal charity, not only did I tell her that I was not interested in setting up a direct debit, but I told her that I simply couldn’t afford to pay more money from my account each month – her response, ‘well if you eat less, you will spend less on your weekly shop. That way you will be able to afford to donate each month’ – suffice it to say, I ended the conversation with a hole in my lip because I was trying to chew my way out of the situation without being rude.

On another occasion, going back to about 2005, I was walking through my hometown with my ex-boyfriend and my brother, when a fundraiser outside Woolworths approached us. I kept my head down, trying to go unnoticed but the fundraiser gently grabbed my arm and stopped us. I felt guilty as we weren’t going to stop, when my ex said that “the trick is to simply confuse them, watch this… sorry mate, I’ve got no arms” – sure enough the guy stood there, looking at my ex, then back to me and back to my ex again, he was totally confused. So maybe this is the way forward. Maybe confusing the ‘lesser-spotted’, scratch that ‘common’ fundraiser is the best thing to do – it will leave them pondering for a few minutes while other potential victims manage to scurry by unscathed.

Fundraising is a huge thing to charities, without it you have no research, you have no funds to fight for the cause you stand for and you have no way of integrating the charity into the public eye – but I do believe that there should be something put in place to stop passers by from being hassled by a string of people asking for money. In the local high street there are fundraisers hassling not only those who are only just eligible for a current account, but also pensioners, and it appears to be a different charity every day – yet the local council do not appear to have a problem with the very fact that people are being bullied in to parting with their money, which in the current climate is increasingly hard to keep hold of. These days you cannot cross the road to get away from the intrusion and the guilt selling that is put upon you and there is no getting away from the other fundraising minion a few metres away.

The process has become an ugly one. Fundraisers are trained to sell the charities in which they work for. Fine, I get that, but so much money is spent on them being on the street and getting people to sign up, people just do not want to be hassled anymore – it is high time that charitable organisations realise this and go back to basics. This is what smaller charities do; they cut out the middleman and go direct the jewels that are going to bring them assets for the charity. I will write more on this in my next blog ‘GOOD THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES, BETTER THINGS COME FROM SMALL CHARITIES’.

Signing off for now. Over and out.


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