The three weeks that followed our celebration of James’ life on November 2nd (see my earlier blog) have been extremely hectic as I had to cram all of the work that I would normally have done over four to six weeks for the FreeFrom Eating Out Awards presentation into 15 days. So today is the first day for a long time that I have actually sat down and read my way right through Saturday’s Guardian. But before I share my reading with you I should say that….
That FreeFrom Eating Out Awards presentation was a great success with a very encouraging number of standout gold winners in all categories. It really does seem those who choose to ‘do’ freefrom do it with a passion and an enthusiasm which deserves nothing less than gold awards. You can find details of all the winners on the awards site here; here are the overall winners of this year’s award, Gale Zappacosta and Ped Millichamp of The Willow in Kingston on Thames. ‘A jewel in Kingston’, enthused the judge who visited, ‘I thought we had died and gone to allergy free heaven here.’
So why do I feel the need to share today’s paper with you?
Raed Fares assassinated
Well, first was the tragic but all but inevitable news that Raed Fares, one of Syria’s most prominent activists, and his colleague Hamoud Jneed, had been assassinated in his home town of Kafranbel in Idlib province.
Since Syria’s civil was began in 2011, Fares, who had earned the title of ‘the conscience of the revolution’, had orchestrated a series of eye catching protests against first the Assad regime and then also the extremist groups led by Isis. He also ran Fresh Radio, one of the few independent stations still broadcasting from inside the country – despite repeated raids by extremist groups who objected to the music they played or to them using female broadcasters. (Ever inventive, when threatened with closure for playing music, Fresh Radio played bird song instead of music, and when forbidden to use female broadcasters, they merely disguised their female broadcasters’ voices so that they sounded male.)
You can read about their work in much more detail here in today’s Guardian or here in today’s Independent. But what always leaves me gasping for breath is the unbelievable courage of those Syrians like Raed Fares and Hamoud Jneed, or the extraordinary White Helmets, all of whom have remained in Syria and continued to either fight for their beliefs, or to save their fellow citizens lives, in the almost certain knowledge that they too will soon be killed. As, indeed, they are.
Choose Love pop up store
My second bit of reading is somewhat more cheerful. The charity Help Refugees has come up with genius way of channelling the disillusion that so many of us feel with the commercialisation of Christmas and the vast amounts of money wasted on unwanted and un-needed presents.
They have set up a pop up store, Choose Love, off Carnaby Street in London’s West End, where you can go and spend to your heart’s content. But you will be spending on sleeping bags, meal ingredients, legal services, children’ boots, waterproof tents, school bags and supplies or many of the other items which could help transform the life of a needy refugee somewhere across the world – all delivered via one of the 80+ projects supported by Help Refugees. And if you don’t happen to be heading for Carnaby Street, they, obviously, have an on line shop right here.
Last year the London store and its on-line sister store raised over 750,000 thousand pounds which helped to provide 800,000 nutritious meals, 3,556 nights of accommodation and 25,000 essential winter items for adults.