Friday, 16 September 2016

Volunteering with Help Refugees

I recently returned from a two week trip to Calais where I spent my time volunteering with Help Refugees. If you read my last post you'll remember that I was running a donation drive in Brighton to take food donations to Calais in my van and it was a huge success, so many people brought generous donations along to both Punktured and The Hope and Ruin, and Infinity Foods gave me a generous donation of dried and canned goods. As well as filling the van with lentils, tinned tomatoes, biscuits, rice, sugar, tea, and more I was also able to raise £1050 which covered a weeks worth of fresh food for Refugee Community Kitchen who currently feed over 2000 people a day.

The refugee crisis in Calais is actually worse than I understood it to be before I went over there, the most surprising thing to me was finding out that it's not an officially recognised refugee camp. There are no large aid agencies like Oxfam or Amnesty there on the ground distributing aid in fact the only organisations working in the jungle are small grassroots groups like Help Refugees. There are over 10,000 people living in the camp and numbers are growing every day, the majority or refugees come from Afghanistan, Sudan, Pakistan and Eritrea. These are people who risk (and often loose) their lives trying to get to the UK to claim asylum. Despite the Dubs amendment passing in May no unaccompanied refugee children have been settled in the UK under the new law. Just let that sink in for a moment. Over four months ago the UK government agreed that we need to resettle unaccompanied refugee children but since then we have done nothing about it. Nothing. The mental and physical health of vulnerable children (children as young as eight) is declining every day and we're over here planning to build a £1.7m wall to keep people away?! It's appalling.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Food Donation Drive for Help Refugees

This past week has been a whirlwind. Between getting my IUD replaced early last week (OMG that hurt so bad), to flying to Scotland and back today to investigate some exciting future plans I've met up with friends in London for delicious vegan eats, volunteered at FRIEND Sanctuary in Kent, hung out with my dad, spent time barbecueing and hanging in a hot tub with old friends, and even squeezed in a little dinner date with Nick's oldest friends and their new (to us, she's actually four months old already) baby. I've basically been all over the place!

In between all of this madness (don't worry I've scheduled a self care day for tomorrow!) I've been organising a food donation drive for Help Refugees. Nick and I will be driving our little camper van to Calais to volunteer at the refugee camp there. Did you read about my fun European road trip adventures last summer? Well whilst Nick and I were zig zagging across the continent in our silly tiny van with our British passports we passed numerous refugees who were unable to cross any borders. They were camping in city parks, being blocked from getting on trains, and arriving on Greek beaches with nothing after the most horrendous journeys. I think that it's bullshit that I can travel pretty much wherever I want because of some weird twist of birth whereas these people, not migrants as the British press are so fond of calling them, people, are what? Just meant to stay put whilst their countries are bombed? Where there are no opportunities for their children? Where they face persecution? Where members of their families are being killed? One of the first things I saw when we drove off of the ferry into France last summer was all of the fencing around not just the camp but all of the roads leading from the camp to the ferry and train terminals and I was both horrified and disgusted that my government was paying for this to keep refugees, people who by definition have been forced to leave their countries, away from the UK. Aside from feeling saddened by the state of the world I felt like I needed to at least try do something to help. 

Nick and I will be at the refugee camp for two weeks and I think we're mainly going to be volunteering in the warehouse sorting donations. It doesn't make sense to drive an empty van over there so we're going to try to fill the van with as many donations as possible. If you're in Brighton you can donate some food this Thursday 25th or Friday 26th at Punktured or The Hope and Ruin. I'll be at Punktured, located on Gardner Street close to Infinity Foods, between 11am and 6pm on both days and then at the Hope & Ruin, on Queen's Road, on Thursday night from 6pm - close. Don't ask how I'm going to be in both places at 6pm on Thursday, I'll figure it out. Maybe I'll run! If you drop donations off at The Hope & Ruin you get the added bonus of getting to order some delicious food from Beelzebab whose food I am totally obsessed with. The loaded fries are especially uh-mazing.

Help Refugees have to be quite strict with the donations that can be dropped off, there are only a small number of volunteers sorting through them and then an even smaller number manning the kitchen and cooking food for people. This is why everything has to be non perishable, donating some gorgeous veggies from your allotment would be a lovely idea but they wouldn't be good by the time our delivery slot rolls around on Sunday and they need a lot of each item to feed everybody.

If you'd like to donate here's your shopping list, screen shot it and grab a few things! 

• 1kg bags of sugar
• 1 litre bottle of oil (vegetable or olive)
• 1kg bags of rice
• 750g bags of salt
• Tinned pulses especially chickpeas and kidney beans (ring pull tops only)
• Tinned tomatoes (ring pull tops only)
• Dried red lentils
• Dried fruit and nuts
• Vegetable stock cubes
• Biscuits (good vegan biscuit options include Bourbons, HobNobs, McVities Fruit Shortcake and Lotus Biscoff)
• Tea
• Coffee

No one person needs to donate everything single thing on the list. A few small things will be really helpful, maybe your local shop will have an epic deal on canned pulses, or litre bottles of oil will be going cheap at the corner store you pass on the way to work. Every little helps!

Some of you super sweet people have let me know that you'd like to help from afar and I super appreciate it! Y'all are the best. Help Refugees need fresh fruit, veggies, herbs, onions, garlic, and potatoes so we'll be using any monetary donations to buy these things at a supermarket in Calais. The best way to donate is probably via Paypal to with a note that it's for Calais but if you have any other ideas of how to get cash to me then just holler on that same e-mail.

Thanks for reading! See you soon!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Open Day at Friend Animal Rescue

It's no secret that I'm vegan primarily for animal rights reasons. I went vegan in 2005 after a short period of vegetarianism and I've never looked back. I've always loved animals, from the rabbit my parents finally let me get after years of begging, to the sheep that lived in the fields near where I grew up, I wanted to hug them all. I made the connection between the animals we see grazing in fields and the food on my plate at quite a young age but but my mum wouldn't let me go veggie and, as a kid growing up in the middle of nowhere with no idea where to even buy food, I just kept eating what was put on my plate. No lamb though, I just couldn't deal. Farmed animal sanctuaries like Friend, located near Tonbridge in Kent, are important for so many reasons. Firstly they're a refuge for the animals that make it out of the meat, dairy, and egg industries. Without sanctuaries these animals would have nowhere to go aside from the slaughterhouse.

Friend are currently caring for over 100 animals including cows, pigs, sheep, goats, cats, ducks, geese, chickens, and turkeys. It's a really fun place to visit. One of the goats was so friendly, whenever I spotted him he was making friends with another group of visitors! As well as believing that farm sanctuaries are essential for the animals that live there I also see farm sanctuaries as an essential education tool.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Vegan Eats Edinburgh

As I mentioned last week Nick and I are staying with his sister right now. She has four kids who are eight, six, four, and two and OMG looking after them is tiring! I genuinely don't understand how she gets up and does this every single day and it's definitely reinforced my decision not to have children of my own. I mean we're having some fun but I wouldn't want to do this all the time. We're helping her sort out her house, which was Nick's parents house, so that she can sell it so we've been sorting through things, taking bags full of clothes and toys to the charity shop, and attempting to keep the kids entertained all at the same time. I'm definitely wishing I was back in Edinburgh right now as we move into hour six of supervising the putting together of a jigsaw! On the other hand Nick's sister made everyone vegan scones earlier and they were super delicious. I'll be stealing her recipe for sure, let me know in the comments if you want me to share it. Scones have always been a favourite of mine, they're up there with shortbread as one of the things I can remember loving since I was a wee bairn, as my dad would say.

Whilst we were in Edinburgh we spent a lot of time hanging out with the cats we were cat sitting for and cooking meals at my friend Imogen's place but we did manage to eat out a fair few times. Henderson's has been a favourite spot of mine since I first visited Edinburgh six years ago and now my favourite bistro is 100% vegan. How cool! Their shop, located just next door to the bistro and above their salad bar, seems to have become far more vegan friendly too. When we popped in they had cupcakes, cakes, flapjack style bars, and chocolate dipped shortbread biscuits which were only £1. As soon as I bit into them I wished that we'd bought more than three pieces.

I don't remember Henderson's having a particularly interesting breakfast menu but now it's seriously great. I wanted to order everything. In the end I settled on the tofu benedict which was a most excellent choice. 

Friday, 5 August 2016

Oh hey friends!

The last few weeks have been brilliant and tiring and inspiring and fun and all of the best things but they definitely haven't been productive as far as writing goes!

A little over three weeks ago my friend Tabitha and I boarded a bus in central London that took us North where we met up with Nick, hopped into the van, and went off on a Scottish adventure. I managed to blog about the great food in Glasgow from a campsite which wasn't easy and involved such modern things as attaching my computer to a 3G hotspot on someone's phone. Magic! After a week of lochs, walks, eating, and exploring Tabitha hopped onto a train back to Brighton and Nick and I did a spot of cat sitting for my friend Imogen in Edinburgh.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Vegan in Glasgow

I've been meaning to visit Glasgow since before the awful fat shaming animal rights group that shall not be named here picked it as their most vegan friendly city in the UK back in 2013. I don't know why it's taken me so damn long to get there but I'm going to blame Nick and the fact that early 2013 saw him deciding that he actually did want to get on planes and fly to far away places which significantly reduced our European adventures. Approximately 90% of my list of things to do in Glasgow list involved eating and thankfully my travel buddies were into that idea. We also fitted in a whole bunch of galleries and museums, large and small, as well as a whole lot of walking about the place.

Because we only had 36 hours in the city we could only really fit in three meals. If I don't eat breakfast as soon as I get up in the morning I'll be horribly cranky for the whole day so on day one we arrived in time for a late lunch / early dinner and on day two we ate a campsite breakfast and got into the city in time for activities and then lunch. I took a little poll on Instagram to help me narrow down my foodie shortlist and bustling cafe bar Mono came out on top by miles. We headed there first and we certainly weren't disappointed.