Blog by Ann-Marie, Executive Director.
An Olympic Summer!
During a hot sunny week of camping at a Conference in Somerset, with main morning and evening talks attracting over 5000 attendees, I spent time in seminars on pioneering, advocacy, leadership & Tearfund’s work. These were interspersed with a few art workshops and a healthy dose of communal BBQs! A New Wine radio broadcast on 28 Too Many’s work & the summer FGM ‘cutting season’ made us realise how much we’ve grown since I spoke there in Summer 2011!
After getting in the mood with the ‘Chariots of Fire’ movie, I watched the Opening Ceremony, dressed in British garb doing a Mexican wave around the big main venue. All too soon it was time to pack away my tent & head home via a weekend with friends watching the beginning of the Olympics sport.
As the Olympic venue was transformed from ‘the green and pleasant land’ I’d seen at rehearsals when I was training, to the world class athletics venue, I got ready for my Olympics summer with last minute training and trying out my uniform! My role was as a Senior First Responder/Paramedic with the Medical Team in the Olympics Stadium for 10 days of Olympics. Our role was to deal with any medical incidents for the ‘Olympic family’ (spectators; VIPs; press) and there were 50 of us on each shift for the 80,000 in the venue, working in 10s out of 5 medical rooms. We worked long shifts, 6.30am – 4pm or 2.30pm – 1am, with long journeys on top!
Team work was crucial – who to do what; how to communicate on radio; how to adhere to the hierarchy ‘chain of command’ and meld a team of strangers to perform a top level medical service very fast! It was a good way to apply the lessons from my leadership course to a real life situation! The moments I enjoyed were supporting a lady who was being sick for 5 hours who said by email later “I will remember your smiley face for a long time as well all the women you have supported abroad”; putting plasters on toddlers’ grazes; enhancing my medical skills and computer imputing & coding the medical incidents. Highlights were seeing Jess Ennis do 6 of her heats, watching Mo and Bolt become gold medallists; seeing my first Victory Ceremony; standing by the cauldron, and the closing ceremony.
28 Too Many’s Summer Season
The summer was busy for us as the media coverage on FGM rose around the summer ‘cutting season’. In the middle of the Olympics, I was asked to speak on Voice of Russia Radio, and was amused to follow Olga Korbut, my childhood Olympics heroine! We did a panel interview on FGM as I sat there in my Olympic uniform – being chauffeured each way to my shift in a smart black car! The summer gave us time to meet potential donors, and work on our strategy to create a Model of Change – why FGM happens and how we are approaching helping it end. We also met with potential new team members and volunteers who could help us with the cause!
The Paralympics experience!
I enjoyed the 9 days at the Paralympics even more, having got used to the role, and learnt how to cope with my shifts! One day I helped a man and his 3 children who had come in the evening for a morning event (!). They could not even get in the Stadium, so I helped take them to the tickets disputes office who said the only way they could get re-allocated was if someone had returned 4 unused tickets! As we walked to the other dispute office (half way round the stadium) I said ‘if you believe in God, now is a good time pray!’. We got to the office, the Ticket Manager said, amazed, they’d just had 4 tickets handed in!
On my way home from my last shift, I had a gold medal put round my neck by the Father of a Mexican Paralympic medallist who, when I commented on how amazing his son had been said, ‘no you are the one that deserves a medal for all your volunteering’. With damp eyes, I was then presented with a bouquet of flowers from a Chinese medal bearer who was given it by a medallist! What a night! I also went to the Victory Parade on the Mall and saw for the second time my friend Louise Hunt who was a Paralympics Wheelchair Tennis player who I’d seen again in the Olympics Park after meeting on a flight from Johannesburg in the Spring. I was lucky enough to have 4 shifts also in the Olympic park, so got to walk round the whole site and watch some of the wheelchair basketball whilst strapping an ankle!
The new term begins!
All too soon, my Olympics uniform was packed away, but beforehand, I wore it twice more to speak to a Seniors and Women’s Clubs meeting and shared my experiences. Then it was time for getting properly back to work! We had an induction afternoon for 3 new team members, two of whom will be based remotely. Now we have 3 managers, and have started monthly team meetings as we all work from different places!
We met with a couple heading the next 10 years who will help us profile FGM there and then hopefully help us build an anti-FGM network, once they have settled in and learnt the local language. This is an exciting next step to build on our work inSierra LeoneandLiberiaearlier this year.
We are getting increasing number of requests for FGM talks, and spoke at the Fawcett Society to a group of women pioneers. We also spoke to the a group of 60 school nurses/health visitors at a Whittington Hospital Professionals Forum – all very grateful for the free training. We are pleased we can help teach on this important subject that is often excluded from medical training.
Lobbying and links with others
We met Lynne Featherstone, MP for Haringey, recently at her constituency with Choices Haringey, and shared of our work in theLondonborough. We also met her again at a UN preparation meeting for the Commission for the Status of Women (CSW 57) event inNew Yorknext Spring, where we are helping influence the governments’ issues to influence the UN on its ‘ending violence against women and girls’ agenda. We also met with DfID (Department of International Development) to discuss our anti-FGM work across Africa.
We have started a project in Tanzania for Tearfund on assessing how the Church can help end FGM, and so our Research Co-Ordinator went out toTanzaniafor much of October/November. Meanwhile, we continue inUganda,KenyaandEthiopia. Nearer to home, I visitedCardiffand presented 6 talks on 28 Too Many’s work over a sunny weekend in October and also got some good walks in Cardiff and the Breacon Becons. I also managed to meet the Anglican Church’s representative to a previous CSW event on HIV/Aids, so learnt more about lobbying the UN!
We have been regularly attending Restored’s Team Days, and facilitated a Team Away Day for 7 of us in October which involved doing some Belbin Team Types and Myers Briggs Personality Profiling – whilst walking in Sussex! We are increasingly working with the media, gender, HIV Aids andAfrica teams at Tearfund as we work together on issues.
28 Too Many has also had some useful Skype conversations with an FGM organisation in theUS. We also met the UK Chair of a Kenyan charity, whilst their Kenyan leader also met our Ugandan Researcher inAustriarecently….small world! We were pleased to speak on BEN TV, a Diaspora African TV channel that broadcasts on Sky. Our first broadcast seemed to go well, and we will appear again after ourTanzaniaproject is over. Once again, we were in the media with the Mother’s Union Magazine; The Church Times and in B Magazine.
We had our first Board meeting in September and have our new 28 Too Many brochure! We have closed our doors to more volunteers until 2013, as we have a diverse team including researchers across Africa and theUK.
Do spare a thought for 28 Too Many over the next 3 months as:
|19th||FGM Talk to YWAM Harpenden (Community Development)|
|21st||FGM Talk to Women’s Group, Bishops Stortford|
|24th||FGM Talk to Young Adults, St Barnabas Church|
|27th||FGM Talk to Tearfund (16 Days of Activism)|
|28th||FGM Talk inBirmingham(16 Days of Activism)|
|3rd||FGM & Faith Conference|
|4th – 5th||FGM Conference|
|6th – 7th||FGM DfiD Event|
|22nd||FGM Talk to Childline|
|29th||FGM Talk to Uni ofLondon|
Special fundraising appeal!
Thank you for all those who have already given so generously! Please help with the last requirements by considering a £3-5 monthly donation – I only need 60 people to commit to this! Please see this link where donations can attract gift aid, and email me to let me know if you can help! Contact us at [email protected] or pay by Paypal on our website www.28toomany.org.