Photos and words from my favourite spot on the Faroe Islands.
Photos & words from the small coastal village of Gjógv, the most northern village on the Faorese island of Eysturoy.
Our children's school recently opted to extend the school day, giving them two weeks off at Halloween instead of the usual one week. This second week proved extremely good value to go away on, for both flights and hotels and so we chose to head for a few sun drenched Winter days in Marrakesh.
We visited Australia earlier this year as part of our family holiday. Here’s our top list of tried and tested things to do in Sydney with a family in 48 hours. Along with some of our holiday photos!
Iceland is without a doubt my favourite country. It has a raw beauty to it, and such welcoming people. If I were ever to leave the UK and move to a different country, it would be Iceland. I honeymooned there one Summer and re-visited one Winter and it really is a country where any time of the year is going to offer you breath-taking views.
Working remotely as I do, is something that I love. I really dig the flexibility and how well we work as a team even though the team is spilt between different countries. It's awesome to get the chance to actually physically be with the folk you work with though, especially when you are all part of a team that are passionate about the product you are all working on.
Singapore offers a mind-blowing variety of options when it comes to eating out. One can eat really good food on any budget - there's really is something for everyone in every price range.
Recently I had the pleasure of spending a week in Singapore and during my time there I ate at all of the places listed in this post, with meals ranging from $4 Nasi Lemka to a $208 6 Act degustation at a 2 Michelin star restaurant, and everywhere in between.
Gardens by the Bay, is a fairly new gardens in Singapore (opened in 2010), situated on reclaimed land, covering 250 acres. When I visited I walked round three different areas; The Flower Dome, Cloud Dome and the Heritage Gardens, where the famous SuperTree's are located.
Not only is Singapore Botanic Garden the oldest garden in Singapore but it's also the first and only tropical botanic garden on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. It's a place of true beauty. Open from 5am to midnight daily it's free to visit, so good to have this vast green space open to everyone to enjoy.
I headed out with Kate from World Vision UK to follow the cassava journey, from farm to factory. During the rainy season, the women get together weekly to weed their plot, between 7am and 9am, whilst it's not too hot. Here they grow cassava, groundnut, okra and plantain.
It's been a week since I arrived back in the UK from the visit to a community in Sierra Leone with World Vision UK and I've been letting the experience sink in, absorbing everything. There was so much positivity on the trip and naturally there were emotional moments and upsetting stories. In this post I'm going to share the stories of the three girls that you see above, Mamie, Jebbeh and Messie, and I feel it's important to pre-warn you that there are issues mentioned in this post that you may find upsetting.
When Ebola struck in Sierra Leone it not only affected many directly, with 14,124 cases and 3956 deaths in the area, but also many more indirectly. As I discovered when I met these three strong young girls at a school near Bo Town and they shared their experiences of how life changed for them during the Ebola crisis.
Mamie, age 14
When Ebola came the schools closed and children were not able to mix with anyone socially. Mamie felt sad that she couldn't talk to or play with her friends, she missed school. With people unable to trade and earn money, it was hard for families to feed and clothe themselves. The Savings Group was key in helping her family at this time, providing her mother with much needed money.
The community was essentially in a state of lockdown to try to restrict the chances of anyone coming into contact with the virus, this included the police presence. With so many vulnerable children out of school and few people moving about the community, cases of sexual abuse and rape grew significantly. Perpetrators were unlikely to be challenged and there was no way for victims to seek help or even confide to a friend.
One of Mamie's schoolfriend's became pregnant during this time, resulting in a still birth. Still births are a common occurrence in the area and it's naturally very hard on the children who go through the experience as there's no support for them afterwards. When Mamies finished her schooling she wishes to become a doctor to help save mothers from health complications.
Jebbeh, age 11
Jebbeh's father was in the Kailahun district when Ebola first broke out, quickly he became infected and died. Her mother's whereabouts is unknown. Sadly, when relationships break down in Sierra Leone and people find new partners they often leave their old life behind children included, to start again, so this isn't an unusual situation.
Jebbeh stays with her Aunt, who has a small farm and Uncle, who's an assistant school-master in the village and her 4 cousins. Currently their dilapidated home is being repaired and they are all living in one room of a friends house. Jebbeh desperately misses her parents, her eyes welling with tears when she told us about them.
As an aside, I found out soon after talking to Jebbeh that she will be the child that I'll be sponsoring through World Vision. Overwhelming emotion at having met her in person and seen her emotion with my own eyes.
Messie, age 13
Messie also knew a school friend who became pregnant during the Ebola outbreak. When her friend went into labour they traveled to the nearest health center but there were no staff there, nurses there were so afraid of catching the deadly virus that they kept away. This child in labour visited 3 different health center's that day, trying to find someone to help deliver her baby. Tragically, as is so often the case, the baby was delivered still born and the mother also died later that day.
Schools have now reopened and these three girls, as you can see from these photos, are all back in full time education. They were all affected in different ways by the Ebola outbreak, but all are positive about their futures. Mamie wishes to become a doctor to help women in childbirth, Jebbeh wants to become the Minister for Education, build more schools and educate more children and Messie wants to become a nurse, to help others.
Ebola is behind them, but it lingers in bad memories and family and friends lost. These girls have such positive outlook and desire continue their education so they can help others that one cannot help but be inspired by them.
Hello from Bo, the second largest city in Sierra Leone. I've been here for the past few days with World Vision UK, finding out how money donated in the UK has made a difference in a small rural community nearby. We stayed in Freetown on the first night, the largest city in Sierra Leone and the next morning traveled around 150 miles to Bo, the landscape changing from city to lush green palm-tree filled views as we went.
We've been visiting a community Savings Group that founded farms during the Ebola crisis - and received a warm welcome!
The Savings Group is at the heart of this community, and everything we saw and everyone we met during our time here has been affected by the Savings Group in some way. So here's a short introduction to the group.
Mariama explained to us that before the Savings Group started, they would grow and pick cassava leaves, packaging them into sacks to carry to a nearby factory. They would get little money per sack and life was a struggle.
The local factory that bought the sacks of cassava leaves is run by a strong woman, Mariama told us, who we'll come to meet in another post to follow. It is this strong woman who first introduced the community to World Vision. World Vision became involved in the community, providing a savings box, training for the people on how to use it, business skills, money budgeting and management and cassava processing equipment.
The Savings Group is made up of 25 members of the community. All the members put 2,000 leone into the box each week. They then loan out money, with interest rates, to people in the community who apply - the interest going back into the box. Once a year the 25 members split the balance of the box between themselves, and then start afresh for the next year.
We were lucky enough to be at the annual payout this week, I'll be sharing photos and tales of what some of the people will be spending their payout on in a post soon. I'm really looking forward to sharing this as it was a big celebration in the community and a really happy moment to be part of.
One example of how money borrowed from the box is used is buying palm oil or cola nuts at a time of the year when the prices are low and then selling them when the prices rocket later in the year. This gives families much needed income to feed, clothe and school their children.
I'll be sharing lots more, including stories, when I get home. We're heading back tomorrow and I can't wait to share my photos with Kitty and Oz. In the meantime, here's some photos from the first visit to the Savings Group from day 1...
Thank you to those who have sent messages of support and have shared support on social media - it means a lot x
Geysir is a popular stop on many tourist tours in Iceland. We hired a car during our visit and paid a visit during our stay in November. The area has been active for over 1000 years and contains hot springs, geysers and boiling mud pits.
The colours were just so vibrant, the sun streamed out from behind grey clouds (if you want to see a comparision we drive 5 minutes to the Sólheimasandur Plane Crash site afterwards and the light completely changed back to grey). The steps you can climb to the top of the waterfall give you outstanding views, both looking down on the waterfall and also across to the two glaciers in the surrounding area.
The stacks you can see rising out of the sea are basalt stacks called Reynisdrangar. The beach itself is beautiful but take caution, it can get very stormy and you can find the beach can disappear with just one big wave (as we did when a group of us had to run into a tiny cave to escape one wave ourselves).
The Sólheimasandur Plane Crash site is a location popular with photographers in Iceland, not far from Vik. Set on a black sand beach a good mile from the main Route 1 road it's not signposted and you can't see it as you drive along. To get there you need the very specific photo directions which you can find here. These were the directions we followed with no problems. The sign as you approach recommends 4x4 vehicles only but the sand is pretty compacted, in fact it's more like gravel and it can be accessed with caution and slow speed with a normal car - but I wouldn't try that in darkness as there some big potholes.
We visited in November and the light was a bit of a mare, but nevertheless is was a great site to visit, a real 'when are you going to get the chance to see a wreck like this again' moment. The site is a good 2.5 hour drive from Reykjavik but you can break up the trip stopping at Seljalandsfoss & Skógafoss waterfalls en route and drive on to 10 minutes to Vik and it's black sand beaches and basalt stacks (photos of all these to come).
Rhodes in stone
There are some magnificent photos of this waterfall if you do a Google image search, the fact you can walk behind the waterfall makes the photography a dream. Unless of course you visit in November and the whole area surrounding the waterfall is a lethal ice trap that is...
Þingvellir National Park is one of the three stops on the Golden Circle Tour. If you travel to Iceland you will be see numerous tour operators running such tours. If you are travelling to Iceland in the off-season Winter months car hire is significantly cheaper and for us, worked out cheaper to hire a car than to pay for airports transfers and a tour
The Empire State Building was one of the first things on 'the list' when we were preparing to visit New York. There's a few 'high up' experiences in NYC and although the views are wonderful to visit the Empire State Building, top of the Rockerfeller Centre and One World Observatory in day light would all be, well a bit samey. So we visited the top of the Rockerfeller Centre in the day time and the top of the Empire State Building at night. Not only was it a more forgiving temperature (it had been a really hot week) but the views although the same were a whole different side of things.