Birmingham Against The Cuts

Boycott Workfare West Midlands will be holding a demonstration at the British Heart Foundation on Harborne High Street because of their involvement with workfare programmes that will see benefit claimants kicked off benefits for three years if they don’t take part in forced unpaid work schemes like Mandatory Work Activity.

Update 9/11: It now seems that British Heart Foundation are going to withdraw from Mandatory Work Activity, having updated their website with this:

Currently, we are moving away from involvement in the mandatory work activity programme towards schemes which provide longer term voluntary placements. We have just established an important partnership with Job Centre Plus to actively promote volunteering as an option for people who are unemployed.

We have been in contact with British Heart Foundation who have told us that the Harborne store does not currently have anyone on placement, and that many of their smaller stores stopped…

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I have gained so much from weekly blog club, from Janet and other bloggers who have shown me the ropes, I wanted to use my turn at the helm to say thanks. > Thanks to you all. So, some 6 weeks ago I offered to cover Week 43 to give a little something back and give Janet a well earned break. And boy I bet she needed it after 25 posts last week.

My turn came round quick, and actually went quick too. I’d geared myself up for potentially tweeting from the wrong account and mis-posting links. I deliberately do not have my work twitter and personal accounts on the same mobiles for that reason. Fortunately, I coped without a mis-tweet and actually saw it’s quite doable to run multiple accounts from the same phone. However, there might have been a dodgy link somewhere, so apologies if there was. Any…

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For nearly 2 years I have managed my work’s social media accounts. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Google + and a blog. I’ve worked hard to develop relationships, respond to comments, engage with the communities around those platforms, keep the posts interesting, relevant and friendly, and to make the most of the potential these platforms offered.

We’ve had varying degrees of success with the various platforms and have been seen as a bit of a trailblazer for other frontline services within the local authority to consider using social media. On the whole things have been going well.

But it is fair to say that over the last few months I have lost my way a little bit with my work social media accounts. I’ve lost some oomph. The numbers of posts were slipping; it started to feel like a chore, something else to add to my overflowing to do list.


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TB kills 2000 Africans every day

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At the beginning of Blog Action Day 2012 I truly had no idea what to write about. I had a day meticulously planned, appointments to fulfil and thought perhaps I would go to an indie coffee shop in Birmingham and find inspiration.

Missing a bus made all those plans fall apart. Then my Internet went down at home. I was getting stressed and so decided to see if I could get an appointment for acupuncture….

At the clinic I met an inspirational person, called Merlin. It is his story that gave me subject matter for this blog.

If you have read The Celestine Prophesy you will understand that there is no such thing as coincidence. I was destined to meet Merlin on #BAD12.

I’m going to tell you about a little known charity, Moxafrica, who use moxa on people suffering from TB in Africa and Uganda. Most of these patients are also HIV positive. Co-infection with HIV and increasing incidence of drug resistant strains of TB are making this disease more difficult and expensive to treat.

Moxa is not a cure for TB. By its action on the immune system, it offers a safe and inexpensive way of helping the body to increase vitality and fight the disease.

Moxaafrica empowers people to help themselves by teaching home therapy.

One of the seemingly tiny differences it makes is to reduce the pain in joints, such as the knees and hips. For a person who uses latrines, being able to squat is essential to be able to just go to the loo. It is always the small things that make the difference.

So what is Moxa and what does it do? Moxa is a herbal preparation made from the leaves of the mugwort plant (Artemisia spp.). Yes mugwort sounds like it is something you would read about in Harry Potter.

The brief smouldering of tiny pieces of moxa against the skin is called direct moxibustion and has been used in East Asian medicine for centuries, both in conjunction with acupuncture treatment and on its own. Therapeutically it is known to have positive effects on blood circulation and to enhance the immune system. This is supported by published research particularly from Japan.

My brilliant acupuncturist has also used this treatment on me for various ailments (I am such an old crock) including currently for warts.

The joy of this treatment is that the team can go into clinics and show staff and patients the treatment which in most cases is self administered by the patient. Which makes such a simple and cheap intervention.

So what is needed? Well of course you know what I’m going to say. Money. It is a really low cost intervention. Yet more research is needed. Moxafrica is working in collaboration with Makarere University in Kampala to conduct a clinical trial to identify the effects of moxa on the immune system of patients infected with TB and/or TB/HIV.

Today I want you to harness the #powerofwe to raise the profile of the work of Moxafrica. If you work for a charity that supports people in Africa and Uganda, or one that supports people who are HIV positive, consider if it may be able to contribute to the work of Moxafrica. Are you a marathon runner looking for a charity to raise funds for? Consider this pioneering charity. If you want find out more, visit the website and consider donation. If everyone who blogged to day just donated $1 or £1 that would go a long way. We are #thepowerofwe and we can make a difference.

To find out more or to contribute to research, please click here.

All photos have been reproduced with the permission of Moxafrica.

Not so much #indielove

I’m sitting in what is probably the best coffee shop in Bearwood. It has free wifi. I should be happy. I’m not.

I am not happy, because I have been spoiled. By Brewsmiths, by Yorks Bakery Cafe, by SixEight and by the Urban Coffee Company.

I am in We are Mud, a coffee shop that is also a pottery painting shop. The only people I have ever seen on line here is my friends. They don’t let you use the electric sockets to charge your laptop like all the cafes in Birmingham do. They don’t seem to get get the online community, they have probably never heard of Coffee Birmingham and would not let me hold a Social Media Surgery here without me hiring the space. Which is why the next one will be at Warley Woods cafe.

I have been banging on quite a bit about supporting independent traders in Bearwood, and quite honestly from some of the reactions I have got, you would have thought I had proposed opening up a brothel.

Some of the comments on The Bearwood Page on Facebook are incredibly mean spirited and I will be honest, have upset me. I dared to comment that Poundland has a poor employee engagement record and that they actively contribute to third world wage slavery. I added that a Poundland is preferable to boarded up shops, yet I believe that a pound spent there will never be as valued as a pound spent in a indie, run by a local entrepreneur. A pound spent with one of our lovely independents such as Vangelis, Miss Molly’s Flower Room, Andrew’s Plants or Webbs Walled Garden makes a huge difference to them. The owners of these businesses know their customers names and don’t have to write it on a cup. Yet apparently others do not agree with me, are fed up of hearing about indies and are practically falling over themselves to get to Poundland.

So back to Mud. An indie I’ve tried hard to love. I don’t get pretty pictures on my latte and you cleaned around me and my friends when there was still half an hour till closing time. You don’t tweet your offers or have loyalty scheme. Yet you are local, and I will steadfastly continue to support local indies. And it is lovely to meet with other local people and catch up over coffee or tea.

Birmingham coffee shops will still be first choice for me, with book shelves, music I like and yummy food and baked goods to bring home to my family.

I visit every new shop that opens in Bearwood to welcome them. I photograph them and promote them via social media. I drive business to them. I offer to help them with PR and marketing. I do this for love. Yet the people on The Bearwood Page don’t care. Poundland and a non local B list celebrity seems to be valued higher than hardworking local independent traders trying to make a living.

Bearwood, be careful for what you wish for, a high street full of multiples who put profit before people. Before their customers. If you don’t use your local independent shops, you will lose them. And what will your high street look like then?