Charity

A right royal affair at LMH

A right royal affair at LMH

Princess Anne will visit LMH next Tuesday to attend formal hall and present a prize for refugee projects.

The Princess will present the second annual Ockenden International Prize, and will give $75,000 to an existing organisation that helps refugees and displaced people around the world.

Ockenden’s founder Joyce Pearce attended LMH in the 1930s.

The ceremony will be followed by a special formal hall dinner, which will also be attended by Princess Anne. Sign-ups are available to LMH students beginning from 4 February.

Rebecca Ward, Alumni Relations Officer at LMH, told students: “College will provide alcohol, at no extra cost.”

“We hope to see a full Dining Hall on Tuesday 18th February so encourage all your friends to sign up,” she added.

Stephen Claypole, a trustee of Ockenden International, said it was “appropriate for [Princess Anne] to visit LMH because both Ockenden International and Save The Children Fund have their origins at the College.

“We are very pleased that the Princess has agreed to present the 2014 Ockenden International Prize. It’s enormously important to our work to have her support,” he added.

A record ninety-seven applicants have applied for the prize this year, including the Norwegian Refugee Council Zimbabwe and ActionAid India. They will present their projects to a panel of five judges, led by broadcaster Michael Buerk.

According to the administrator of Ockenden Prize, Corrie Parsonson, the prize organisers had asked Princess Anne “because of HRH The Princess Royal’s interest in related charities,” as she is President of Save the Children Fund.

Ockenden International was founded in 1951 with two other English schoolteachers. Their initial aim was to help displaced East European youths reintegrate into society after the war.

In addition to the annual prize, Ockenden International also funds a Junior Research Fellowship at LMH.

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Northern Lights: A Paradise Lost.

Northern Lights: A Paradise Lost.

The contrast between the university’s gilded youth and the homeless population of Oxford is perhaps at its most galling when clothes are involved. The romance of scholars in sub-fusc and well-heeled girls in ball gowns sits uncomfortably with the city’s ranking as the fourth worst place in the country for homelessness. Presented by Sarah Fan at For Fashion’s Sake and the Oxford Cocktail Society, ‘Northern Lights: A Paradise Lost’ offered an excuse to dress up and sip cocktails in aid of The Gatehouse, an Oxford-based charity which offers food and refuge to those sleeping rough.

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With pieces still on display from the Edgar Wind Society’s Material Exhibition, Freud provided an atmospheric venue for a nostalgic foray into Phillip Pullman’s parallel Oxford. The striking web sculpture suspended from the ceiling gave the former church a touch of the gothic, while the checkerboard catwalk was reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The doors opened fashionably late, however the queue provided a welcome opportunity for pre-show style spotting. The veritable forest of faux fur cast against the neoclassical backdrop of Freud was almost a show in itself. This, then, was Lyra’s Oxford, only with fewer daemons and more sartorial sidekicks.
For the boys, sheepskin coats and sheepish grins dominated the catwalk. The clothes, which were mainly the models’ own, were an eclectic mix. Baroque smoking jackets and paisley waistcoats were almost Wildean in style, while the girls showcased occasion wear kindly donated by Coast and The Ballroom Emporium. Shimmering, silver eye make-up complemented the silky gowns and cocktail dresses: if Lyra ever had an eighteenth birthday party, this is what she would have worn.
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Perhaps even more fashion-forward than the models were OxCock’s dapper triumvirate themselves. Channeling Audrey Hepburn in ‘Funny Face’, Kostas Chryssanthopoulos, Otamere Guobadia and Cai Wilshaw all sported muted turtle necks and sartorial self assurance, both of which promise to be big looks for AW13.
Commenting on the success of the night, Cai Wilshaw revealed: “We managed to raise over £1000 in gross ticket sales, which is a testament to the hard work of the team as well as the benevolence of Oxford students. We’ve got great plans for the future – bigger and better than before – so watch this space!”
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Teddy Hall student in Indian charity cycle

A Teddy Hall student has raised over £3,000 by cycling 540km across India this summer.

Fourth year mathematician Kevin Minors completed the cycle in order to raise funds for the charity Childreach International.

No stranger to adventurous means of fundraising, last summer, he climbed the 5,895 metre Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, raising over £4,000.

Minors said the most difficult aspect of the trip was psychological.

He commented: “I found myself constantly questioning whether I was actually making a difference in India by being on this trip, or was I just another tourist out to find a new display picture and photo album[…]it was very tough at times.”

The trip took Kevin through the arid northern state of Rajasthan, completing his expedition just outside the state, at the world famous Taj Mahal.

Childreach International, Kevin’s chosen charity, works to secure basic rights for children across the world, providing education, medicine and security. He found his charity at a “Choose your Challenge” fair in Oxford two years ago, and has now raised over £7,000 across his two trips.

After his fundraising drive, he spent another week in India observing the local culture.

Although Kevin has no trips planned in the near future, he hopes to continue his fundraising throughout Michaelmas term. In fifth week, he is participating in Oxford RAG’s bungee jump, commenting, “How often do you have the opportunity to go bungee jumping?”

Blues go blue for charity

Blues go blue for charity

PHOTOS/Toby Mather

Oxford’s top athletes have set aside their sticks, oars, bats and balls to bare all for a charity nude calendar.

The Oxford Blues Charity Naked Calendar, featuring photos taken by Jesus student Toby Mather, exhibits 70 Blues athletes, their modesty kept intact by a host of cunning camera angles and strategically-positioned objects.

Teams featured in the calendar include athletics, fencing, lacrosse, netball, polo, rowing, rugby, squash, swimming, tennis and triathlon.

Ollie Bristowe, a member of the rowing team at St Peter’s, adorns April with his disrobed 6’ 4’’ frame. He said: “I was just hanging out in the boathouse when some guy turned up with a camera. Apparently it’s for charity.”

Though far from the first of its kind in Oxford, the RAG-organised calendar marks the first time such charitable nudity has been coordinated on a university-wide scale. The project is RAG’s latest fundraising effort to help meet its target of raising £100,000 for its student-elected charities this year.

Other recent initiatives have included Dodgeball Cuppers, their annual Summer Twist cocktail event, and a burrito-eating competition.

The proceeds from the calendar will be shared between RAG’s four chosen charities for the term: The Oxford Food Bank, Education Partnerships Africa, Students Supporting Street Kids and Giving What We Can.

Edward Higson, president of the Oxford chapter of Giving What We Can, lauded the calendar as “an arousing success” and its athletes as “fit”.

RAG Events Officer Nathalie Cooper commented that, while the calendar has only recently gone on sale, it has “already generated quite a buzz” and that they are “really pleased with the final outcome” of the calendar. She added that the RAG committee are “optimistic that it will raise a lot of money for our four great causes”.

Mansfield student Iain Mandale, who this year rowed Oxford’s Isis boat to victory over Cambridge’s Goldie during the Boat Race, said that a few problems had been encountered during the photoshoots. “The inevitable shrink came on as soon as we entered the breezy boat bay – it’s always best to warm up properly before a session”, he commented.

The charity calendar is available to buy online from the Oxford University Shop for £10 and can be found here: www.oushop.com.

PHOTOS/Toby Mather

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Bloom-ing Idiotic

Bloom-ing Idiotic

[caption id="attachment_43478" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Godfrey Bloom, UKIP.  PHOTO/EUROREALISTNEWSLETTER Godfrey Bloom, UKIP.
PHOTO/EUROREALISTNEWSLETTER[/caption]

When I heard UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom’s “bongo bongo” comment, I couldn’t let it be laughed off as another ‘silly’ comment from a party which we allow to spout inflammatory, not to mention racist, rhetoric. Not only was it a misleading argument about where foreign aid is spent but it also encouraged the kind of derogatory perception of Africans that first allowed for the ransacking of their country through imperialism.

That we gained hugely from colonialism and have a responsibility, as civilised human beings, to give something back is an argument I strongly believe in. Unfortunately, others find it unconvincing. It seems that UKIP members generally lack any form of compassion for people who aren’t pure-blooded Brits, so I shall also explain how giving foreign aid benefits the UK too.

Firstly, was the phrase “bongo bongo land” insensitive? The Um-Bongo advert where animals are dancing around saying “um bongo, um bongo, they drink it in the Congo” is fun; it associates Africa with positive things like juice and music, not suckling from the teat of its donors and playing home to money-wasting savages. “Bongo bongo land” depicts the latter; it reduces an entire continent of at least 55 states to a vague, uncivilised jungle-land, of the kind Conrad portrays in ‘Heart of Darkness’ (published 1889). Many people I speak to still think Africa is one country, which demonstrates the lack of understanding people bother to acquire about this beautiful area, home to its own governments, policies and budgets, just like us. The reaction to the recent Zimbabwe elections frustrated me because of people’s out-dated and essentialist views. “Look,” they pointed at TV screens and newspapers, “Africans can’t do democracy. Even if their elections weren’t rigged, they would still vote for a dictator because they are tribal people who like to blindly follow a leader.”

I cannot deny that there is corruption in parts of Africa (exemplified through Mugabe), which makes the giving of foreign aid very difficult. Some leaders (like President Mobutu in Congo) have tyrannised their people and sapped their country’s resources for their own profit. Yet we supported Mobutu during the Cold War; Britain and the USA, just like the Soviet Union, financially and militarily propped up tyrannical rulers so that they had ‘allies’ in the Third World. We provided the weapons and ammunition to Congo, lying abandoned in warehouses after the Cold War, which are now in the hands of M23 rebels who terrorise the Eastern provinces and keep the region in a dangerous state of instability. The weapons from our intervention in Libya in 2011, where we deposed a leader that we did not like, filtered South to the Islamist Tuareg rebels in Mali who then began an offensive to depose their government just last year. We need to understand that all of this conflict has a long and complicated past, in which we are embroiled at every step: to dismiss all Africans as ‘inherently’ violent, tribal or incapable of achieving stability is not only ignorant of their culture but also of our own country’s history. We cannot, as UKIP would hope, view the UK as a vacuum.

Foreign aid is spent supporting the protection of human rights, providing innocent people with food and education so that they have the energy and resources to help their own country become stronger. It supports civil society, political parties, free and fair elections, so that the seeds of democracy can be planted and grown gradually. This is not a pile of Lefty idealism, pissing money up the wall, as UKIP might have you believe; the Tory-led coalition government’s decision to ring-fence the foreign aid budget in 2010 shows that the need to invest in the developing world is a valuable policy for any government in the modern world.

Giving foreign aid benefits the UK for several reasons: firstly, if we don’t help the Third World, other countries will. China, our economic super-competitor, is currently embarking on projects in Africa to build roads and help infrastructure so that this developing continent can become a viable trading partner and so that China can better access the much-needed resources which Africa possesses. If we stand back now, we will lose out in the future. Secondly, terrorists are borne from areas where instability rages (Somalia fast becoming a new example); failing to invest in their children will lead to further security threats in the future.

Finally, foreign aid could help address the very issue which UKIP cares about the most: immigration. Pretending the UK exists in its own bubble, locking down our borders and only looking inward will not help. Investing in developing countries and helping to improve their economies will prevent many people from wanting to live in the UK, where they believe they will have a better quality of life. People often shy away from the issue of foreign aid because they think it is purely given out of guilt, with no real gain to anyone because of corruption: this is simply a lie which Bloom and his colleagues should be prevented from spreading. Referring to “bongo bongo land” is unacceptable; this is 2013. The people in our ex-colonies are just as intelligent, creative and capable as we are and Bloom would do well to learn a thing or two from them.

Dire Straits for Cowley’s People’s Supermarket

Dire Straits for Cowley’s People’s Supermarket

[caption id="attachment_43301" align="alignright" width="300"]20130804-205146.jpg PHOTO//Andrew Walmsley[/caption]

The Oxford People’s Supermarket has this week faced the prospect of closure, having fallen upon financial difficulties.

£20,000 in donations are required from members in order to ensure the long-term survival of the enterprise, with donors receiving shopping vouchers and shares in TPS. Unless these funds are raised successfully in 60 days, the existing board of the supermarket will be required to stand down and an administrator will be brought in. The current Honorary General Manager of the co-operative has decided to step down from his position next week, and paid staff have been given notice of redundancy.

The supermarket, which recently celebrated its first birthday, is owned and run by a team of volunteers and shareholding members from both the local community and student body. The Cowley Road enterprise aims to sell locally and ethically sourced groceries at fair prices, and was originally established under the slogan “for the people, by the people”, based on a similar supermarket in London.

A board meeting held by directors on 30 July concluded that problems with the supermarket’s cash flow and low takings are making its current business model unviable, as there are insufficient assets necessary for making long term investments.

Hannah Hoechner, member of the supermarket and St Cross student explained: “We do not have adequate cooling facilities and good enough ventilation in the shop to stock a lot of fruit and vegetables. We would like to offer a broader range of products, including more local products, but we don’t have the necessary cash to improve our storage facilities and to stock up.”

She added: “It has been difficult for us to increase our sales and turnover after the fire at Cycle King’s next door in March. The pavement was closed, which kept customers away and brought down our sales.”

Oxford students who are currently members and customers of the co-operative, expressed their disappointment at the prospect of closure.

Rebecca Roughan, student at Regent’s Park and non-active member of The People’s Supermarket commented: “It’s really sad to see TPS falling apart because it just shows how overwhelming the chain supermarket’s chokehold on the industry really is.”

She added: “If such a widely supported community project cannot thrive against the [Tesco] man then what hope is there for the rest of the local shops? Plus they never gave you change in all 5ps.”

Abigail Burman, first year student at Corpus Christi and customer of The People’s Supermarket, commented: “I really hope it doesn’t close. The market is only once a week, and the local farmers’ market is only once every two weeks, so they’re the only place in Oxford that regularly has affordable local produce. I do almost all of my shopping there during term time.”

An ‘Extraordinary General Meeting’ was held on Friday night to assess the financial situation. Following the meeting, in a message to members and volunteers, the supermarket’s board of directors requested their assistance with drafting a new business plan, and in assessing the profitability of its products. An additional meeting is due to be held next week to consider the issue further.

The People’s Supermarket is now aiming to raise funds through crowdsourcing platform Buzzbnk. Donations can be made at: www.buzzbnk.org/tpsoxford

Student jog from Oxford to Rome

Student jog from Oxford to Rome

colloseum This June a daring team of Oxonians will be running from London to Rome in a feat that has been humorously titled “the Italian Jog”.

Leaving from the Olympic Stadium in London and arriving at the Colosseum in Rome, the team, consisting of 5 current students, 2 alumni and 1 member of staff,  will run the 1200 mile journey in a continuous relay, which amounts to around 46 back-to-back marathons.

This will all be performed with the qualification that, in order to have ‘run’ it, they must average 6mph or more throughout. In order to achieve this aim, the team will run in a relay format, doing 1.5 hours of running every 10 hours.

One of the most impressive factors in this run will be the ascension of the Swiss Alps near Chamonix.

The mission statement on the Italian Jog website demonstrates how seriously this run is going to be taken, saying: “we’re busy people with tight budgets and even tighter schedules, so we’re running there and once we’ve started there’ll be no stopping.

“No having a break cos it’s gone and got all dark, no slowing to a walk cos it’s tiring running up an Alp, and no asking for directions because it’s a sneaky way to take a breather.”

The team has great experience with these feats of endurance, highlights of which are: climbing Mont Blanc, cycling the width of America, and numerous full and half marathons including 5 London Marathons.

The leader of the team, Neil Riley, explained his motivation for the run, stating: “we will be raising money for Access Sport, a UK charity that aims to use the power of sport to bring about social change including tackling poverty, gang culture and obesity”

Members of the team have also been helping out with Access Sport activities such as BMX in the tower hamlets and have “seen for themselves the benefits” that the donations to this cause will bring.

Miles Dilworth, founder of the Keble Warcraft Society, expressed his amazement at the task ahead of the team: “These guys are really tough, I can’t imagine how difficult running up a mountain is, let alone after I had already been running for four or five days!

“My sport is cricket and I never go for singles, so these feats of endurance are well beyond me.”

The Access sport mission statement is “to give more children, particularly in disadvantaged areas, access to a wide range of quality local sport. They look to harness the proven power of sport to tackle social exclusion, inactivity and obesity in areas where help is most needed.”

The team leaves on the 29th June.

Debate: Oxford Students should be pursuing social justice projects whilst at University

Debate: Oxford Students should be pursuing social justice projects whilst at University

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Proposition – Tyler Overton

Here are some facts about injustice: according to UNICEF’s 2012 report on child mortality, 1 in 9 children in Sub-Saharan Africa die before age five (as opposed to 1 in 152 in developed regions). Over a billion people still live on less than pound a day. And, more locally, human trafficking is alive and well in Oxford, with 13 men arrested last year for prostituting 11- to 16-year-old girls.

These are real problems. And—what is more important—they are problems that we can do something about. In fact, they are problems that if we even pretend to hold ideas about love or compassion, we have to do something about.

There’s a great story I heard a few months ago in which C. S. Lewis and a friend run into a homeless man as they’re walking down Cornmarket. The homeless man asks for some change, and Lewis gives him the contents of his wallet. After the homeless man walks away, Lewis’ friend starts to give him a hard time: ‘What’d you do that for? Don’t you know he’s just going to walk into the nearest pub and spend it on drink?’ And Lewis turns (I imagine with a certain grumpy, Northern Irish gravitas), and says, ‘Just what do you think I would have spent it on?’

I think there are better ways to work for social justice than giving money directly to homeless people, but maybe we should spend some time thinking seriously about Lewis’ question. What are we spending our time and money on? And are these things in line with the global reality of suffering and poverty?

Let’s get real about the idea that we need to be in positions of power in order to work for social justice. Will giving and volunteering now prevent us from promoting justice later? And although our individual influences may be small, do we really believe that the charities we give to and volunteer with are making no difference whatsoever? Between 1990 and 2010, the number of people living below the extreme poverty line ($1.25 a day) was cut in half. The number of children who died before the age of five fell from 12.4 million in 1990 to 6.9 million in 2011. These are not random fluctuations; they are reflections of the good work of charities and governments, and of the fact that lots and lots of people (some of them students) have given their time and money to support these institutions.

Social justice, as much as it is anything else, is a lifestyle of choosing to stand with other people in the fight for what’s rightfully theirs. And lifestyles don’t just appear out of nowhere. They take practice, and hard work—and the time to start practicing is now. Recognize the phrase ‘poor Oxford student’ for the trite lie it’s always been, and begin to notice those who know poverty and suffering first-hand. I don’t promise that doing so will make all the problems of injustice go away; only that it will enable us to live respectfully and in support of those for whom these problems are a part of day-to-day experience.

 

Opposition – Harry Gillow

Trinity term has arrived, and the combination of punting, pimms and prelims will inevitably mean that even less time is directed towards such vital issues as OUSU elections. Of course, this is not limited to Oxford – the recent announcement that the University of London Union is to be disbanded was triggered by a report that only 3,000 of its 120,000 members voted (the equivalent of the UK’s government being elected by half the population of Wales). This is not, however, to say that students have lost their radicalism: student activism remains as active as ever, and members of our universities will continue to devote time and money to social justice projects. Yet is this as worthy a use of these precious resources as it’s claimed to be?

All this depends on how social justice is defined. For some, it is about giving a small amount of time on a regular basis in fundamentally thankless tasks – teaching at underperforming schools, helping in local homeless shelters, working with disabled children – where their aim is simply to contribute what little they can to the community. Nothing could be a better use of time. But social ‘justice’, by nature of the term, implies more than this: a fight against inequality, oppression, those wronged by the systems of the world and the individuals who profit from them.

Here, then, is where the catch lies: far too often such lofty causes are used as an excuse to grandstand, to occupy (no pun intended, St. Paul’s) the moral high ground, from which, with a frowning air of disdain, the rest of us can be observed, judged, and found wanting. Irritating as such attitudes are, they could be forgiven if they genuinely contributed to the welfare of the world – it is, however, not only unclear that these achieve anything much of note, but in many cases they cause more harm than good, promoting division, and instilling a sense of superiority over the less fortunate.

This is most obvious in the instances of such fraught issues as the Israel-Palestine issue, or closer to home, opposition to government cuts. The former issue, for example, is doubtless one of vast importance, and it is entirely right that everyone should come to their own opinion about such a damaging conflict. What is, though, downright laughable, is to claim to fully understand: the politics of the Middle East has baffled senior statesmen of vast intelligence for over fifty years – the arrogance of a twenty year old politics student proposing a workable solution is absurd; how much more absurd to attempt to act on it? Similarly, protests against government cuts are understandable by those affected, and thus those against tuition fees are generally accepted as reasonable. However, the idea of privileged youths (as many students, no matter how they would like to think of themselves, are), who will, in two or three years, leave for their jobs at McKinsey or Goldman, marching on behalf of the very poorest elements of society, or promoting motions of “solidarity” in the JCR, is almost as ridiculous as George Osborne’s attempt at an accent. What could the vast majority of us possibly know?

Potentially more damaging, however, is the growing industry of “voluntourism”, the dangers of which a recent BBC article by Daniela Papi, a former serial volunteer, makes abundantly clear. Suffice it to say that not only is this effectively a way for students to take expensive holidays without feeling guilty, but the good achieved is often less than supposed: the money that so many people raise to take part could be far better spent employing skilled labour to carry out the same tasks. Why ask untrained students to build a school when you could ask the local builder? Certainly such efforts raise awareness, but surely the act of raising money would do the same? Moreover, there is a very real danger that the old viewpoint of Kipling’s “white man’s burden” rears its ugly head. The twenty-first century looks set to be a slow trek towards equal place for the developed and developing world in global affairs: such attitudes can only serve to breed patronising opinions that will slow progress to a snail’s pace.

Ultimately university is about learning. Those who are serious about wishing to contribute the planet will use their unique opportunity here to learn what they need to do so. It is too easy to assuage our consciences when young, and achieve little when older; true benefit can only be provided in the long haul.

 

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