Monday, 27 April 2015

Inspire your children about the world around them and change the lives of children in the slums of Kampala... by growing sunflowers!

This April Awamu, an N16 based social enterprise set up by Hackney born Emma Scullion, have launched an International Sunflower Growing Challenge. Awamu (meaning 'together' in L'uganda) works with women in the slums of Kampala, Uganda, to ensure that orphaned and vulnerable children in their communities are cared for and can go to school.
Lack of food means that many of the children they work with go to school hungry, but you can you help them breakdown the barriers that stand in the way children getting the education that is vital to their future by growing sunflowers.

Inspire your children about the world around them

Awamu have created a free Sunflower activity pack that you can download and share with your children to support their learning and inspire them about the world around them. This is a global sunflower challenge with families and children of all ages, from all around the world joining in including the children you'll be helping in Kampala. You take part by claiming your awamu sunflower seeds when you make a contribution to their ‘Vegetable garden project’.
All the money they raise will buy soil, seeds, tools and training so the women Awamu work with can build gardens and learn how to grow healthy, nutritious food for the children in their care.

But hold on a minute (I hear you say), I thought awamu was about education for children... why are vegetable gardens so vital? 

The simple fact is, hungry children can't learnSadly, many of the families Awamu work with live on less than 50p a day, most of the children are lucky if they get one meal a day. Typically that meal will be a bowl of maize porridge, which contains little nutritional value.
Lack of food means most of the children they work with go to school hungry, so they're trying to break down the barriers that stand in the way of children getting an education.
As the kids live in an urban slum area there is little very little space available for growing food, no good topsoil and a lot of contamination from open drains. They've already piloted the first phase of gardening project in November 2014. They built 60 raised-bed vegetable gardens with mum's like Grace and it's having a huge impact on their health, education and income.

They were so impressed at the impact the gardens have had that we want to roll them out to other families in desperate need and also create a few extra gardens that we can use to help children like Jamila and Butambala (pictured below) in emergency situations.

Emma took this photo when she went to visit them at their home after hearing that their father had been hospitalised again and they were living alone. Their father has HIV and spends long periods of time in hospital, and with no other relatives to help, the children are left to fend for themselves.

The women Awamu work with are their only safety net in the community, they visit the children regularly to make sure they are well, are going to school - extra gardens would mean that we had food to help children like Jamila and her brother.

By taking part you're helping to ensure they don't go to school hungry which means they can concentrate in class... so sunflowers really change children’s lives! So get your green fingers into action, claim your sunflower seeds to start growing now.

The rules
Once you have your seeds planted please keep Awamu updated on the progress of your flowers by posting your photos and updates on their facebook page or using the hash tag #awamugrowoff on instagram and twitter – they'll reweet and share your progress with everyone else taking part.

The final measuring day will be September 11th. Two winners will be announced: tallest sunflower and widest face sunflower. Please send a final full-length photo clearly showing the height or width of the sunflower against a measuring tape. The winner will be announced on September 25th!

Good Luck.

To visit Awamu's website click HERE

Awamu is a registered cic no. 7818944.

Friday, 10 April 2015

This is why Microscooters are marvellous!

It's no secret that having young children requires quite sizeable apparatus. I don't mean the actual birthing process thankfully, unless you count a hospital, I mean those specialist and , sometimes cumbersome, items such as cots, high chairs, buggies and car seats. The option to travel light with a baby or a toddler is a rare commodity. In the last 4.5 years I have rarely left the house without at least one of these aforementioned items. Of course this isn't a complaint, I have relished every adventure but I cannot deny that sometimes living in London with no step free access train station nearby, can feel a little claustrophobic. 

This didn't quite prepare me for the feeling of sheer freedom that would come from my children becoming scooter owners. Am I naive to realise that a Microscooter isn't just a toy to accompany you to the park along with all the other apparatus but a new, lighter mode of transport for your children?. 

It was with some anxiety that I allowed my eldest son to scoot along ahead of me on the pavement for the first time and it was not without some rather militant road safety 'training' in the back garden first. However, as a result he has developed beautifully honed road safety skills which he takes great pride in demonstrating at every pelican crossing. My youngest who still requires a little extra towing on my part, hoots with delight and of course I can never pull him fast enough. 

I could witter on about what a novel invention they are but actually, forget their brilliant range of colours and models, for us the Microscooter is the tin opener to our previously sealed can of London. Not having to weigh up the possibilities of either having to lug a buggy down flights of stairs versus the inevitable ending up carrying your tired child because you've left the buggy has, in every sense, been a weight off. As a dedicated country bumpkin I rarely relish the thought of a summer in the city, but now I have two independently mobile children, I think I can safely say we cannot wait. 

To redeem your exclusive MicroScooter Discount code click HERE.

Mumsnet Hackney & Waltham Forest received a complimentary Microscooter to conduct this review. 

Thursday, 2 April 2015

A Thoroughly Modern Tale of Two Parentpreneurs

Nicola and Louise, the co-founders of Thoroughly Modern Baby

This week we are catching up with the founders of Thoroughly Modern Baby, an online baby boutique, to tell us how two lifelong friends became business partners. 

Louise lives in Hackney with her husband and daughter, Skye Daisy and Nicola lives in their home town of Perth and has a grown-up son, Cain, who is now studying Art in Glasgow. 

How does this make for an online baby business you might ask?

Well, it started with an obsessional love for Cuddledry's Apron towel. Lou has purchased dozens of these as newborn gifts and as Skye started to grow, she found herself looking for more of these innovative products that were popping up to help modern mums and babies - from the genius ideas to the super-practical everyday items, the just-for-fun to the down right beautiful. Lou soon realised that although there was plenty of fantastic ‘stuff, she couldn't find anywhere that you could buy all of these wonderful products together. One basket, one click, one easy lunch hour transaction... or 10 minutes on the sofa with a cuppa.

So she started researching and pulled in the help of one of her oldest pals who, as luck would have it, just so happens to be a digital-marketing professional… Enter Nic to the mix!  The pair started planning and within one lunch date they had a name, after a couple of dozen emails to TGo Creative Design they had a brand and following hundreds of hours of chat between themselves and Anna at Atholl Road Design, they were ecstatic with the launch of their prototype website.

All of this happened in time for their first trip to Harrogate in March 2014.“We were so wet behind the ears. We had this idea that suppliers would pay an admin fee to be part of our fabulous site. That lasted about ten minutes! We were changing strategy as we walked – it was hilarious. Thankfully, Nic and I are both used to working in industries that change constantly and neither of us shy away from making quick decisions so we just rolled with it!

We were focused on what we were looking to sell though and we didnt really deviate from this. We had a vision of a beautiful website filled with innovative products that would make parentslives easier and baby's life happier.  So it had to be clever or beautiful or both!”. The weeks that followed were immense; Nic headed to Hackney for a full-on week of copywriting, photo resizing and website uploading.

“We barely touched the sides of what needed done. It was so labour intensive. Nic went back home to Scotland and we worked until midnight every night for about a month. I include Anna the web developer in that statement - she was amazing”
Louise with baby daughter Skye Daisy.
The site launched on 1st June 2014, with Nicki sitting watching patiently from Scotland and Lou trying to connect to the internet from her family holiday in France. They clocked up 1000 unique visitors in week one and theyve never looked back.

“Were both really pleased with everything we have on the site now; not just the products. We wanted to create an interesting platform for parents whether they’re buying products or not; its one of the reasons we decided to invest so much effort in our blogging section. 
Weve been thrilled at the experts whove agreed to chat for us – Jo Swinson MP has talked about Shared Parental Leave; Andrea Grace, the sleep expert, provided her top sleep tips for babies.  We also invited our friend, Mrs M, to document her pregnancy - a beautiful read!
When we realised how much parents enjoyed the ‘real lifestories from Lou, her husband Iain and our friends Muireann and Louisa, we launched ‘Parent Reviews’ and thats been another huge hit. Were just so delighted that everyone seems to love the site as much as we do!”

They have just completed their second Harrogate Nursery Fair; with almost a year under their belts they know what works and what doesnt. It was two confident and knowledgeable women that strode into Hall H this year. “We were on fire! We had a list of items we knew we wanted, an idea of gaps in our range and a real commitment to the quality and integrity of the brand weve been building.  You need to be so sure with online because people cant see or touch before they buy; so when it hits their doorstep, they need to open the box and be WOWed".

We know our customers trust us to have checked every product for quality and feel-good factor - its important we get it right. Thankfully were both super-fussy” The increase in web traffic, social engagement, sales and blog readers isnt the only thing to have put a smile on the faces of these old friends this year. Lou and her husband Iain are expecting their second baby at the start of June meaning ‘Dad-D and Skyes Adventuresare about to include a brand new little character.

“People wonder how we do all this, hundreds of miles apart and with families and other jobs to worry about. But the truth is, regardless of where you live, what you do and how your family works, if you believe in something youll find a way to do it. The feedback weve had on Thoroughly Modern Baby and our product range is wonderful.  Sometimes when youre a bit knackered and uploading pics or sorting the VAT return, an email will ping in with a photograph of a lovely baby using our products it makes it all worthwhile.  We both love our website and cant wait to see what year two is going to bring.”

To receive your Thoroughly Modern Baby discount please click HERE

To browse through the gorgeous range click HERE