Children going hungry in the U.K. in 2019!

The Trussell Trust, whose aim is to end hunger and poverty in the UK, said that more than 87,000 emergency food parcels were handed out to children during the summer holidays last year and warns that the figure could be even higher this year.
Over a third of all emergency food parcels distributed by food banks in the Trussell Trust’s UK-wide network go to children, but there is extra financial pressure during the holiday period for families who are entitled to free school meals during term time.

Some examples of what is happening around the country.
An article in the Birmingham Mail highlights how holiday hunger is a huge issue for many families in Birmingham.
“More than 49,000 children in the city are eligible for free school meals - and, for some, this is their only substantial meal of the day.
This means that when it comes to the holidays, many of these children are living on baked beans, junk food or tiny snacks as parents struggle to make ends meet.
That's why Sport Birmingham has put on a programme called Healthy Happy Holidays, funded by the Department for Education, to respond to the high demand for free food this summer.
"We know there are children whose only meal of the day is their free school dinner," said Joy Wood, children's services leader for family support in Erdington and Castle Vale children's centres.
"Some arrive without having breakfast and then, when they get home, they might just have a snack, or nothing at all.
"Some children are learning to cope on these tiny amounts of food.”
"This has been an ongoing concern for us for a number of years."
Again, in Harwich, according to the Harwich and Manningtree Standard, children in Harwich and Dovercourt are getting free nutritious meals throughout the summer holidays.
A scheme to feed youngsters from four schools in the area during school holidays takes place at Harwich Arts and Heritage Centre, in Dovercourt.
In Keynsham near Bristol, the owners of the Crown Inn, are aiming to feed youngsters who would otherwise be getting free meals at school by providing lunches and take-away dinners to any child who wants one – with no purchase necessary and no questions asked.
The pub gives away dozens of meals every day (around 250 homemade meals in a week) – and on Fridays they host a free party, with a buffet, for over 100 local children.
ITV news reports the owners as saying that while the meals are aimed at families who are struggling financially, the pub is running the scheme with a no-questions-asked policy.
The meals are currently being funded by the Crown, but Mr Yeomans, a co-owner, hopes donations will start to come in to help support the venture.
“If we can get donations that’s great so we don’t have to fund it all ourselves, because it is going to be an expensive thing,”

Amazing help, but what a bad indictment of a country’s priorities.

Children and armed conflict

What are we doing to our children?

I repeat:

What are we doing to our children?

The following paragraphs, taken from section IIA of an advance copy of the UN “Report of the Secretary-General on Children and armed conflict”, show how a great number of children were being treated (in the period January to December 2018). It makes disturbing reading.

II. Addressing the impact of armed conflict on children

A. Overview of the situation of children and armed conflict

5. Continued fighting between parties to conflict, new conflict dynamics and operational tactics, combined with widespread disregard for international law, had a devastating effect on children in 2018. More than 24,000 grave violations against children were verified by the United Nations in 20 country situations. (The use of the term “grave violations” or “violations” refer to each individual child affected by recruitment and use, killing and maiming, sexual violence and abductions, while the number of incidents is used for attacks on schools and hospitals and the denial of humanitarian access.) While the number of violations attributed to non-State actors remained steady, there was an alarming increase in the number of violations attributed to State actors and to international forces compared with 2017 (see A/72/865-S/2018/465).

6. Verified cases of the killing and maiming of children reached record levels globally since the creation of the monitoring and reporting mechanism on children and armed conflict pursuant to Security Council resolution 1612 (2005). In Afghanistan, the number of child casualties remained the highest such number in the present report (3,062) and children accounted for 28 per cent of all civilian casualties. In the Syrian Arab Republic, air strikes, barrel bombs and cluster munitions resulted in 1,854 child casualties, and in Yemen, 1,689 children bore the brunt of ground fighting and other offensives.

7. Some 13,600 children benefited from release and reintegration worldwide. However, children continued to be forced to take an active part in hostilities, including to carry out suicide bombings against civilians. Others were used in support roles, for example as sexual slaves or as human shields. Somalia remained the country with the highest number of cases of the recruitment and use of children (2,300) followed by Nigeria (1,947).

8. Attacks on schools and hospitals had a devastating effect on access to education and to health services for thousands of children, with a total of 1,023 verified attacks. In the Syrian Arab Republic, 2018 witnessed the highest numbers of attacks on schools and medical facilities (225) recorded since the beginning of the conflict. In Afghanistan, schools and hospitals (254) were increasingly targeted. Increased numbers of attacks were also verified in the Central African Republic, Colombia, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, the Sudan and Yemen.

9. In 2018, 933 cases of sexual violence against children were verified. The highest verified figures for violations relating to sexual violence continue to be documented in Somalia (331) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (277). Cases of violations relating to sexual violence remained significantly underreported, in particular when perpetrated against boys, owing to stigma, the lack of services and concerns for the protection of victims (for more information, see the annual report on conflict-related sexual violence, S/2019/280). Impunity for sexual violence against girls and boys by parties to conflict remained endemic.

10. Some 2,493 children were abducted in 2018. The highest numbers were verified in Somalia (1,609), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (367) and Nigeria (180). Increased numbers of abductions were verified in South Sudan (109), the Syrian Arab Republic (69), the Central African Republic (62), the Sudan (22) and the Philippines (13). Children were abducted from homes, schools and public spaces by parties to conflict, often as a precursor to other grave violations, notably recruitment and use, and sexual abuse, including sexual slavery, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and the Syrian Arab Republic.

11. In times of armed conflict, throughout the world, millions of people, children foremost among them, have inadequate access to or have been denied assistance that is essential for their survival and well-being. In 2018, only 795 incidents of denial of humanitarian access could be verified, compared with 1,213 in 2017. The decrease could be explained by restricted access to information, rather than an improvement of the situation. The shrinking of humanitarian space translated into widespread insecurity, severe and persistent constraints on humanitarian access, threats and the perpetration of violence against humanitarian personnel and civilian infrastructure, thereby preventing child protection actors and humanitarian actors from gaining access to information.

Below you can view a briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

What are we doing to our children?

What is Trump doing to our children?


Some people wonder why I do not use the question “what are we doing for our children?” rather than “What are we doing to our children”

Well, I believe, one only has to look at what President Trump is doing in the U.S.A. to see why.

See in the video below New York children read the words of their peers held in U.S. Border Patrol facilities. (Credit The New York Times)

And an excellent article in the Ms. Magazine, written by the co-founder and CEO of Child Aid, Nancy Press, spells out exactly what he is doing TO our children. Here are a few quotes from that article (my emphasis):

“As the numbers of children and youths amassed in U.S. detention centers are skyrocketing, with a 57 percent increase from this time last year alone, the Trump administration cancelled the meager education, recreation and legal services it’s legally bound to provide by a federal court.

“Separated from their parents or guardians and living in cages disguised as detention camps on U.S. soil, these minors have never been more in need of educational resources, physical outlets and, of course, legal guidance. To deny them these basics is to treat these young people as less than human.”

“Does our nation have the stomach for doling out this abusive treatment? Have we forgotten these are children?“

And Nancy Press provides practical solutions to address the crisis:

“To truly attack the root causes of the current migration crisis, these vulnerable youth and their families need systematic quality education, decent healthcare, employment and a government willing to enforce the rule of law.

As a morally-centered people we should not allow our government to besmirch our values by denying the least powerful among us the right to learn, play and have legal advisement.“

Read the full article here

See here for the positive things some children are doing for themselves

To or For?

Books for children and socially relevant topics

As someone interested in German culture I receive news, in English, from the Goethe Institute.

I feel that it is unlikely that visitors to OORFC will have read the following article so I am grateful that I can share it, in full, under the Creative Commons Attribution – Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.

It is an encouraging comment on how social issues affecting the lives of children are being handled in the books they read.

Books for children and young adults adopt a clear position

Garbage: All about the most annoying thing in the world – The trend in 2019 is still towards envi-ronmental topics. | Photo (detail): © Beltz und Gelberg Verlag

Garbage: All about the most annoying thing in the world – The trend in 2019 is still towards envi-ronmental topics. | Photo (detail): © Beltz und Gelberg Verlag

In 2019 the market for children’s and young adults’ books in the German language is also placing its emphasis on socially relevant topics, focusing on the protection of our natural habitat and environment or on female role models.

By Marlene Zöhrer

Taking a stroll in the spring of 2019 through the halls of the Leipzig Book Fair and browsing along the shelves, above all, made one thing quite clear – children’s and young adults’ books in the German language have adopted a clear position. A position that has remained faithful to the trend of previous years, enabling such issues as equal rights, our natural habitat and environmental protection or politics, along with fantasy series and stories about family, friendship, conflict, love, puberty, adolescence, illness and death to secure a permanent place on the children’s and young adults’ book market. The topics, whether new or rediscovered, are to be found both in the narrative program – from the picture book to the young adults’ book – as well as in the non-fiction book.

Environment and diversity

The “Fridays for Future” movement shows not least that children and adolescents are actually very much interested in their environment, in their natural habitat and climate protection, motivating young people around the world to make their voices heard and demonstrate for more climate protection. The children’s and young adults’ book market has been promoting this steadily growing interest for several years, addressing the undisputed and urgent need for nature conservation and animal welfare, biodiversity, sustainability and environmental awareness.

The environment and climate protection are important to children and young readers – this is preva-lent in both narrative literature as well as in non-fiction books | Photo: © Thienemann Verlag | Oetinger Verlag | Beltz und Gelberg Verlag

The environment and climate protection are important to children and young readers – this is preva-lent in both narrative literature as well as in non-fiction books | Photo: © Thienemann Verlag | Oetinger Verlag | Beltz und Gelberg Verlag

This spring, non-fiction books like Müll: Alles über die lästigste Sache der Welt (i.e. Garbage: All about the most annoying thing in the world), Paulas Reise: oder Wie ein Huhn uns zu Klimaschützern machte (i.e. Paula’s Journey: or How a chicken Turned us into Climate Protectors) or Seltene Tiere. Atlas der bedrohten Arten (i.e. Rare Animals. An Atlas of Endangered Species) aim to inform and sensitize us to environmental and climate issues. The autumn program of various publishers also promises further new non-fiction books on global warming and nature conservation. There are also some narrative picture books, such as Der grüne Riese (i.e.The Green Giant) or Juju und Jojô. Eine Geschichte aus der Großstadt (i.e. Juju and Jojô. A Story from the Big City), which embrace the beauty of natural habitats and the need to preserve them. The latter two books also stand for the book market’s concern for diversity when it comes to the way child protagonists are portrayed - the girls Bea, Juju and Jojô are dark-skinned.

Strong women and courageous role models

While ethnic and cultural diversity are somewhat slow at gaining a foothold in children’s and young adults’ literature, gender equality has been one of the constantly recurring themes of recent years. This is shown not only by non-fiction books such as Feminismus (i.e. Feminism) from the Carlsen Klartext series, but in particular by all those biographies that are published in series or as anthologies of extraordinary female lives - often following the pattern of the 2017 bestseller Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. Volumes like Frauenpower made in Europe: Große europäische Frauen im Porträt (i.e. Women’s Power Made in Europe: Portraits of Great European Women ) or the graphic novel Rebellische Frauen – Women in Battle: 150 Jahre Kampf für Freiheit, Gleichheit, Schwesterlichkeit (i.e.Rebellious Women - Women in Battle: 150 Years of the Struggle for Freedom, Equality, and Sisterhood) portray strong, combative women standing up for their rights, ideals, and dreams. They should serve adolescents of every gender as role models. The portraits are selected and presented in such a way that they provide an exciting overview and historical comparisons.

Girls from migrant backgrounds as protagonists and anthologies about strong women – the focus is also on current socio-political issues in the children’s and young adult books sector. | Photo: © Baobab books | Elisabeth Sandmann Verlag

Girls from migrant backgrounds as protagonists and anthologies about strong women – the focus is also on current socio-political issues in the children’s and young adult books sector. | Photo: © Baobab books | Elisabeth Sandmann Verlag

The internationally oriented book series Little People, Big Dreams, which has been on the market in German since spring 2019, has focused on a much younger target group. Each chapter devotes 32 pages to a “rebellious woman who changed the world with her childhood dreams”, introducing the readers to such people as Marie Curie, Rosa Parks, Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo or Anne Frank. Books such as Stories for Kids Who Dare to be Different want to show that above all it takes courage and a strong will to make a difference.

There are numerous picture books, children’s and young adults’ novels around at the moment that tell their readers just how important it is to be courageous, to take a stand for oneself and others, and to go through life with a self-determined approach. They deal with political, social and historical issues as well as with the private worries, hardships and handicaps of the protagonists. Here, too, children’s and young adults’ books have adopted a firm position in these times that are permeated by fear and uncertainty.


Marlene Zöhrer works as a freelance editor, journalist and reviewer of children’s and young adult literature and lectures at the Chair for Didactics of the German Language and Literature at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich.

Translation: Paul McCarthy
Copyright: Text: Goethe-Institut, Marlene Zöhrer. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.

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May 2019

Taking trees seriously

In a recent article in The Press and Journal , Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Surgeon MSP, highlighted the importance of young people understanding the value of trees and the huge role they can play in helping the environment.

She said: “It’s wonderful to see young people in Scotland – from nursery through to secondary school – engaging with trees and our natural environment in such a positive way.

“We know how children benefit from learning outdoors and it is great to see forests and woodlands playing a big part in that outdoor learning.

“It is clear to me that we have a committed and enthusiastic next generation ready to take up the climate challenge – including planting tens of millions more trees.

“With almost 85% of all new tree planting in the UK happening in Scotland, the younger generation is aware of just how important those trees are to our future.”

What reassuring words! It seems that Scotland really gets it.

And it goes to the very top with both the First Minister and the Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP being present at the ‘2019 Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards’ ceremony.

As the SFWA website states “ There were six award categories, 10 competitions and nearly £10,000 of prize money plus fabulous trophies available to be won! The 2019 Awards’ results were announced on 21st June and are shared below. The Awards are the:

1919 Forestry Act Centenary Award Unique for 2019, a one-off competition to mark the centenary of this important Act that has helped influence the way Scotland’s trees, woods and forests have been managed and nurtured over the past 100 years. It celebrates what they have contributed to our lives, economy and environment providing a platform for further growth in the next century. A specially commissioned trophy and £1,000 are being made available.

Community Woodlands Award Community-based projects compete for this Scotland-wide award with two competitions for both small and large community woodland groups therefore covering the full spectrum of community forestry in Scotland. The striking Tim Stead Trophy and prize money are up for grabs.

Farm Woodland Award Introduced in 2018 and now expanded into two competitions for an active farmer/crofter anywhere in Scotland and for young people whether the active farmer/crofter and/or their forester/woodland manager or both roles! The magnificent Lilburn Trophy and new for 2019, the Scottish Woodlands Ltd. Trophy for Young People plus cash prizes are to be won.

New Native Woods Award New native woodland projects compete for this award. The unique Woodland Trust Scotland Trophy and a cash prize are available for the winner.

Quality Timber Awards Focusing on growing quality timber, woodland owners and their managers can compete in one of, or all, our three competitions with three magnificent trophies and prize money at stake. The competitions are for ‘newly-planted commercial woodland’, ‘a single stand/compartment/small wood’ or ‘whole estates and larger multi-purpose forests or woodlands’.

Schools Award Schools and pre-school projects anywhere in Scotland can enter this ever-popular award. We seek out Scotland’s most fun-packed school woodland projects with prize money plus other prizes available to be won. Pupils, teachers and many helpers have great fun taking part!

A Moray nursery school, Earthtime Forest School Nursery, which teaches youngsters in the great outdoors, was presented with this award. Here children get the chance to have entire sessions outside in the forest kindergarten - a woodland classroom, no less.

This video shows slides of the award winners etc

In the year to March 2019 11,200 hectares of trees were planted in Scotland. In Wales, 500ha and in Northern Ireland 240ha.

The planting of trees in England reached only 28% of its target. Here, only 1,420ha of trees were planted against a target of 5,000ha. Wake up, England

Pink Floyd guitarist

Plucking £17million to give his granchildren a pleasant place to live

I have to admit that I’ve never been a fan of Pink Floyd but I am certainly a fan of what David Gilmour has done.

This morning I heard, on the BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, an interview with David where he stated that he had long considered selling some of his guitars, and giving the proceeds to charity.

He considered the most pressing need in the world today was to address the problem of Climate Change.

He was particularly concerned for the welfare of his grandchildren.

To his utter astonishment his guitars sold at auction at Christies in New York for almost £17million, all of which he donated to ClientEarth, a charity made up of environmental lawyers. After very careful consideration he considered that using lawyers to change the law in areas that had large adverse environmental impact would be the most effective way his donation could be used.

"We need a civilised world that goes on for all our grandchildren and beyond in which these guitars can be played and songs can be sung." He is quoted as saying on Sky News.