Sharing this story with you brings back mixed emotions.  In 2012 I travelled to Kenya with Mary’s Meals and my husbands charity One Feeds Two (www.onefeedstwo.org), at that time known as The Elephant Juice Soup Company.  In 2010 my husband and I decided that we wanted to do more to help malnutrition in children in the developing world.  We decided to launch a food business that was founded on a promise – for every meal you buy we provide a meal for a child living in poverty.  In doing so we managed to provide 40,000 meals to children in the developing world.  However, given the scale of the problem, we decided that the promise of ‘One Feeds Two’ should be something that all Food Corps should be encouraged to do – and One Feeds Two was born.

Through this experience I have had an incredible insight into the challenges faced by those in the developing world.  The meals we provided were always delivered in educational settings and while this was successful in feeding children, given my educational background, I could see the difficulties the schools were then facing given the increased numbers of children coming to school to eat.  I saw class sizes of 100+ in schools that were not able to accommodate for such numbers.  I wanted to do something to help so decided to raise money to help one school in particular – I blogged about my fundraising campaign (www.projecthirty.com) and decided to use my 30th Birthday as an opportunity to raise funds – rather than an opportunity for me to gather more ‘stuff’!  Having a baby slightly hindered my fundraising but I did manage to raise £5000.

Given the level of need and challenges faced by schools in the developing world I felt that I needed to think of innovative ways to raise money and, having returned to my classroom in the UK, I quickly realised how hard it was to explain to young children what I had experienced and help them relate to children living in extreme poverty.

I LOVE BIRTHDAYS is the first children’s story I wrote (around 3 years ago!) and what made me want to keep writing.  Based on my own experience, written in rhyme and with the aim of encouraging young children to think of others as part of a global community (feel this book is even more relevant now!).  I always planned for this book to one day be published and for the proceeds to go to help the schools I visited in Kenya.  Really hope one day I can make this dream a reality – fingers crossed.

I LOVE BIRTHDAYS

Your Birthday it happens

Just once every year,

The countdown begins

As it starts to draw near.

For one little girl

She was more lucky than some,

And this story begins

The day she turned 1.

A small little party

Some friends round to play,

Opening presents

And shouting ‘hooray!’.

.

And after the cake

She gave a great cheer…

“Oooooooooo, I love Birthdays, BRING ON NEXT YEAR!”

It was 2 and then 3

The party then grew,

All family invited

And friends that she knew.

A great celebration

With presents galore,

She was even heard saying

“Oh please bring me more!”

And after the presents

She gave a great cheer..

“Oooooooooo, I love Birthdays, BRING ON NEXT YEAR!”

For 4 and for 5

She then had to think,

So she went with a theme

And had everything pink.

Pink food and pink clothes

And a HUGE pink parade,

Even the instruments

Were pink that they played!

And after they marched

She gave a great cheer…

“Oooooooooo, I love Birthdays, BRING ON NEXT YEAR!”

For her 6th she then had

A funny old clown,

And for 7 a magician

With magical gown.

For 8 there were animals

That you could then hold,

And for 9 there were dancers

In twinkling gold.

And through all of the glitz

She gave a great cheer…

“Oooooooooo, I love Birthdays, BRING ON NEXT YEAR!”

Double figures at 10

A special event,

In her back garden

A big circus tent.

Trapeze artists, clowns

Some animals too,

She sat in the middle

To get the best view.

And after the show

She gave a great cheer…

“Oooooooooo, I love Birthdays, BRING ON NEXT YEAR!”

For 11 and 12

She decided to go,

To London then New York

To see a top show.

13 came quick

She was now a young teen,

And to mark the occasion

She dined with the Queen!

And after dessert

She gave a great cheer…

“Oooooooooo, I love Birthdays, BRING ON NEXT YEAR!”

From diamonds to trips

From clothes and new shoes,

Sometimes there were presents

That she never used!

Yet the gifts kept on coming

Year upon year,

Getting bigger and better

As her 20s drew near.

And at the end of her teens

She gave a great cheer…

“Oooooooooo,I love Birthdays, BRING ON NEXT YEAR!”

Cards filled with money

“To the shops!” she’d declare,

She didn’t need anything

But she didn’t care.

Yes, her 20s they were

An extravagant time,

But those years at an end

As she turned 29.

Looking at all the gifts,

She started to doubt…

“Is this really what Birthdays should be all about?”

“Look,” said her friend

“Before your 30th day,

Come with me to Africa

What do you say?”

An invite to Africa

She couldn’t say no,

So she packed a large bag

And decided to go.

‘Another holiday,’ she thought

‘Ooooo, this will be fun,

I’ll shop till I drop

And lounge in the sun.’

Arriving in Kenya

A beautiful sky,

The sun dipping down

The moon rising high.

It had been a long day

She headed to bed,

“I’ll see you tomorrow”

“Goodnight’ her friend said.

Getting up early

She was ready to go,

To a place called a slum

She didn’t quite know.

Like a small hidden world

Things started to change,

The people, the streets

It was all very strange.

There were roads made of mud

And homes made of wood

People had built them

Anywhere that they could.

The smell was so strong

It was hard to believe.

“People live here?”

She’d been so naive.

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And there, in this mess

Stood a school all alone,

Behind iron gates

And walls built from stone.

Thousands of children

Then started to run,

Into the school,

This school in a Slum.

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Their clothes were all torn

Some didn’t have shoes,

They wanted her hand

She couldn’t refuse.

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She noticed the dirt

She saw every class,

The children were sitting

Between broken glass.

She joined them for lunch

It wasn’t that great,

Just beans and some rice

Was all that they ate

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The teacher explained,

“They live on the street,

For most of these children

It’s that they’ll eat.”

At the end of the day

She shed a small tear,

“I now understand why you’ve brought me here.”

Returning back home

She got quite a fright

A big fancy Birthday

Just didn’t feel right.

She’d had so many parties

It was hard to recall

What was the point

Of having them all?

And looking around

She felt rather blue

But then an idea…

“I KNOW WHAT TO DO!”

Whispers and rumours

Went round in a flash,

All were excited

‘bout this Birthday Bash!

Yet her door remained closed

Not an invite was sent,

Not a present was bought

Not a penny was spent.

Crowds then gathered

Outside of her gate,

“We are sure it’s her Birthday

This is the right date?”

Panic then spread

“Is she ok?”

It isn’t like her

To miss the big day.”

Then finally appearing

She waited for hush,

When she saw them all there

She started to blush.

“Oh dear,” she said quietly

I know why you’re here.

The party, the presents,

The same every year.”

“I loved it because

I was selfish you see,

I wanted my Birthday

To be just about me.”

“I didn’t quite realise

Just how much I had

And looking back now

I feel rather bad.”

“So this Birthday year

I hope you’ll agree

To buy me no presents

I want nothing for me!”

“Instead will you help me?

Just one tiny task

To help a small school

That’s all that I ask?”

“This school is a place

Where children can come

To learn and to eat

In a place called a Slum.”

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I am going to raise money

And if you’d donate

The money will go

To make this school great.”

At this she then paused.

There was no regret.

“This will certainly be

My best Birthday yet.”

And shouting out loud,

As she heard the crowds cheer…

“Oooooooooo, I love Birthdays, BRING ON NEXT YEAR!”

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