Saturday, 8 August 2015

Escaping Child Marriage...children should be allowed to be children

My friend Crystal is the CEO of the Olare Orok and Motorogi Trust and is based in the Maasai Mara, Kenya.  We keep in touch via facebook and I am accustomed to seeing her posts - usually they make me smile; this one had me in tears. 

Natii's story

Natii is 11 years old. Her father died when she was young and since then her eldest brother has sold all of the family's land. Three years ago she decided that she wanted to go to school but her family wouldn't let her. She ran to her community leader for help and he enrolled her in her local primary school. The cook at the school took pity on her and bought her a uniform. She had been doing well in school for the last three years, until 5 weeks ago.

Late at night some men came to her village and Natii heard them talking, She realised that her brother was marrying her off to one of these men in secret. She was even more shocked to find her future husband was 55 years old. Natii fled in the dark and ran 6km to the next village where she found their chief. The following day the chief called her brother, mother and proposed husband together to say that the marriage could not go ahead.

Since this time Natii has returned to her family's homestead but she says that she feels that they do not love her anymore and they treat her very badly because she betrayed them. Her dream is to go to a boarding school so that she can live there away from her brother. She insists that she still loves her mother but despite this, she does not feel safe living at home. Her brother is an alcoholic and is using his siblings to try and make money. Even Natii's 8 year old brother has been sent out to be a shepherd for another family nearby. 

The next school term starts in September and Crystal is desperately trying to raise the $1800 (£1160) that will provide everything Natii needs to reach the end of primary school. The trust will continue to support Natii and will work with her to find the most appropriate route for her to fulfill her potential in life. 

All the money raised will go towards helping Natii and if more than the target amount is raised, this will be put towards helping Natii's siblings attend school. If you can, please donate! 

US Donations - - you will be connected to the network for good portal. As the designee within this please put 'OOMT' 

For any further information, please email Dr Crystal Courtney at

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Disappearing Psoriasis: A non-PhD related post!

WARNING:This post is not a PhD/academic/writing related post. I've been having phototherapy for the last couple of months and wanted to share the progress! 

I have the autoimmune condition Psoriasis. I have the most common form plaque psoriasis, which basically means I get patches (or plaques) of thick red skin with white scales. 

I count myself lucky that my psoriasis doesn't generally itch - and on the odd occasion that it does, some moisturiser usually keeps it under control. I've had it since I was 15 so I've become so used to having plaques on my arms and legs, that I never really felt the need to cover them up and I never made a conscious effort to hide my skin.

People would ask if I had a reaction to something, or had sunburn. Explaining that I have psoriasis; it is not contagious and it doesn't hurt, usually answered the majority of any questions I was asked. 

Recently I started having phototherapy treatment or light treatment. Here's a few answers to the FAQs

1. I am having narrowband Ultraviolet B (UVB) light treatment

2. It's not the same as a sunbed. Though I do have to stand in what is best described as a sun-bed like machine

3. I go to the clinic two mornings a week for treatment. I am 'exposed' to the light for a set amount of time. I started at 15 seconds and now up-to having 1 minute 17 seconds

4. I will have approximately 15 weeks of treatment 

5. It's not a cure and I don't know how long the effects of the treatment will last! 

Here are some photos of my progress (left arm and elbow)

Before Treatment

Week 1 

Week 5

Week 8
Week 11

Week 13
Some Useful Links

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Why I can't write during a Writing Retreat...and at other times

OK well let me start off by saying that the title of this post is not really true! I started writing this blog during a writing retreat! 

The main reason I found I was not able to write during this latest retreat was because I was the retreat facilitator. It turned out I'm actually quite good at helping other people to write (or at least appear to be writing), I could just never really find my own writing rhythm.

I have to say facilitating the writing retreat has been a steep learning curve and also a great experience (@thesiswhisperer did warn me about that). There was some really useful and insightful discussions and lots of words written by the group as a collective. Just not so many words written by me. I did however learn quite a lot about when I write best.

Writing retreats (or bootcamps) are great, especially when they offer the space to work on your writing in an a conducive environment alongside your peers. The sense of tension during the 'shut-up and write' style writing times felt a bit like an exam. 

This afternoon, I found myself sitting in an Edinburgh cafe for what was supposed to be the inaugural meeting of a Shut-Up and Write Group. The only thing, I'm the only one who turned-up. I was sitting on my own at a bench table with my laptop trying to look like I was doing something of vague importance. I came to the conclusion my friends and colleagues decided there were other things to do on a Sunday afternoon. Oh Well! 

As I settled down to write, with my ginger beer, I felt quite happy.It was nice to be out of the flat and not in the office and I couldn't be distracted by the F1 GP at Silverstone. I got quite a lot done and with no-one to talk too, I had no option but to write. 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Post-viva; corrections, work and life!

I've always been of the mindset that academic works are about progress and not perfection, whether that is an essay, article of even a PhD thesis. Actually life is more of progress and less of perfection.

The last few months, since I submitted and then had my Viva have, in all honesty, been an odd mix of emotions and of life related re-organisation. 

The viva didn't go as well as expected, actually it was pretty awful, I have a lot of corrections and have to re-submit my thesis. The content of the corrections are actually quite reasonable and the experience of the viva is something I can hopefully (and intend to) put to good use in future.  

On the up-side, there are many positives from the last few months. I'm currently working full-time with a team of people that are amazing to work with. Too many of them to name, but they know who they are! 

I'm getting to grips with the corrections, I will not be beaten and certainly not by a thesis. I'm also now a student on the PostGraduate Certificate in Academic Practice. It's part-time and is partly CPD. Studying again, you know because I'm not busy enough!

So are part of my 'progress not perfection I'm trying to manage my writing a little differently.
I'm trialling using Scrivener. It may go well, it may not. I've wanted to try it for while, so now is as good a time as any! Thanks Inger (@ThesisWhisperer) for the inspiration! 

Wish me luck!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Malawi Devastated by Floods - More than 200,000 People Displaced

Homes, schools, churches, offices have been washed away, others have been destroyed by the floods. In recent weeks, Malawi has experienced the worst flooding in her history. More than 150 people have been killed, hundreds more missing and an estimated 200,000 people have been displaced.

As international and local organisations in Malawi co-ordinate efforts to respond to the devastating affects of the floods, relocate people to safe areas and establish camps for those displaced - the situation in Malawi is being reported around the world.

Schools have been turned into temporary refuge centres as organisations establish tented camps. As families wait to be rescued, food and emergency supplies are being dropped into remote areas and delivered to camps. Many of Malawi's roads have been damaged and bridges washed away making getting to the worst affected places all the more difficult.

The photos below, show some of the scenes from across Malawi of areas affected by the flooding.

  (Photograph; Bonex Julius/AFP/Getty Images)

Family waits for relief during Malawi flooding (Photograph: Thoko Chikonde/AP)

The road from Bangula to Makhanga (Photograph Julian Lefevre, MSF)

 (Photograph; Bonex Julius/AFP/Getty Images)

The aftermath of the floods, bring with it the threat of disease, famine and devastation which will take months and years to rectify. A friend and colleague who has lived and worked in Malawi made the following comment (via Facebook) with which I can relate. 
"Shocking - I know many of these places - the effect on crops and health (flooded latrines, contaminated water supply - will be dreadful. Please help if you can (UNICEF, Chikwawa Health Initiative on emergency relief, and Mary's Meals and other to be continuing critical work in the affected areas)"
Like my friend, I know and have visited many of the areas which have been affected by the floods. I have friends throughout Malawi and I can only hope that they (and their families) are safe and well. I worked with Mary's Meals in Malawi and have seen the benefits of their work and the work of other organisations throughout the country. 

Talking to another friend this morning, they asked what I knew about the situation in Malawi. They commented that the news headline they'd seen felt much more 'real' because they knew someone (me) who had a strong connection to the place and the people. It made them think twice about what otherwise would be a news report about a distance place.

The people of Malawi are strong and resilient people, but they need help! Your Help!

If you can, please help, there are many organisations working in affected areas across Malawi, your support will help ensure they can continue with critical and lifesaving work.