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Welcome to March's

 Uplifting Newsletter

We have some gems lined up for you in this month's edition.

Do encourage your friends and family to sign up and enjoy these stories too!

Best wishes, Ceri Longville, Creative Director

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Volunteering as an exit strategy ...

Like many people, I have spent much of the last twelve months watching the spread of Covid-19 with a mixture of horror and redundancy. Yes, staying at home, washing hands and sacrificing time with loved ones has absolutely been the right thing to do, but it has never felt proactive.

With the arrival of the vaccine, however, things have changed in many ways. Our elderly and vulnerable loved ones now have a degree of protection, and with spring around the corner there is hope of life returning to some sort of normality. And yet the 500,000 vaccines being delivered each day cannot happen without a vast army of volunteers to steward vaccine centres, and this is where, finally, I have found an outlet for the frustrating impotence of the last year.

I initially registered with the GoodSam app, which in conjunction with the NHS provides vaccine volunteers with stewarding opportunities that they can accept or reject. We are a good-hearted bunch in Gloucestershire, and so slots are taken up almost immediately, but I have since been put in touch with the volunteer coordinator managing rotas at a local vaccine hub.

Along with a rotation of over seventy fellow volunteers, I now help out regularly at the Beeches Green vaccination centre in Stroud. We never know from week to week what shifts will be required: sometimes it might just be the regular Saturday clinic, but when more batches of vaccine become available at short notice, up to three extra days’ worth of appointments might suddenly be offered out to the public, and we will be called in to help.

My role is flexible, and can be anything from greeting people at the front door, taking the less able through in wheelchairs, to assisting in the vaccine room so that vaccinees are ready with their arms out and we can keep things moving fast – when the Astrazenica is being delivered, we easily process between 850 and 900 jabs in one day, so there’s no time to hang about!

Everyone involved goes out of their way to make the experience as stress free and smooth as possible: from the car park onwards, there are stewards at every point to guide the public through and reassure them, and medical staff chat with each person, explaining what will happen and what to expect after their vaccination. Even the most needle-phobic patients are amazed at how quick and painless the actual jab is, and with a little distraction for the very anxious, some don’t even realise they’ve been done. The whole visit can take as little as ten minutes, and the worst anyone might expect afterwards is a sore arm and mild flu-like symptoms for a day or two, although many don’t even experience these.

Apart from the pleasure of talking to so many people after such a long, quiet winter, by far the most rewarding part of my role is seeing the utter joy and relief of those who can now begin to retrieve their lives. We meet grandparents who haven’t been able to hug their families, those with conditions that have forced them to shield for almost a year, carers who can now carry out their work with confidence. No mask can hide the smiles of those grateful for the small vial of hope that is that is offered to them.

The vaccine roll-out will go on for months, and as second vaccines are now being administered, there is a constant need for volunteer backup, so I urge anyone interested in helping to register with GoodSam, or to find out who is coordinating volunteers for hubs run by their local practices – you won’t regret it. Even when life returns to normal, I cannot think of a better way of spending half a day.

Sarah Steele, Stroud

Sarah Steele is the author of The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon and The Schoolteacher of Saint-Michel (Headline Publishing)


What is joy and where do I find more of it?

It’s hardly something we’ve felt much of in recent months, with so many pleasures that normally lead us to be joy-full severely lacking in lockdown. Yet there’s something about joy that goes so much deeper than mere feelings, and this is one of the things I find myself chewing over here in Lockdown 3.0.

Happiness is much easier to achieve, through an uplifting (video!) conversation perhaps, or a slice of cake, or a spot of online shopping, but the euphoria soon dissolves when the Groundhog Day-like reality dawns on yet another restricted day.

So what of joy itself? How can I live more consistently with joy as my bedrock, undisturbed by the choppy waters we’re all floating in? Maybe Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama can help!
Two spiritual figureheads representing two very different belief systems spending a week together – as great friends – for probably the final time. And this experience was documented in a book which was gifted to me by a friend last year, while the pandemic was still felt relatively fresh. I put off reading it until the old year dissolved into the new, and it is currently a book I turn to every day to glean what wisdom and experience I can.

It’s called The Book of Joy and it’s pretty good. I’m about two thirds of the way through so I can’t offer a full synopsis, but what I have gained so far is a refreshing and very simple take on how deeper community, greater equality and genuine humility will not only benefit us greatly but will literally change the world.

These two older statesmen have experienced a lifetime of highs and lows, joys and sorrows, war and peace, while discovering throughout where their true riches lie. And it may surprise you to read that the best things in life aren’t actually ‘things’.

Considering what we’re all dealing with right now, whether in Gloucester or The Gambia, this quote from the first few pages felt like a good place to sit: "No dark fate determines the future. We do. Each day and each moment, we are able to create and re-create our lives and the very quality of human life on our planet. That is the power we wield." And that power is no greater or no lesser just because of a global pandemic – it just requires a different pattern of thought, of gratitude, of compassion, even when the four walls we exist in may be a little too dull and familiar.

As the Dalai Lama said on day five of my reading, “if we look at today's materialistic life people seem mainly concerned with sensory experiences... So when joy arises at the level of your mind and not just your senses, you can maintain a deeper sense of satisfaction for a longer period of time."
It’s daily highlights like this I’ve lifted from the book and shared on Twitter. It’s felt like a healthy thing to do, not just because I’m doing what little I can to add a drop of positivity onto social media, but I’m documenting a stream of thoughts that – in some way – speak into the questions I asked at the start of this blog article..

So, to end, I wonder not how joyful you feel right now, but how joyful you actually are?

The Book of Joy won’t necessarily give you the answers but it’ll give you plenty to think about and to be inspired by – and you don’t need to be a Christian, as I am, or a Buddhist.
Let us hope by the end of 2021, with or without Lockdowns 4, 5, 6 or more, we’ve all learned a little more about finding and maintaining joy regardless of our circumstances.

Chris Sandys, Gloucester

Lady in Cheltenham sewing for children in Uganda

Moya Atkinson from Cheltenham is making dresses from pillow cases for an orphanage in Uganda. She works in hospitality but has always been very arty with table decorations and baby baskets as gifts. I asked her how she had heard about the orphanage and she told me that her son, Aaron had done the Ugandan marathon last year in aid of the orphanage and become involved in the charity called Tokens of Life Uganda.

Aaron sponsors a boy called Vinny who wanted a suit and Aaron organised a suit to be made for him and a dress for his mum. They have sent money to buy mattresses and Vinny really wanted a cake for Christmas which they organised.

Moya will be asking for donations of pillowcases to make more dresses soon. Watch this space!

The link to the charity is


Twitter @tokenlifeUg

Julie Kent MBE, Gloucester

Charlie and the machine
Charlie Bruce has run everyday since March. His initial target was to complete 5 kilometres with 20lbs on his back every day for Pied Piper. He wanted to raise £5000 to buy toys for the children at the Glos Royal Hospital at Christmas but his support gained such momentum that even he was surprised as the totals increased. He is in the Royal Logistic Corps by day based in Portsmouth and travels back at the weekends to see his family in Gloucester.
Not only did he run the 5km every day, each time he hit a financial milestone he did a 20k or 35k run. When he hit £6k he ran a marathon and on his return was met by a friend, John Freeman from Freeman Event Partners who handed him a £1000 cheque and he promptly ran another marathon the following day! He ran 1635 kilometres taking 154 hours & 14 minutes in total!
That weekend, he did a 24 hour fitness session at his training gym in Quedgeley, Glevum Crossfit Gym where they also collected new toys for the children at the Children’s Centre.
Julie Kent, vice chairman of the Pied Piper Appeal said “I remember talking to him at the beginning when we were in the first lockdown and he said he wanted to set himself a personal challenge to raise money for sick children and as it played out and I met him I could not believe what a machine he is! Focused, determined but very humble with it. We are so grateful for this amazing total in these tricky times.”
On New Years Eve he did his final 5k and is rightly chuffed to have raised over £12k as it stands at the moment. The money is going to convert two normal rooms at the Children’s Centre into high dependency rooms for children with mental health issues which is a growing concern at the moment.
Apparently he is already planning his challenge for this year, once again for Pied Piper.

Julie Kent MBE, Gloucester
Kingsholm Rocks

Kingsholm Rocks! was inspired by the Portishead Python.

I have family who live in Portishead and when we can visit we usually take a walk to the nature reserve and on to the marina where the Portishead Python lives.

Our children love visiting the python, looking at rocks, spotting new ones and choosing new favourites. For us adults we find the creativity and messages of positivity and hope really uplifting.

A while back we created our own rocks to add to the python. At a time when we are unable to meet up with others its a small thing that helps to make you feel connected and part of a larger community.

With the festival of love arriving at the beginning of half term and during another lockdown when many children are not attending school I thought it was the perfect time to start Kingsholm Rocks!

My thought was to create a path of rocks decorated by children and families in the park at the centre of Kingsholm. It’s something inexpensive and fun to do for all ages. My hope was that children could leave rocks for the class friends they don’t get to see at the moment and that messages of hope, encouragement and creativity would lift the spirits of anyone walking past them.

The original Kingsholm Heart Rock had a pretty bumpy first few days until more rocks started to appear. Even this inauspicious start brought the community together as people messaged each other and posted on our community Facebook page about the rocks whereabouts.

A bit like the current situation our path of positivity is growing day by day. It’s great to see that like our community how diverse the rocks are.

I’ve just started another project for our community and I’m hoping that this will lay the foundations for another community event in the summer at a time when we are able to gather together again.

Until then, Kingsholm really does rock!

Julie Stephenson, Gloucester

Happy ways to connect
Sometimes it's easy to run out of things to say on video calls. I've collected a few other suggestions you may like to try. I'd love to hear yours.

1. Go on a virtual tour with someone by doing a screen share.  If you Google virtual tours there are plenty! From exploring the pyramids to the Forest of Dean, the world is your virtual oyster!
2. A site called allows you to do jigsaws virtually with a friend. You can even upload your own photo to be used as a jigsaw!
3. Wordfeud is a cross platform word game, very similar, to Scrabble.
Ceri Longville, Gloucester
18 year olds, COVID-19 and staying motivated

I believe that I have done my fair share of sitting in school halls for assemblies or end of year services and accepted the fact I was going to be hit with words like ‘resilience’ and ‘motivation’. I am sure a large proportion of my age group can say the same. During these assemblies (if I haven’t already zoned out), I often think ‘do you know how tired I am?’ and ‘it is easy for you to say that when you’re not in my position’ when I am confronted with such words. They often make me feel like I haven’t done enough, rather than motivating me

I think what I am trying to say is that during recent times these words have escalated around the confusion of exams, university and just our futures in general. So, I think I speak for nearly the entirety of the secondary school community by saying ‘get off our backs!’. 

With that said, I have been swayed recently with the idea of ‘motivation’ and ‘resilience’. As an individual I have come to terms with the fact that there is actually resilience and motivation in everything we do. For example, you don’t have to get out of bed at all, that’s a choice. Even if you don’t get out of bed and scroll on your phone all day, you have made a conscious effort to get your phone. Finding resilience and motivation in the small things we do everyday is something I believe should be highlighted more to my age group. The fact that we make choices everyday and behind choice there is motivation to make that choice, shows that we are motivated and resilient all the time. With this in mind, my age group has been overwhelmingly resilient and motivated with their future by taking it into their own hands. For example, a girl that I work with has just been accepted to work for the NHS, despite the fact she struggled at school. Also, a boy who lives down the road from me has been accepted as an extra for a Netflix series, despite there being no theatre or drama due to COVID-19. These people are just small advocates for my age group who are turning crumbs into the whole cake and eating it, despite the impact of COVID-19. 

Personally, for me, I have struggled a lot with resilience and motivation over the series of lockdowns. From not knowing what I want to do, to not knowing if I want to go to university and so on. It is only recently that I have discovered a real drive to become a broadcast journalist. However, due to COVID-19, finding work experience has become a real issue. I always planned to apply for the BBC work experience programme for virtual journalism, however, this programme has remained closed due to lockdown, which has been the case for most work experience programmes. In order to ensure I achieve what I set out for, I have to follow the crumbs to my own cake, finding resilience, motivation and joy in the smaller things. 

So, next time you are sat in that painstakingly dull and ironic end of year service or assembly, and you hear the infamous words ‘resilience’ and ‘motivation’. Just think ‘You are lucky.I am motivated to be here’.

Lucy Glider, Gloucester

Your Links that we Love!
And Finally!... Pet of the month
Toby, by Sally Hayward

Sat on my table he does a lot throughout the day.
Stay there for a while and I make a fuss of him, he purrs to says he's content.
Spent so much time playing with Toby, until he gets tired.
Inspired with writing a poem or two maybe an acrostic;
you never know what is going on in my mind.
Kind words from loving, cuddly and adorable I say.
Stay in the here and now and that I am strong and Toby belongs our pet.
Let's remember those words and know he's listening, although he's a sleep.
Please spread the cheer forward to friends 

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