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Goodbye, dream job! (Gandhi made me resign)

4 November, 2013

When I was a tiny tike, when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I’d reply “A farmer’s wife!” OH MY DAYS! My hard working feminist mum must have had an absolute CONNIPTION! I can just imagine her response to my seven year old self; “Er, why not just be a farmer, Lu? There was this thing called emancipation?” Mind you, for much of my childhood I also wanted to be called “Girl Eric” so my mum was probably used to my clumsy handling of gender issues.

I soon changed my mind about the farming and began chasing the dream of acting. It was pretty serious; after school I landed a place at the Central School of Speech and Drama. But during my gap year in New Zealand I fell head over heals in love with the country and the people and decided under no circumstances could I possibly leave! I gave up my spot at Central and, in a huge swerve towards the straight and narrow, began studying theology. A life in the ministry wasn’t for me, but I knew with conviction that I wanted to spend my life trying to make the world a bit more loving, beautiful and peaceful. I ended up completing a degree in social policy and even working in that field for a few years. When I moved back to London with a beaut kiwi husband I decided I wanted to work in similar fields of social justice but with a more global theme, so began a post graduate degree whilst doing some part time work for Oxfam.

Graduating from the London School of Economics, I was, along with all the other Bright Young Things in my year, gobsmacked that people weren’t grabbing at our sleeves as we walked along the street to hire us. There followed a few months of soul destroying unemployment; one time that I was absolutely CONVINCED I’d found THE job for me only the silly sausages didn’t know! And they hired someone else! Ooof. All the tears were cried that day.

And then, miraculously, in a dearth of London based social justice-y roles, I landed a full time, open ended role with Oxfam as a campaigner in their London office. Hello, Dream Job!

For four years I trained volunteers, planned awareness raising events, lobbied politicians and generally made as much racket as possible about global poverty. I flipping loved it. There was a real atmosphere of imagination and creativity and, most of all, purpose. One of my favourite projects involved taking a bunch of activists over to Copenhagen on the Climate Train for the climate change talks, we did a load of media and joined in with the protests of this global earth loving movement.

And then I began having kids.


During my pregnancy and the start of my first maternity leave I was all “My important work can just pause while I get this parenting thing out the way” but the more time I spend with my children and the more I read about child development, the more I see it as Important Work.

I am certain now that parenting, and adult-child interaction, plays as much of a crucial role for social justice as campaigning.

I read this quote from Gandhi today, and as always, he nails it:

“If we are to reach real peace is this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children; and if they grow up in their natural innocence, we won’t have to struggle; we won’t have to pass fruitless idle resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which consciously or unconsciously the whole world is hungering.”

So, the other week, I resigned from Oxfam. As you know, I’m on maternity leave right now gallivanting around Spain in a camper, but after Christmas we are heading to New Zealand for a few years so I inevitably had to send that email. But it felt pretty big. As if I’m not just resigning from my dream job, but from a whole career.

Because somehow now I want to pour my whole life into this idea of peace and justice beginning in childhood. It’s not that I see it as more important than the work of development agencies but simply newer. We are only just beginning to understand the nature of the relationship between our treatment of children and the well being of society, it’s a massively under-resourced area.

I’m definitely too lazy to become a Professor of Neuro-science but perhaps I could get involved through more writing, even blogging… a different campaigning job… a Forest School… *flies around in a super hero coat trying to fix childhood*

I’ve oscillated wildly from thing to thing before, dreams evolve, so new dream jobs emerge, right?

Although if you ever spot a New Post from me with the title “Life as a farmer’s wife” you have permission to comment with a sweary emancipation themed rant.

PS Yes, we made it to Spain! We have pootled down through Longrono and Zaragoza to the coast where we plan on trundling right the way round. The sun is still hot, the people are so warm and the grape vines are turning fiery red along the road side.


Streets filled with peace (not tanks, thanks)

27 June, 2012

There have been a fair few surreal moments in my 5 years history as a campaigner with Oxfam.

I have taught Richard Branson how to do the running man.*

I have trundled around the streets of Tunbridge Wells dressed as a big cuddley polar bear.*

I have wheeled a GIANT Santa in front of the US embassy and sung carols.*

I have bantered with Esther Rantzen in front of an audience of hundreds.*

I have mimicked those New York builders sitting on the girder eating lunch- whilst pregnant nonetheless.*

And then today I ‘as bin gallivanting around the streets of London with a big fat genuine TANK. *

Come with me for a tick, back a couple of years, to another amazing and surreal experience with Oxfam. It involved spending time in rural Cambodia, seeing the work Oxfam does in poor villages out there, arriving home just days before my daughter Ramona was conceived.  (In fact, we joked for most of my pregnancy about how a little Cambodian baby might surprise us, bahahahaha, ooh, teehee.)

As a result of the Khmer Rouge and the Pol Pot years Cambodia had a huge share of weapons within its borders.  When the armed struggles began to fizzle out soldiers from all sides went back to their homes and took their guns with them. Some estimates suggest there were close to one million unregistered weapons in that small country. As you can imagine, the presence of guns in almost every home was having a dire effect on families, in much the same way the presence of guns has an effect in my own neighbourhood of Peckham.

Fortunately for Cambodia, back in 2003, some passionate peeps decided to tackle this injustice by launching the Control Arms campaign- fighting for a UN treaty on the arms trade.   Mobs  of people from across the world joined in with the One Million Faces campaign – I added my freckly grin, as did thousands of Cambodians- even those based out in local, rural villages joined this struggle for justice in the arms trade.

Such a global force couldn’t be overlooked and  just a few months after the  this creative petition was presented to the UN work began on a historic, legally-binding international Arms Trade Treaty. (Campaigning works, it really truly DOES!)

As we know these things take time but whilst in Cambodia I was gobsmacked to see that even just TALK of an Arms Treaty was making an impact. The momentum of the global campaign had fortified national efforts to stop the arms trade, developed the campaigning consciousness of Cambodians AND lead to the handing in and burning of thousands of weapons during Gun Destruction week.  (Campaigning WORKS! Yes! It blooming WORKS!)

Now, two years on from my visit to Cambodia we have entered the final stages of an Arms Trade Treaty, and I have a little tot. Once you have children, your hopes for a more peaceful and just world become just that bit more crisp. The chance for a strong Arms Treaty that could make the lives of other children untold times more peaceful is moving nearer.

Which brings us to today and our tank. We (some activists and some policy wonks) were delivering letters and reports (read it if you like that kinda thing) to 5 key embassies, countries that have a key role to play at one of the final negotiating conferences beginning on Monday in New York. On that day too, a  global petition is once again being handed over, asking them to ensure this Treaty is effective and strong. You have just FOUR days to add your voice.

I want to see a world free from mindless violence, communities restored from the damage of guns. I want to see the young people my husband works with as a youth worker in Peckham and the young people I met in those villages of Cambodia knowing the sense of tangible peace. I want to see kids playing in streets free from tanks. I want Ramona and her generation to  inherit a more reconciled world . An Arms Treaty is one step along the way.

As we know (I may have mentioned it once or twice already) campaigning WORKS – let’s make it happen this time.  


*We were promoting Oxfam as the primary charity partner for the London Marathon.

*We were enticing people along to see the fantastic film, the Age of Stupid.

*We were singing climate carols and asking them to stop blocking progress at the Copenhagen Climate Change summit.

*I was basically trying to mass invite the audience to come along to the Put People First rally and she saw straight through me.

*We were raising awareness of how risky childbirth is in poor countries.

*We are giving a final push to get people to sign up for a robust Arms Trade Treaty. Please join us!