Foraging on the Banks of Lough Atalia in Galway, How to make Honeysuckle Ice Cream and other Nectar of the Gods

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Last Sunday, I went foraging in the lush wild meadow that runs along the side of Lough Atalia, the small lake that runs to the sea in Galway harbour. It was a stunning day, I felt almost light headed with the scent of wild flowers, fresh running water and the earth warmed by the heat of the midday sun.

Two swans followed me for a while and the meadow hummed with the sound of happy bees drinking nectar. A ladybird landed near me on a patch of clover and small wild birds called and flew overhead. 

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Everywhere I looked, I was overwhelmed by the incredible bounty of nature, I felt like how a child must feel in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. I didn’t know where to start, so many colours, scents, textures called to me. My attention was snagged by the most magnificent bush of Wild Roses and braving the thorns, I gathered some petals to make Rosewater, a recipe which I will include in my next post.

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The flowers were as big as a child’s hand and the petals as soft as pure silk and the scent, oh my word, the scent, if only I could breathe in that scent all of my days…

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The heart of the meadow was a sea of colour composed of every shade of red and pink and green and all the colours in between. Red Clover was all around me, as far as the eye could see. I gathered several stems and the flower heads.

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I will be using Red Clover to make a healing tea, cream, salve, syrup…So many things, it is such a remarkable herb.

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There was also White Clover, not as profuse and much more delicate then its red cousin but also beautiful. It has a subtle sweet taste that makes for a lovely syrup for use in a cordial.

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Its late in the year for Dandelion but I found some clumps in the more shady areas of the meadow and harvested the young leaves for smoothies, salads and the flowers to make honey. Once autumn is here, I’m going to dig up as many dandelion roots as possible for making coffee.

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I found Plantain along the waters edge, its distinctive narrow leaves and long seed laden heads nodding in the breeze coming off the lake. I have started a mason jar infusion of Plantain and Oil for healing creams but Plantain has so many other uses as well. I will talk more about this next week.

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I was lucky to come across a patch of Horsetail, which often grows near water and has been around since the time of the Dinosaurs. It has many uses but one of its most well known is its wonderful ability to stimulate hair growth. A simple hair rinse can be made by washing the stems of horsetail to get rid of any soil or insects, place in a large glass bowl and pour boiling water over the plant. Leave overnight,compost the stems and then after washing your hair, pour over your head and dry hair as usual.

Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet otherwise known as the Queen of the Meadow was scattered here and there. I made a syrup from the flowers to use to create a sorbet or simply to pour over ice cream or pancakes as a delicious treat.

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One of my most favourite wild flower are Daisies. They can be found everywhere, in all shapes and sizes and colours but their purity and innocence instantly transport me back to my childhood and memories of making daisy chains as crowns and garlands. Daisies make a lovely addition to any homemade skin creams.

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I found several sprays of Milk Thistle and am currently drying these and some of the other herbs I gathered for use. I am looking forward to finding ways to use Milk Thistle to heal both myself and those I care for.

Smiling Mouse on YarrowThe next herb I came across was Yarrow, one of the most ancient and sacred of all plants in the lore of herbs, a plant with many fascinating abilities. I have dried the small amount I found and will be keeping a keen eye out for more to stock up before the winter.

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Another lovely herb I across was Self Heal, a plant long used for healing wounds and infections, as well as sore throats.

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I spent three wondrous hours beside the lake and by the time I returned home, I was suntanned and windswept, all my cobwebs blown away. I laid my herbs out in the sun on my balcony to dry and for any insects to flee.

In the end, I found over thirteen different herbs in the space of an afternoon in just one of the meadows on the banks of Lough Atalia. I was awed by how only a short walk from my apartment in Galway city, I was able to find so many remarkable healing plants. I think, living in a city, many people forget to look, to seek out the wilderness that grows up from between the cracks and finds itself a home in even the most starkly urban of places.

It is truly amazing what you can find and all this goodness, beauty and healing is free. I love to go foraging but always remember to only take what you need and to give thanks for its blessings.

Its late and I grow weary but let me finish this feast of the senses with all things Honeysuckle.

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I will leave you with two divine recipes I found online using this most exotic flower with its otherworldly nectar and golden blossoms.

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Honeysuckle Ice Cream

From the website: https://theviewfromgreatisland.com/

Ingredients

  • 1 and a half cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups honeysuckle blossoms (this is approximate)
  • seeds from 1 vanilla bean

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Method

  • Put the cream, milk and sugar into a saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar.
  • Add the honeysuckle flowers into the pan and and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  • Turn off the heat and let the mixture come to room temperature. Then cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • In the morning, strain the blossoms out and add the vanilla bean seeds. Mix well to break apart any clumped seeds.
  • Process the cold mixture in your ice cream machine according to its directions.
  • Put the soft ice cream in the freezer to firm up before serving.

 

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Honeysuckle Sorbet

Ingredients

5 cups cool water

4 cups honeysuckle blossoms, tightly packed but not smashed

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

Few drops lemon juice

Dusting of cinnamon

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Add cool tap water to flowers. Place in a glass bowl and leave overnight.

The next day, make a simple syrup by heating sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan over low heat until the mixture is clear, then boiling it for a minute or so, until the syrup begins to appear lustrous and slightly thick.

Remove from heat and add a few drops of lemon juice to prevent the sugar from recrystallizing. Cool the syrup.

Strain the honeysuckles, gently pressing the blossoms so as not to waste any of your efforts.

Combine the honeysuckle and the simple syrup and add just the merest dusting of ground cinnamon β€” a hint will enhance the honeysuckle flavor; even a bit more will overpower it.

Put the mix in a glass baking dish, let it freeze a little, stir and smash with a fork. Wait another couple of hours and do the same thing until it’s almost frozen through, then put it all in a blender. It needs to be taken out of the freezer a few minutes before you serve.

Bon Appetit! πŸ™‚

Xx

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Soul Space, Transform your Home, Transform Your Life, Creating Your Own Eco – Sanctuary, One Drawer at a Time!

Since I started taking action to live in a more sustainable eco-friendly manner, I have become astonished at the cumulative, domino effect of change. The more I changed how I lived my life from simple things like buying bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic to learning new skills from preserving seasonal food to making my own cosmetics, I feel not just more and more empowered but also excited at how my life is transforming. It might sound cliche but if you start small, like a snowball rolling down a hill, your endeavours will take on a life on their own and become an incredible catalyst for change.

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I decided the most logical way to tackle my home was to take a fresh look at every single thing I own and to apply the simple yet remarkably powerful advice of William Morris: ‘Have nothing in your home, which is not useful or beautiful’. A wise soul who created immortal works of beauty, which still inspire us today.

 

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Its a work in progress and takes time. Do not be surprised at how your emotions will be stirred, the possessions that we gather around us affect us in many ways and often it is not the object itself we find hard to let go of but the memory or emotion attached to that object.

 

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Early on in my life, I was introduced to the concept of Feng Shui, a fascinating philosophy and guide on how to live the best life through our control of our surroundings. It is known as ‘The Art of Placement’ and is a life changing practice. I will talk more about this in the coming days but today I would like to share with you how I tackled my own project ‘Transformation’ !:)

 

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I live in a tiny one bed apartment with my husband, hamster, fish, plants, books and pictures and like most people, I have collected many possessions, too many over the years. Its time for a change. So room by room, here is my plan:

 

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The Hall

  • Change artificial plastic like lamp shades to recycled paper shades
  • Paint walls with low emission environment friendly paint
  • Replace plastic umbrellas with a good rain mac that will last you years
  • Bulbs

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Utility Room

  • Replace detergent, softener and stain remover products with homemade natural products such as Castile soap, essential oils, lemon, bread soda and spirit vinegar [On-going]
  • Change plastic Laundry baskets to hemp or reed natural fabric baskets
  • Throughly clean out and sort through boxes [on-going]
  • Dispose of safely broken hoover & iron
  • Give old crutches and unwanted gifts to charity

 

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Bathroom

Replace usual cosmetic and hygiene products with natural homemade products [a daunting task to say the least!]:

  • Shaving Gel
  • Liquid Hand soap [Done, replaced with natural organic handmade soap bar]
  • Mouthwash
  • Deodorant [Done]
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Toothpaste [Done]
  • Face wash
  • Toner
  • Shower Gel
  • Suncream
  • Shower Cleaner
  • Toilet Cleaner [Own made with essential oils, vinegar and lemon juice]
  • Toilet Brush [ceramic with steel or bamboo]
  • Toilet Tissue [to recycled bulk bought]

 

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Replace Makeup with either Fair Trade, not tested on Animals products from companies like ‘The Body Shop’, ‘Lush’ or for men, ‘Bulldog’ or own homemade:

  • Foundation
  • Concealer
  • Day Cream
  • Night Cream [Done]
  • Body Lotion [Done]
  • Foot Cream [Done]
  • Hand Cream
  • Primer
  • Masacra
  • Lip pencil
  • Eye Shadow
  • Eye Brow pencil
  • Eye liner
  • Lipstick
  • Make-up remover wipes

Eco-Friendly

Replace plastic with natural materials such as Jute, Sisal, bamboo, ceramic, glass…:

  • Neti Pot
  • Toothbrushes [Done, replaced with Bamboo toothbrushes found on Ebay]
  • Feminine Time of the month essentials storage box [Done, changed to glass]
  • Small bin
  • Bin bags
  • Four storage baskets
  • Shower mat
  • Chair
  • Sponge
  • Plastic razors to stainless steel
  • One-use only cotton wool pads to organic cotton cloths

 

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Replace artificial feminine pads with reusable organic cotton/ bamboo pads [Done]

I have two plants in our small bathroom, which were in plastic pots but are now in terracotta pots on terracotta saucers.

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  • Plastic clothes hangers to be changed to wooden
  • Plastic gift bags to be changed to paper
  • Replace all lampshades with recycled paper shades
  • Change from plastic folders and plastic pockets for filing to going digital
  • Sort out wardrobe and if it hasn’t been worn in the last year, give it away
  • Plastic Plant pots [Done, changed to Terracotta]
  • Plastic Hamster cage change to wood and glass home [Done]
  • Bed linen to be changed to organic cotton
  • Repurpose old clothes into handy Tote bags
  • Consider ‘Swap, not Shop’ events

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  • Storage boxes, clothes bags, baskets all change from plastic to natural material
  • Sort through linen and reuse old bath towels as t-towels or rag cloths

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Long long list of plastic that needs to be changed:

  • Kitchen Brush
  • Brush & Shovel
  • Mop
  • Bin Bags [Change to biodegradable]
  • Water jug
  • Gloves
  • Dish dryer rack
  • Wash Basin
  • Chopping Boards
  • Lap trays
  • Water bottles [Changed to Copper, see past post for more info]
  • Bucket
  • Storage baskets
  • Food containers [Done, changed to Mason jars]
  • Oil containers
  • Cereal container
  • Salt & Pepper Grinders

 

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Cleaning Products:

  •  Dish Soap
  • Window Cleaner [Done, Vinegar and lemon, wiped down with old newspaper]
  • Oven Cleaner [Done, Salt and Baking soda]
  • Floor Cleaner [Tea Tree oil, water and Vinegar]
  • Disinfectant
  • Counter tops wipes  [Done]

 

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Other kitchen items made from plastic need to replaced with a biodegradable option:

  • Highlighters
  • Pens
  • Spatulas
  • Kitchen Twel
  • Cellotape
  • Pegs
  • Freezer bags
  • Ice – cube trays
  • Batteries
  • Bulbs
  • Plastic cutlery for picnics to be changed to either bamboo or stainless steel
  • Plastic straws for smoothies to be replaced by stainless steel straws

images (1)Living Room

  • Conventional Candles [Need to replaced with Beeswax or Soy as conventional candles are made from the same material that makes tires, not healthy to burn!]
  • Plant Pots [Done, Changed to terracotta]
  • Bulbs
  • One use only tissues to be replaced with cotton reusable handkerchieves
  • Markers
  • Lampshades
  • Sort through books, dvds & cds & give away unwanted items

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  • Plastic plant pots replaced with Terracotta
  • Growing my own veg and herbs organically; Rocket, Mangetout, Lettuce, Rocket, Thyme, Mint, Chamomile, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Calendula, Roses and sage

Okay, if you have made it this far, well done!! Even I feel exhausted after just doing up this list! πŸ™‚

I think the most fascinating if horrifying thing to come out of all this is a new awareness at just how much plastic has invaded and taken over nearly aspect of our lives. I was shocked when I realised the true extent and am so glad I started now.

Changing our home to a more sustainable environmentally friendly sanctuary is not going to happen over night. Its taking time, effort and to a certain extent, money. The change over from plastic to glass food containers took me about two months and has cost me a small fortune in mason jars. However, I now keep all glass jars that I bought with sauces or jams in and am reusing them for not just food but even small things like pegs, spoons, biros…the small things that gather in our kitchen drawers and can usually never be found when needed! The great thing about glass is that its completely recyclable.

Well, its the tip of the iceberg but I hope I have inspired you to even make one small change. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to be able to open my kitchen cupboards and see at a glance, what I have, what I’m running low on and when it goes out of date. I’m better able to plan meals, have less food wastage,  more space and feel…lighter.

slI feel less weighed down by countless possessions, I feel more able to make the changes I want to see in myself, to be more relaxed, calmer and clearer. If you ever feel stuck in your life, just take one drawer, any drawer in your home and clear it out and external events in your life will change, truly.  It might sound crazy but it works! The power of Feng Shui!

Xx

 

 

 

Galway Girl seeks Goddess (Fighting Terrorism one Heart at a Time)

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In my dreams, I catch glimpses of her, always just out of sight.

At times, when the wind blows gently across the fields, across the wild grasses in my garden and across my bare skin, I can feel her presence.

Her voice can be heard in the rain falling on the slate tiles, the clap and roll of thunder late at night, the sound of a girl’s bare feet dancing on packed clay under Moroccan starlit skies, the eternal first cry of a new born, the rise and fall of waves on a Connemara shore.

When I was quite young, in my early teens, I started having the most vivid 3D, wrap around, full surround sound, technicolour dreams. This was shortly after my first almost fatal asthma attack at the age of ten. The attack came out of the the blue, I remember the world shattering pain, the fight to breathe, my chest being crushed and then nothing. 

My mum managed to rush me to my local doctor, who saved my life but in that interim period, I was disconnected, floating in a sea of golden sunlight and then I heard Her. I remember a grey tabby cat with the voice of a beautiful woman calling me home, back to my body. Next thing, I remember I was gasping for breath, a nebuliser mask on my face, the feel of the cold black leather doctors table under my hands and people around me. I was back in my body. To this day, I don’t remember the frantic rush to get to the doctor’s surgery. Lack of oxygen, the body shutting down, shock, all these could explain what happened. Yet, I know, it was She who saved me.

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I am not a world leader, a movie star or a rocket scientist, just a girl born in Galway and brought up on the edge of Connemara. A girl on a quest to save the Goddess who saved me so many times.

She is the voice of those of who cannot speak, the strength of an oak tree and all the life it lovingly shelters within its bowers. She is the young, the innocent, the vulnerable and the unprotected. She is the earth crying out in pain, the love that knows no borders. Her name is Gaia.

Our planet is under threat from pollution, violence, war, disease, all creations of humankind. The threat of terrorism is possibly one of the most dangerous yet, as it has the potential to darken our souls and numb our hearts, to turn away from love and to seek vengeance. If this happens, not only do we lose our humanity but hope itself.

Life is all about choices. Democracy and true freedom is having the right to choose how we live our lives. Choice is hope, limitless potential. It is what we fight for, the right to choose.

The recent horrific terrorist attack in Manchester, was an attack not just on the children, not just an attack on a country but an attack on freedom. The people of Manchester in this time of grief, shock and pain choose to come together. They opened their homes to those seeking shelter, they rushed to help total strangers, they formed queues to donate blood and in defiance of this heinous act of terrorism, they gathered to stand in vigil for the victims and to show they will not be cowed into silence.

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These terrorists seek to crush our spirits, to destroy all hope and belief in kindness and love without boundaries. They want us to live our lives in fear, to be afraid to go on a plane, to go to a concert or even to leave the house but it is now, more then ever, we need to stand strong. We need to remember what it is we fight for, what is truly important. We need to reach out to one another in love, not fear. Together, we are stronger.

It is almost midnight here in Galway, the weather has been unseasonably warm and our windows are open to the dark sky, to the lights of the city and the sounds of people on their way home. The sea is quiet and I am reminded of all the reasons I love this corner of the world but most of all, I am reminded of the choice. I have chosen Her, Gaia, Earth. I have chosen love not hate, acceptance not prejudice and it is only through this choice, that we can save the world.

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The Heart of a Child

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Dear Reader, I hope you are well since my last post? Things continue to disintegrate on a world wide scale, our world has never been in as much danger as it is now. With many major countries building up their stock of nuclear arms and conducting tests of these weapons of mass destruction, we are living in uncertain times. Global warming has caused the meltdown of the ice caps at the poles, thousands of living creatures pass into extinction each day and the ground beneath our feet, the air we breathe and the water we drink are steadily becoming more and more toxic from the never-ending human-made pollution.

I feel so overwhelmed when I think of all these problems and watch the news at night, as I’m sure do many people. However this is not the time to despair but rather to breathe the small flame of hope into a fire of love and compassion in the heart of every woman, man and child.

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Only love and the strength to find the warrior within will save us now. This is the time for action, for resolve of will, for clarity of purpose. We are not in this for fame and glory but for love of Gaia, of our beautiful planet.

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We need to stop thinking on a local scale of our town, city, country, continent but on a global, world-wide scale. We need to remember we live on a planet spinning on its disc, surrounded by seven other planets, a moon and a sun. It is so easy to get caught up in everyday life and forget that our very existence is astonishing.

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It is time to rediscover the sacredness of our world, to feel reverence and love for every living thing. Gaia isn’t just the ‘3rd rock from the sun’ but a living sentient entity, who is crying out for our help.

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There is no Planet ‘B’ and even if there was, we are bound by honour, duty and responsibility but most of all, love of our birth place to do what we can to save the one we have. We are all monarch butterflies and our every action has a ripple effect throughout the world.

All this death, fear, disease and destruction that darkens our tv sets, newspapers, hearts and minds, this is on us.

We did this, we are the creators of our own doom but while there is still love, compassion and kindness in this world, there is still hope. The remedy for all this darkness, as much as the cause, lies within us and it is only together, united in love, that the tide will turn.

b29fba0f52d1514b70a851c156608151Children’s characters like Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, Tris from Divergent and other dystopian novels and films have sparked worldwide the flame of revolution against tyranny, the flame of freedom and hope.

Katniss’s salute has come to mean freedom and its usage has spread throughout countless countries where oppression and cruelty reign.

Fictional heroines like Hermione Granger teach children, that anyone can be a hero. If you have a fire burning in your heart, a fire of love and justice, anything is possible.

I have recently realised it is not enough to say ‘but I am just one person, what can I do?’ One person cannot change the world or can they…? Did Buddha, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, The Dalai Lama, Maureen Forrest of The Hope Foundation, Mary Robinson and all the other brave souls of our world accept the status quo?

e9d118acc8b28af3bd2a066935c08c7dNo they saw injustice, suffering, pain and death all around them and did everything they could and beyond to change things, to make the world a better place and they succeeded in their quest. The fire within their hearts shines bright through time and distance.

emma-watson-quote-he4she1This is the time for everyone to ask themselves what can I do? Β We cannot put it off until tomorrow, as one day, there will be no tomorrow.

The children of today are more awake and tuned into what is happening than any other generation. They are not afraid to ask why? why is there suffering, pain, hunger, disease and death in the world and why aren’t adults doing something about it? More and more young people across the globe, who have wisdom far beyond their tender years are taking action.

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One such child is Campbell ‘Bumble’ Remess, who started when he was nine years old making teddy bears for sick children all around the planet. He has now made over 800 teddy bears and brought so much joy. He relies on donations for his material for the stuffed animals, as all his stuffed toys are given freely from the heart. He regularly visits his local hospital to deliver his bears in person. He has often raffled off his bears to raise money for children’s hospitals and has started a new project called 365 by Campbell, where he makes a teddy a day for a sick child.

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Hailey Fort, now nine, started to help the homeless when she was five, when she saw a man living on the streets and now with the help of her parents, builds homes for homeless people and is growing food for those who need it as well.

 

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Other remarkable children such as Maya Penn and Olivia Bouler are leading the way on environmental issues. One girl, Mary Grace Henry is changing the world with the power of her convictions, in her own words ‘Educating a girl can reverse the course of her life, change the course of a community… and a country’. Β Her initiative ‘Reserve the Course‘ is changing countless lives by funding education for girls around the world.

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The youngest ever Noble Peace prize winner isΒ Malala Yousafzai, a child with the heart of a lion, who was shot at point blank rang in the head by a Taliban hit-man for her words of peace. Malala showed the world that the courage of one child can change the world. Her bravery and her message of peace and the importance of education inspire us all. In her own words ‘One Child, One Teacher, One Pen & One Book can change the world’.

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There are so many children who are daring to dream and not letting anything stop them from their quest to make the world, a happier, healthier and kinder place. From donating hair to child cancer survivors, reading to cats in animal shelters, to preventing bullying, to inventing marvellous life saving medicines and creating technological wonders.

13266743_1079359942158521_425166392_nThese are the children who looked beyond their own lives and dared to care about others, not just their friends, family, neighbours, teachers or classmates but total strangers, people they will never meet.

These children have transcended out of the ordinary and dared to be different, to care and even more remarkable, to take action to help those the most vulnerable in our society.

The quest to save our planet is not just the responsibility of those who are willing to take action, those who risk their lives to save others, those who speak out on the world stage and whose every word is recorded and recounted but a quest that also belongs to you and I.Β Quote-Native-American-Proverb-wide-1024x512

If we want our children to be proud of us, to respect us and to listen to us, we must be the change we seek. It is not enough to say, but we need to also do. Even if its just putting a empty milk cartoon into a recycling bin or turning off the water when we wash our teeth, it all helps. The more we can do, the more we will see the ripples of our actions in our homes and our communities.

The children are our future, lets make sure they have one.

Blessed Be.

X

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