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The power of the tribe

In amongst all of the reality shows that regularly hit our screens: Love Island, X Factor, Made in Chelsea etc., you may have missed one that made a return last year: Shipwrecked.

Returning after an incredible 7 year break, it was anticipated by 20-somethings like me who remember watching it on T4 (yes, that channel doesn’t even exist anymore – oh how old I feel!)

Disappointingly, the show crashed with launch-night ratings of under 300,000 and, with lots of changes and a generally easier time for the contestants than previous versions of the show (no Bear Grylls survival skills required!), it wasn’t that well received.

But, it got me thinking.

The show’s premise is this: there are two tribes on two different islands – the sharks on Shark Island and the tigers on Tiger Island. Both start with a similar number of tribe members and as weeks go on each island hosts new islanders for a day each, and then the islanders choose which island – and which tribe – to join. The winner is the island with the biggest tribe at the end. So basically, it’s a massive popularity contest.

You can imagine that this format means that people aren’t always as genuine as you’d hope – after all, there’s prize money at stake and so they want to be your friend so you’ll choose them and their island!

I love meeting new people – I’ve always been Little Miss Chatterbox and you can guarantee I’ll fill any awkward silence. But here’s what Shipwrecked got me thinking: what is my motivation when I come across new people? How much am I in it for my own benefit?

It’s so easy when we meet new people – at school, online, at work – to think: what can I get out of this? Is this person fun – i.e. do they make ME laugh and have a good time? Do they have the same interests as me?

Sound familiar?

It’s not so dissimilar to the Shipwrecked tribes putting their own interest (the money!) above the actual person in front of them.

But what if, when I next meet a new person, I didn’t think about myself first, but about the other person first. What do they like? How can I make them feel welcome? Are there any worries or areas that I can help with? What can I learn from them?

A tribe is a place of belonging, a place of acceptance and a place of welcome. The power doesn’t come from placing people around me that just make me feel good about myself. The power comes when the tribe is there for each other – it goes two ways, not one. That’s the kind of friendships and relationships I want. That’s the power of the tribe.

By Charlotte Hendy

Charlotte is the Discipleship & Evangelism Enabler for Girls’ Brigade Ministries. Originally from Plymouth, she studied Theology at Oxford and now lives in Sheffield.
Charlotte suffers from seaside withdrawal symptoms and dreams of one day owning a house by the sea!

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Embracing your differences

I have one arm. I was born with just below my elbow on my right arm and it’s all I’ve ever known.

I work behind a bar. Tiny humble brag, but come to me and you’ll be served your favourite drink in no time. However at least once a shift, I get a – I’m sure, well-meaning – comment about how ‘clever’ I am, or how I’m ‘doing really well’ for having poured their drink. My all-time favourite is ‘So you’re not just a pretty face then!’

I find myself getting irritated by this culture of sympathy and patronisation, but then I find myself tweeting things like this:

‘Just saw a guy on the underground with a broken arm and immediately thought “Damn, travelling must be difficult with one hand”….’

What’s that all about?

If you watched the Great British Bake Off last year, you’d have seen Briony Williams take the tent by storm right through to the semi-finals. She made some incredible creations and deserved every moment of glory she received.

She also had one hand.

Faced with challenges others may have told her she couldn’t do, she found a way. Some things needed adjusting, some things needed adapting. But so what? It’s okay to need help. It’s okay to need support to achieve – in fact, it’s encouraged! But don’t let the opinions of others take away the fact that it is you who’s achieving.

Lauren Steadman, a Paralympian with a very similar arm to mine, got to the semi-finals of Strictly 2018. Yes, there was the chance for the public to project their sympathy and amazement on her journey, but you know what? It was amazing. Not because she managed it with one arm, but because she did it despite having one arm. She worked with it, embraced it and achieved.

And ultimately, it was her emerging personality throughout the show and die-hard grit and willpower which made the public love her. She was engaging, funny and it was actually quite moving watching her come out of her shell as the competition progressed. That’s what shone through, be it affected by her disability or not – it was her personality which caught the attention of so many.

Embrace your talents and gifts, regardless of your potential challenges. Have confidence in yourself. You’re built the way you are because you’re meant to be that way; it’s no mistake. The things that are unique to you are the things which make you the person that your friends love. You’re talented both because of and regardless of those things you may feel hinder you.

Briony met so many others online who have the same hand as she does. She’s found a community. Lauren inspired endless people, young and old, to believe that they can dance despite their physical differences. Neither of them was less talented or less deserving because of their arms. Instead, their confidence in their ability meant so many more were encouraged that they could achieve too.

I think that when I tweeted about the man on the underground, I hit two levels of confidence in one go. I was sky-high positive about my own ability that I completely forgot I was in the same position as that guy. But I also had a crisis of confidence watching him: that actually, having one arm was restrictive and a struggle was to be expected.

Confidence is a funny thing, eh?

We can’t get it right all the time. We can’t succeed immediately every time we try. But that is true regardless of our story; regardless of whether you feel you’re disadvantaged or different or unable. Don’t let the little things define you, embrace your uniqueness and run with it. Have confidence that you’re enough.

It’s a work in progress for many of us, but most definitely a worthwhile journey to go on.

By Ellie Blackley

I’m Ellie, and I’m a Bar Supervisor
at a super cute restaurant in Luton.
If I’m not watching Netflix or spending
time with my step-kids, you’ll find
me under a blanket napping!”

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Life goals

I always wanted to play the piano… it had been one of my life goals for a long time. The only problem was whenever I saw a piano, those black and white keys looked like a foreign language – one that I’d never understand.

That is until one day I asked my friend Pete (who is a musical whizz-kid) if he could show me some basics. He showed how to play a chord and then another and, before long, I could, sort of, play 5 or 6. He told me to keep going over and over the chords until it felt natural. So I went away and practised and practised and practised. I was on my way, this felt exciting!

The next time I saw Pete I showed him where I was up to and he showed me how to link the chords together, it was starting to sound like a song. He showed me how to play some of my favourite songs. It was in a very basic way but nevertheless I was playing! I was actually playing the piano! It felt incredible and I wanted to cry.

What I’ve realised is that if I hadn’t spoken to Pete about my dream, then it would probably still just be a dream. Pete helped me to take steps towards my goal, and for that I’ll always be grateful.

Do you have a dream of something you’d like to do? Something you’d love to achieve? I believe that God puts hopes, visions and dreams within us and cheers us on to make them a reality. Sometimes they can feel like things that we could never possibly achieve and yet God gives us all that we need to make it happen.

There’s a brilliant verse in the Bible that says
‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.’ Proverbs 3 : 5-6 NIV

Speak to God about your dreams, take His hand today and let Him lead you and show you the way ahead. He is a trustworthy Father whose hands are loving and gentle. You can walk without fear of what lays ahead, for He promises to guide and protect you.

By Meg Cannon

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Are you being brave?

Amy, one of the students at the college where I work, walked into my office. She looked down and sad. I walked over to her, sat down and said ‘What’s up?’

Today she’d decided to wear a wig for the first time at college. It was her first chance to outwardly express how she felt on the inside. On this momentous day, filled with nerves and suspense, she walked down the hallway and waited for people’s responses.

She went on to tell me that her boyfriend had ignored her all day, her friends said she looked weird and people in the bathroom said she should use the men’s toilet. 

I looked at her and said – ‘Wow, you’ve been so brave’.

When we think of the word brave, some of us might think of soldiers, doctors, rock climbers or superheroes… we might not think of someone like Amy.

When she sat in front of me I saw someone who wanted so desperately to live how she felt inside, to have a different haircut, to dress uniquely and, despite not knowing if people would accept her, she gave it a go anyway.

That to me is so brave. 

Brave = wearing what you feel like – maybe not what’s in fashion.

Brave = instead of spreading rumours we stand up for our friends. 
Brave = dedicating time to study the subjects that we love. 
Brave = having no make-up days in public. 
Brave = trying hard at your hobbies. 
Brave = breaking stereotypes. 
Brave = being you. 

Seeing Amy made me realise that being brave isn’t a feeling, it’s a decision, a choice to be true, to choose the unpopular option.

Are you being brave?

By Jess Cooper

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Burnt toast

I burnt my toast this morning. It came out black, and I realised I had the dial up too high. ‘Oh well’, I said out loud, ‘You live and you learn.’

I ate the toast… it was gross, like eating charcoal.

But those words ‘You live and you learn’ have been playing on my mind. Usually when I make mistake I’m incredibly hard on myself, I’ve branded myself a failure on many an occasion. I regularly have this internal voice telling myself ‘You’re not good enough.’ Have you ever felt like that?

I was happy to apply the statement ‘You live and you learn’ to my toast, to something small and pretty insignificant, but what if I could learn to apply it to the bigger things? What if we could learn that our mistakes do not define us, that they don’t have to derail our days and send us to a negative place where we internally put ourselves down? We. Will. Get. It. Wrong. That’s a fact of life. Learning from our mistakes means that we’re growing in maturity.

Good days or bad, whether I’ve done really well or whether I’ve royally screwed something up… my worth, my brilliance, my talent remain the same. I’m learning and living and trying my best. Is there something specifically you keep getting wrong? The way you speak to people? The way you treat your family? The things you look at online? The time and attention you give your work? Deep down we all know the areas that we can improve on.

Remember, we are all learning as we live. Each day is a new day, with new opportunities to make better choices and be the best that we can be.

I burnt my toast again after writing this. It seems I’m learning rather slowly about toaster settings.

By Meg Cannon

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Winning the fight against worry

I’ve a really vivid memory of sitting in my chemistry class at school panicking that I was going to die.

I can remember sitting at the shiny white lab table with the bunsen burners in front of me, and my balding chemistry teacher standing by the whiteboard in his white lab coat chatting on about some equation or other – and absolutely freaking out about dying.

I wasn’t actually dying you understand, and there wasn’t actually anything wrong with me, and I was in no danger sat in the chemistry lesson from dropping dead, other than maybe from boredom. But for no real reason I can explain I was filled with this absolute dread that I may die soon and, if not me, then my parents.

Have you ever had a moment like that? When all of a sudden you’re thinking about the worst thing that could happen in life, and could you even cope? The professionals call it ‘catastrophising’.

All through my teenage years I was totally overtaken with anxiety and worry. It was horrible. I often had forms of panic attacks and carried anxiety with me wherever I went. I’d wake up in the morning and look for it – ‘How am I feeling today?… Do I feel fine? … Am I anxious?’ And suddenly I’d find that emotion again, like some kind of weird smelly comfort blanket, that even though it wasn’t nice, it was what I knew and so somehow, because it was familiar, it felt safe. It felt safe to worry.

It wasn’t good though and something that got me through any time of anxiety was a verse from the Bible.

‘For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans not to harm you, but to give you hope and a good future.’ Jeremiah Ch.29:11.

To know that God is for me, that He has a plan for me that’s good and will not ultimately hurt me, and that He has a beautiful purpose for me would be the one thing that would keep me going and help me to find peace and a hope-filled thought in times of worry and fear. I wonder what your thing is?

I would often pray about it, and I know that all the prayer really helped and transformed my thinking and feelings. But do you know the one thing that helped me calm my worries more than anything else?


Instead of looking for the feeling of worry, or the thoughts that trigger it, when they came, instead of going with them, I would fight them. Do you know that you’re a fighter? That within you is a warrior waiting to come out? You’re often attacked around the very areas that your potential most lies in. You need to fight for this to come out. When a worry thought would come I would think ‘No. I’m not going to think that’ and I’d quote a Bible verse instead. Choose one for yourself or something positive to say instead if you battle with anxiety. It was hard at first, a serious battle, but eventually the habit of worrying started to break. I was in control of the worry rather than the other way around.

I’d love to go back and tell my teenage self that it’s ok, you won’t die shortly after that chemistry lesson and to stop stressing. But then maybe I wouldn’t have learnt to fight and, after all, life is worth fighting for.

By Emma Gaze

Emma is Lead Youth Pastor overseeing the youth work across the Ivy Church Network, and has done that for over 8 years.  She recently has launched her own Youth Work Organisation, I Am Youth, helping new, small and medium-sized churches do youth work excellently.  She is also a DJ and loves to snowboard!

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First world problems

I’ve found myself regularly saying ‘You don’t have enough to worry about’ when my friends are complaining about how it will be 9pm before they get to eat dinner tonight, how someone used the last of the body wash in the shower, or when the the wifi won’t load a video of a cat. You get the idea… I believe we call them first world problems!

I know I’m no better. I get irritated, wound-up, even angry at the most ridiculous things. But no-one needs to be upset or angry about most of the things that end up bothering us, and we definitely don’t need to whine and groan about the little things as often as we do. I’m not saying we’re not allowed to be grumpy, angry or sad and sometimes – rightly so! But when you feel that way, just take a moment to think about what isn’t going wrong in your life and be grateful for that.

‘You don’t have enough to worry about’ is just my way of saying that you’re worrying over small things because you don’t have anything big or serious on your mind. We should be grateful for the little things, the bright sides and the silver linings.

  • You didn’t get your dinner until late at night… that means that you’ll have food today.
  • Your body wash ran out… you have the luxury of hot running water whenever you want it.
  • Your internet is slow… that means you have access to technology that allows you to connect with so many people, ideas and opportunities to help you grow – and so many cat videos!

When you woke up this morning, the sun had risen. When you left the house today, no matter the weather, you had a roof to cover your head whenever you needed it. Someone was kind enough to cook for you, or give you money to fill your belly today – or both! You saw a friendly face or heard a familiar voice today and at the end of it all, you had a bed to snuggle up in.

Share and spread gratitude, and don’t be scared to tell people they don’t have enough to worry about.

By Ellie Bennett

I’m Ellie! I’m a children’s entertainer and face painter
– perfect for my big kid personality.
I’m Yorkshire born and bred and love dance,
theatre, Lego, sweet potato fries and my dogs!

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Be your own kind of beautiful 

As an artist within the music industry it’s so easy to play the comparison game… her hair is bigger than mine, that song is better than my last release, her social media following gets more likes, and so on.

I’ve had to learn, over time, to run my own race, and stay in my lane. When I stay in my lane and run my race, I go further, last longer, and it’s way better for my mental health! I’ve learned that life is all about ‘being your own kind of beautiful’.

Last spring I stayed in a beautiful country house in Cambridgeshire. The garden was beautifully landscaped with flowers and trees, and within the garden lived a peacock or two. This peacock was stunningly beautiful, and proudly showed off his tail feathers to us on more than one occasion throughout the course of the weekend.

One thing I was unaware of though was the song of the peacock. Have you ever heard a peacock sing? Terrible….! After you’ve read this, go to YouTube and type in ‘peacock sound’ and you’ll be horrified. This reminded me of Aesop’s tale about the peacock and the nightingale.

The peacock was complaining to his other bird friends exclaiming ‘Why can’t I sing like the nightingale? The nightingale’s sound is so beautiful and so perfect!’ His friends were bemused by this, saying ‘You are the strongest, most beautiful, bird, and yet you’re complaining about your voice? The nightingale doesn’t have your strength or your beauty, but does sing so beautifully.’

How often are we like the peacock? We don’t recognise the strengths and the unique qualities that we possess because we’re always looking at other people’s strengths.

Today, why don’t you think about what your strengths are? Are you good with people? Are you a high achiever? Are you stunningly beautiful? Do you have a strategic brain? Do you have a great sense of humour? It’s good practice to celebrate other people for their strengths through encouragement and work on strengthening yours.

Be your own kind of beautiful because you’re worthy.


By Lily-Jo

For more on Lily-Jo go to
or why not check out her mental health resource:
where you’ll find top tips, information, podcasts and blogs around the most common mental health issues.

Psalms 139v13-14

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The stormy sea becoming still

Something happened a year ago that was very difficult and upsetting. I won’t go into details but I’ve had lots of flashbacks and shed lots of tears. I would think about it for hours, every day, multiple times. I’d think about where I was standing, what I could hear and the conversations I had. My heart used to race when I remembered.

As the anniversary was approaching I felt nervous and knew that the day was going to hit me hard. I woke up that morning and felt so emotional. I thought about what was happening a year previously, it had just started out like any ordinary day. I could feel the emotions rising and for some reason I suddenly knew what I had to do, I had to go back to the place where it all happened. Off I drove in my car, trembling.

It was a safe, busy, place but as I walked through the crowds I was shaking and finding it hard to catch my breath. I reached the spot, and stood there with tears in my eyes and I thought ‘Now what?’ I stepped back and leant against the wall, busy people passing unaware of how fast my heart was beating.

As I stood there in the place that brings back so many painful memories, all that was left for me to do was pray. I stood there and gave all those painful memories and all those fears to God. My prayer was so simple: ‘Please give me peace God’. I held those words in my mind for many minutes and asked Him for His help. Incredibly the tears didn’t fall, my heart gently returned to a regular beat and slowly the turmoil that I felt inside seemed to calm, like a stormy sea becoming still.

As I wandered slowly back to my car, I began to share with God, just the way I would share with a friend ‘God, you know how I’ve been feeling, you’ve seen it all. Please release me from this fear, and this hurt, please ease this pain. I don’t want to feel so churned up by it all the time.’ As I moved through the crowds I felt a weight lift from me, from my heart and my mind. I felt more peaceful, and for that I give thanks to God.

When we experience pain and trauma it can play over and over, causing us to live in a state of anxiety and fear. But I believe that God wants us to live free from fear and in a state of peace, in fact He promises to give us peace. Jesus said Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’

He offers us a lasting peace, unlike anything this world can offer. THIS peace moves to the very heart of us and can heal that trauma and free us from pain.

Is there something that has been holding you, haunting you, hurting you? Speak to God, the way you’d speak to a friend – He knows you and what you’ve been going through, but on your invitation He promises to give you peace and calm that storm within you.

By Meg Cannon

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Help your self-esteem to soar

Self-esteem, that thing that everyone thinks is just as fluffy feeling and if you could hold it, it would look and feel like candyfloss. It is a good deal more than that, it is in fact the secret to a happy life. But, it is so hard to manage and get right. When we think of ourselves, we can very quickly tie ourselves in knots worrying about what someone might be thinking about us, or why we think negative thoughts all the time. Well I am here to tell you, you are not alone! Self-esteem is something that goes up and down all throughout our lives, depending on what we are facing at any given time. Some signs that our self-esteem is struggling a bit are:

  • Constantly comparing ourselves to others
  • Blaming ourselves for the actions of others.
  • Seeking approval from others
  • Feeling frightened to reach for our dreams because we have so little faith in what we can achieve
  • Feeling undeserving of help and kindness
  • Playing down achievements
  • Fearing rejection
  • Feeling helpless, hopeless, worthless and unlovable

I want to give you five ways in which you can help your self-esteem to soar even in difficult times;

  1. Practice self-care

It is so important that we look after ourselves as best we can, treat yourself gently and kindly, the way we love ourselves has a huge impact on our overall wellbeing and the way we handle tough situations. Be sure to do one thing every day that you love, it may be sitting alone with favourite book, or watching your favourite movie or walking in the fresh air. Whatever it is, make it a daily part of your routine, it will help!

  1. Try not to compare yourself to others

This is easier said than done and it can be really difficult, but maybe write down something every day that you like about you, something that you can look back on during the times of self-comparison and remember the exceptional qualities that can be found in you.

  1. Break things down

When we have a huge mountain of goals to achieve it can be so hard to climb them, the best thing you can do is set small achievable goals. Sometimes people use the word SMART to achieve this Specific Measureable Achievable Realistic Time limited. Using this can help you to better achieve the big goals in your life.

  1. Think about who you spend time with

Hanging out with those people that make you feel ‘icky’ will not set your self-esteem up well, if you can identify the people in your life that make you feel bad about who you are, try and see them less. We all have to spend time with people that are difficult from time to time, but if you can identify who these people are and limit your time with them, I guarantee it will make an impact on how you feel about yourself.

  1. Self-esteem collage

Use magazine cuttings to make a collage of all the things you love in life or your hopes and aspirations , hang this above your bed or somewhere in your room, when you look at it think of all the hopes, dreams and loves that you have.

These things are fairly simple, but I hope they go some way to helping you manage all the thoughts and feelings you have about yourself.

Ruth Ayres

Ruth has worked with young people for
many many years, into double figures!
She is passionate about helping young
people reach their full potential anyway
she can and is particularly passionate
about the area of mental and emotional
health. She lives in Buckinghamshire
with her husband and two cats, she
enjoys good food and meaningful

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Beautifully broken


Unless you speak Japanese that word won’t make much sense… but this rather strange word actually means something really beautiful.

Kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer so it’s more beautiful for being broken. Give it a Google – there are some beautiful examples online and, one day, I’d love to buy a piece.

I love the concept that kintsukuroi treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise, because it makes me think of our lives.

What parts of ourselves do we consider broken or try to hide from others? How often do we think badly of ourselves, or something we’ve done in the past? Do we think we can’t be of use to others for some reason?

Over the years I’ve done plenty of things I’m not proud of – from saying a harsh word to someone to cheating on a boyfriend by kissing someone else and much, much more. These are my broken parts – the parts I’d like to edit out and forget.

But I’ve learnt from these experiences – these broken parts have made me who I am; much like the breakage and repair of a kintsukuroi ceramic pot makes it part of it’s history. What about you? What past experiences, good or bad, have shaped you?

I’ve learnt to live with and accept that we all have broken parts and, as a Christian, I believe that God is the gold or silver lacquer that sticks me back together. He can use my flaws and my brokenness to make a difference in the lives of those around me. He knows the best and worst about me and loves me the same.

Written by Catherine Burt

Catherine is Assistant Director
and Communications Manager at
Girls’ Brigade Ministries​. She lives
in Portsmouth and out of work
likes walking along the seafront,
spending time with her pet guinea
pigs and fun debates at her book club.​

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Don’t bend your knee

When I was 13 I remember standing in front of the mirror in my downstairs toilet with a friend. We were trying out the new blue mascara we’d bought (yes it was a thing!) and she looked at me in the mirror and said ‘You’ve got really veiny eyelids.’ I remember it as clear as day. I suddenly became very conscious of my eyes, and every day since I’ve covered them with concealer believing that they must look horrible and abnormal without it.

The things people say to us, and about us, can stick, can’t they? They become something we believe about ourselves, and form part of our identity. I remember someone calling me the BFG once (that’s the Big Friendly Giant, for those of you who haven’t seen the film). From then on I imagined that people must think I was abnormally tall, I felt like I stood out, and I didn’t want to. I wanted to blend in. I started to slightly bend my left knee whenever I stood in a group of people to seem shorter.

I recently made a conscious decision to stop covering my eyes with concealer every day. I felt nervous about going out without make-up on, but it was surprisingly freeing. According to my sister I didn’t look any different, all these years I’ve been embarrassed and it turns out they’re just normal eyelids! NOTE TO THE WORLD: ALL EYELIDS HAVE VEINS ON.

Are there parts of your body you’re ashamed of? Are there things that people have said that have made you dislike yourself? Here’s the truth – you’re beautiful. Completely and utterly breathtakingly beautiful. It may be a truth that’s hard for you to grasp and believe, but that doesn’t make it untrue. Beauty comes in a million forms, but unfortunately we’re led to believe by the images we see around us that in order to be classed as ‘beautiful’ we need to fit into a certain mould. It leads us to feel that we’re a project to be worked on, constantly needing to be improved.

Today I want you to think about the way you see yourself, are you battling against yourself? Like me, are you bending your knee, hiding away? Today, consciously decide to stand up tall and allow the real you to rise up and come out into the open.

By Meg Cannon

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Living for likes

Unlock, lock, unlock, lock, unlock… I locked my phone once more.

And there I laid, letting my mind run wild with the things I’d just read and the things I’d just seen – the cruel world of cyber suggestion. The place that fed my insecurities as though it gained pleasure from seeing me compare myself and seek approval from a world that failed miserably to really know me.

What started with a fun way of sharing my life with friends on social media, began to consume each day with checking how much approval I was receiving, whether that was likes or comments: I needed it. I wanted nothing more than to be praised and encouraged for the ‘perfect’ version of myself that I was presenting. But to do that, I had to buy into the lies and pressures of perfection and expectations and eventually this didn’t just influence who I was online, but it also seeped into how I tried to live my life offline – and to be honest with you girls, living with a need for approval is not only tiring, but it really starts to strip you of who you truly are.

As each day passes in our approval-centred world it feels like it’s getting more and more difficult to be content with every tiny detail about ourselves, to not want to enter the realm of a comparison culture and to not ‘should’ all over ourselves. It’s great to challenge ourselves and want to grow but, when the nasty ‘should’ word starts popping up every day it takes what started as a few personal challenges and then spirals into a web of lies that tells us to be a brand-new person. If we’re being honest your ‘I should lose a bit of weight and dress more like this Instagramer’ really means ‘I don’t like my body and feel I need to be different to fit in’. But you don’t, you really, really don’t, because whether this is the first time you’ve heard it or the 100th, YOU. ARE. VALUABLE.

Loving yourself isn’t just about the outward things, it comes down to your DNA, your heart and your character. Your mere existence has a greater impact on this world than you realise. You matter. Every perfect and imperfect part of you matters – please don’t let anything make you want to change that. You don’t need to dress more provocatively, or hide your mental health struggles. You don’t need to sacrifice working hard at school to work harder at getting your crush’s attention. You don’t need to listen to the same music as the people around you. You don’t need to try and become a CEO if actually you’d love to work with a charity or become something rogue like a geologist. You need to be you!

We all know life is a journey of mountains and valleys and even when we have seasons of being truly content with who we are, it doesn’t always stay that way. So here’s a little encouragement, the view from the top of a mountain is great, but it’s in the valleys where things grow.

Maybe that looks like: coming off social media for a while but carrying on taking loads of photos and printing them off to put in a scrapbook; or using your extra time to learn a new skill; or going and doing something fun purely for the fun of it – not because you want to be able to show it off to the world of cyber-comparison.

I challenge you to try it (or something similar), and I hope that you find the same freedom in muting the need for approval as I did.

By Emilie Radford

I’m a 22 year old Essex girl currently living amongst the dreaming spires of Oxford, working as an Events Manager by day and spoken word artist… on the weekends.
DisneyWorld still holds the title as my favourite place on earth and I LOVE to write as a way of expressing myself and encouraging others. 
I also eat cheese on a daily basis and have zero regrets about that.  

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When was the last time that you were told you are enough?

You are enough, you know? Just as you are.

It’s not that you will be enough once you’ve bought that thing, started looking more like that person, or finally got the date with the guy you’ve fancied since Year 7.

You see, the truth is that hundreds, if not thousands of times a day, we’re told that in order to REALLY be enough, there’s more that we need to be, do, and have.

We’re rarely told to come as we are, are we?

We’re rarely told that who we are and what we have is perfect and exactly as it’s meant to be.

You are enough.

Now, as with lots of these sorts of conversations, there is another side to the story. Hearing about this other side shouldn’t be grounds for rolling our eyes and saying ‘See, I’m NOT enough, there IS a catch’ under our breath. Instead, it should cause us to lean in and listen.

You see, I used to be a secondary school teacher. I worked in a specialist unit and mainly taught Year 10s and 11s. Their entire school life had been littered with the notion that they weren’t enough – which is a large part of the reason that they ended up in the unit I taught in.

I’m sure it’s not news to you to hear that the more you’re told you’re not enough, the more you live up to it. A ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ I believe is the technical term – I knew that A-level in sociology would come in handy one day!

Sadly, the education system had mostly failed these students. Not because of their grades, or anything remotely academic, actually. It had failed them because of where the message started, because of what they heard and were made to believe about themselves­ when yet another phone call home was being made, or after-school detention was being given.

Instead, our message of ‘enough’ should have been the one that they heard at first. That’s the one we all need to hear at first. It’s a message of hope and not of judgement, of second chances and not of final warnings.

But then what?

What do you say after affirming that someone is enough, just as they are whilst you recognise that there’s still so much more in store for them?

And that is where the second part of our story of enough comes in. It’s not a part B which contradicts part A. It’s more like two pieces of a puzzle finding their fit in one another.

Because the truth is, although we’ve been created and intricately designed to be enough just as we are, we’ve also been created with hopes, dreams and goals which, if lived out, will fulfil us even further than we thought possible.

But did you catch the key principle there? These goals, dreams and hopes are YOURS. Just like my students had aspirations they’d long buried, you do too. Those ones that are not there because you’ve compared yourself to someone on Instagram, they’re not there because your parents or your teachers told you what to want, and they’re not there because they’re the same ones which your best friend has.

So, yes – YOU are enough. And so are those hopes, dreams, perhaps even prayers which you’ve found yourself suffocating whilst you try to make your enough, enough for everyone else. The most effective way that’s going to happen is when you decide to be the very best version of YOU.

Because you, lovely, are enough.

By Naomi Aidoo

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Made for more.

‘I love your hair colour – what’s it called?’

‘Eeek – look at those shoes. They’re amazing!’

‘I wish that I had your great skin. You don’t even need to wear make-up.’

I felt like a fly on the wall but I couldn’t help listening to the group of girls beside me as they greeted each other in a café. With the tables pushed together like sardines, I overheard their chat… and felt my heart sink.

I loved that they were complimenting and encouraging one another (go girls) but the conversation was focussed on their bodies and how they didn’t match up an unrealistic ideal of beauty.

I wanted – so SO badly – to turn around and say:

You were made for more.

So much more.

But I understand their thoughts. You and I, we live in a culture which in some ways seeks to reduce and limit us. A society which communicates a very narrow and unrealistic ideal about how a girl should be, think, and act in 2019.

For example, the message through many different aspects of the media is that girls should aspire to be ‘living dolls’. Our bodies become projects to be worked upon and constantly improved. We’ll never be enough until we’ve embarked on a process of grooming, dieting and shopping that aims to achieve the bleached, waxed, tinted look of our favourite celebrities who often choose extreme regimes, from punishing diets to plastic surgery, to achieve an airbrushed perfection.

No matter what women achieve in society, in sports and in culture, our worth is still reduced to how our body parts compare to a narrow and unrealistic ideal. Anybody remember when the two most powerful women in UK politics Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon met? The front page of a popular UK newspaper exclaimed ‘Forget Brexit! Who won legs-it?’ along with a photo of their legs!

If you feel like this, you’re not alone. 69% of girls aged 7 to 21 feel like they’re not good enough. Worryingly, two-thirds of 7 to 10 year olds feel like their value is based on what they look like.

We were made for so much, don’t you agree?

I believe that we were made by a God who gifted us with talents and passions and who invites us to use them to transform the world around us. I work with young women who are hope-bringers, culture shapers and society transformers.

And yes, we do need a shift in culture. We do need a resistance against the multi-million pound beauty industry who make £££s out of promoting body anxiety. But we can help change the culture around us in our words and actions.

Here’s some simple ways…

  • Be mindful of your words. When you’re with your friends, steer the conversation away from focussing on physical appearance. Are you conforming in your words and actions to culture’s message that a woman’s value is based on her physical appearance?
  • Limit your selfies. Very often these toxic messages infiltrate our heads and cause us to reduce ourselves to a collection of body parts. Selfies on social media perpetuate the idea that our worth and value are in our physical attractiveness.
  • Be more thoughtful with your compliments. How are you celebrating and recognising the bravery, strength and gifts of the girls and women around you? Compliment and encourage girls and women on their strengths and gifts – compassion, curiosity and courage.

A long time ago, fashion designer Coco Chanel once said ‘A girl should always be two things: classy and fabulous.’

I’m so glad that, as women, you and I can be smart and honest, compassionate and courageous, creative and sporty… and many more things!

Today, on International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate the amazing characteristics in the girls and women around us. Let’s compliment and encourage each other intentionally about the talents that God has given us. Let’s challenge the lie that our value is based on our physical appearance.

Let’s show the world that we were made for more.


By Claire Rush

I’m from ‘Norn Iron’ and I have a dog called
Benny Buster Benasti Bentley Rush – yes really!
I love travelling, books, movies, DVD box-sets,
swimming and shaping the culture which surrounds me.

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Dare to Care // spoken word

Written and performed by Meg Cannon
Co-directed by Meg Cannon and James Chapman
Director of Photography : Sam Allam
In collaboration with The Paisley Productions

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Photo by Designecologist 

‘I hope it doesn’t rain today.’. . . ‘I hope that guy I like smiles at me today.’. . . . ‘I hope that when I smiled back, I didn’t have food in my teeth.’ . . . . ‘Oh no! I hope that I remembered to turn my straighteners off.’

Hope. It’s an overused word, isn’t it? We have hope about a lot of things.

But what does hope actually mean?

So I did what I always do when I need to find something out – I googled it.

Hope (noun): a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.

But I loved my friend’s definition even better:

Hope is dancing to the beat of your heart when passion overcomes fear!

Hope is living in the light of Jesus and knowing that this world’s darkness can never extinguish it.

For me, hope is not wishy washy optimism. In the Bible, hope is an indication of certainty. It means a confident expectation. Rather than being static or passive, it is dynamic and active.

The world needs more hope

So what do you really hope for? I hope for a world where everyone is treated fairly; where the worth of each person is upheld.

When I turn on my TV, I don’t see a world full of hope. When I go on Youtube, I don’t see many hope-filled voices. When I walk through my town, I don’t see many people believing they have a hopeful future.

Instead when I take a stroll around my town I see:

  • The homeless: many who are shamed because they don’t have a warm home to live in, yet people just walk to the other side of the road and ignore them.
  • The hungry: many across the world are suffering from hunger (perhaps even in our community) yet supermarkets throw away huge amount of food and we even waste food.
  • The environment: the world around us is dying yet we are using more plastic than ever.
  • Young people with low self-esteem: particularly young women struggling and seeing themselves as ugly, stupid and without having any worth and value.

I wonder – where are the hope-less places in your community? Where are the people who lack hope? If we open our eyes, we’ll see that there are many people around us who need us to turn up the volume of hope for them.

Advocates of Hope

When some people encounter hopelessness, they can throw their hands up in the air and just give up. Can I really make a difference? YES (that’s me shouting at you!) I don’t have any skills or talents (you do!) How can I help anyone?

There is a famous African saying which goes: ‘If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito.’

Last month, I lived this truth out! I spent the night with a real-life mosquito in Azerbaijan… and had 24 itchy bites to prove it. Let me tell you, that tiny minuscule insect had an impact (albeit a painful one) on my life.

No matter how old you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you live – you can help turn up the volume of hope for people in your community. You can make a difference!

Today is International Day of the Girl; an opportunity to celebrate and champion the potential of girls around the world. Here’s three amazing women who show us that if you have passion, determination and refuse to be silent, you can turn up the volume of hope for others who are experiencing injustice:

  • Amika George (18) – an activist fighting for rights to free sanitary products for disadvantaged teenage girls with her #FreePeriods campaign.
  • Malala Yousafzai – a school pupil who stood up for girls’ education and as a result was shot by the Taliban in Afghanistan when she was 15 years old.
  • Margaret Lyttle – founder of Girls’ Brigade in 1893, a global movement which invested in girls at a time when they weren’t even allowed to vote or go to university.

Be a hope-bringer

So how can you turn up the volume of hope for others? Hopelessness can seem over-empowering but our individual choices can make a difference. Every action – no matter how small – counts.

Here’s three things that you can do this week to be a hope-bringer:

  • Be kind – kindness is underrated. The world would be transformed if we all treated each other with kindness. Do a random act of kindness this week – give up your seat on the bus. Speak words of kindness to others – and yourself (dismiss that negative voice in your head!)
  • Live generously – prioritise people over yourself this week. Give them your time, energy and attention. Treat your friend to a cuppa. Facetime someone rather than lose yourself scrolling through IG. Instead of treating yourself to another fast fashion item (that you really don’t need), give your money to a charity.
  • Pursue justice – Is there an injustice in your community which you’re passionate about transforming? Homelessness? Bullying? Mental health? Sexism? Get involved in being part of the solution – meet others who share your passion, help with local charities and use your voice to bring words and actions of hope. Girls’ Brigade International has launched this Raising Hope Advocacy Toolkit to help you bring real and lasting change to your community.

On International Day of the Girl (and beyond), let’s turn up the volume of hope in our own life and in the lives of others! Let’s demonstrate that girls are generation-shapers, transformers and hope-bringers.


By Claire Rush

I’m from ‘Norn Iron’ and I have a dog called
Benny Buster Benasti Bentley Rush – yes really!
I love travelling, books, movies, DVD box-sets,
swimming and shaping the culture which surrounds me.

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Perseverance required

Photo by Maranatha Pizarras

It’s no secret that goals take time to reach and, because they take time, we’re often tempted to quit before reaching them.

When I was ill with an eating disorder my only goal was to get to university to study, to live a normal life. I was sick of missing sixth form to go to appointments and of all my time being taken up by my illness.

I worked so hard, day in and day out, to get the A-level results I needed and when I finally got into my first choice university I thought that was it… I’d finally done it. But I hadn’t. As part of my university acceptance I then had to undergo an occupational health assessment. I saw it as another hurdle along the road to my goal. I was told at the occupational health assessment that, despite being much better, my weight was still too low and it was probably best if I deferred a year to focus on my recovery until I was in a more secure place to study.

I was so upset, I felt everything I’d been working for had just been taken away from me. I felt underestimated. As I sat there I could hear the words echoing around in my head ‘It’s probably best if you’re deferred, it’s probably best if you’re deferred’. Tears were rolling down my face and in that moment I felt like giving up completely – on uni, on gaining weight, on it all.

After some discussion we finally came to a compromise, the assessor agreed to see me again in 9 weeks and if I wanted to go to university that year I’d have 9 weeks to put on weight before seeing him again for a review. So I went back home and I worked so hard in those 9 weeks. It was far from easy but perseverance got me through it as well as the support of professionals, and my family and friends around me. However those 9 weeks were only the beginning of my eating disorder recovery, I had to remind myself I wasn’t there yet but I was closer than I was yesterday. I knew I needed to take small steps, one day at a time.

It can take lots of hard work achieving our goals, and sometimes we feel discouraged and not in control. The journey can be difficult, it’s easy to feel disappointed, frustrated and tired, and this is when perseverance is required. If you can’t run then just start to walk… life isn’t a race, we can set our own pace. Step back and give yourself space. The strengthening of our character comes from obstacles along the way, the harder times are helping develop our strength for today.

So when your mind is racing and it all feel too much, remember, persevere! If that means failing 9 times and succeeding on the 10th, then keep moving forwards and believe in your strengths. Count on God’s promises to give you hope and let that hope sustain you through the harder times and help you to cope.

Despite all the odds against me I can now stand proud finally saying ‘I did it’. I am now finally in my first post as a children’s psychiatric nurse, only 3 and a half years after that occupational health appointment. If I didn’t have the perseverance to overcome those obstacles then I wouldn’t be where I am today. Take that leap of faith, and trust and have confidence in yourself and your abilities.

Written by Jessie Emms

Jessie |
21 year old children’s psychiatric nurse,
sensitive to social injustice & passionate
about raising hope for women.

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More than just pretty.

One of me and my sister’s favourite programmes for post-school relaxation was America’s Next Top Model because we were delighted by the concept of a panel of beautiful people picking out the most beautiful people in the USA. Oh, and we were fascinated by the hairdos, crazy make-up and extravagant outfits. While it’s a very entertaining show, it taps into our desire to be beautiful and subconsciously tells us (because of the fact that we’re sitting on the sofa, not walking down the catwalk) that beautiful isn’t us.

I don’t know about you, but I somehow grew up with this underlying thought that if I could be a model then ‘I would’ve made it in this world’. I desperately wanted the swishing hair, the long, toned legs, the perfect complexion and everything else that I guess you gained from the title ‘Model’.

This thought came crashing down when I watched a TED talk by Cameron Russell entitled ‘Looks aren’t everything, believe me, I’m a model’. The video has the capacity to shock and to free girls from false ideas.

Here’s one of the things she says:

If you’re wondering, ‘If I have thinner thighs and shinier hair, will I be happier?’, you just need to meet a group of models because they have the thinnest thighs, the shiniest hair and the coolest clothes, and [yet] they’re the most physically insecure people probably on the planet.

When I first heard this, I was like, ‘Excuse me . . . I’ve been trying so hard to look like a runway model and now you’re telling me that even they aren’t happy with how they look?!’ Nuts, right?

Does it make it all seem a tad pointless to you like to does to me? If the people in society who are deemed to be the pinnacle of beauty aren’t secure in themselves, then surely this whole confidence, self-assurance thing has to do with something other than ‘beauty’ itself?

In this case, perhaps ‘being enough’ has nothing to do with what we look like. The word ‘perfection’, according to the reliable (or not so reliable) source called Wikipedia, means: ‘a state of completeness and flawlessness’. Different make-up and skin care brands will say that ‘flawlessness’ is achievable but, my goodness, it is not (marketing is a money-making scheme, remember – they like to profit from our self-doubt and insecurities).

There is such beauty in imperfection. There is beauty in the people who I meet who are so OK with their flaws that they ooze confidence and happiness in themselves. Flaws are what make us uniquely us.

It’s funny because, as I write this, I’m thinking about the flaws that I see in myself. When I say them out loud I realize how silly they are!

I have a black freckle in the middle of my nose (people mistake it for dirt – it’s incredibly awkward every time!!!).
My legs are slightly skewwhiff when I walk.
I have little eyes which get lost when I try to smile.

I’m actually cringing at myself. And I’m kinda stuck now.

I’m trying to figure out why there aren’t more. I think it’s because, yes, there are things I would change if I could (like having slimmer legs, being more tanned and more defined cheek bones (gosh, I feel silly writing them)) but actually they aren’t me. I’m no walking image of perfection but I am me. And the most bizarre, but totally true, thing is that these flaws seem gigantic to me but the likelihood is that people around me have never even noticed them, or in their minds they’re exactly the things that make me me in the first place. How fantabulous is that? OK to change to me from you??

Let’s take the first one on my list. One of my insecurities through school was a dark black freckle that is very central on the top of my nose. The amount of people =who thought it was dirt was UNBELIEVABLE. OK, so it was partly believable. Anyhow, when I actually started up a conversation with my friends about it, they explained how much they loved it because it made me me (plus the fact that it’s very central is quite satisfying). Now I decide to OWN IT.

You may find that when it comes to thinking about those things you would change about yourself, they are actually a bit silly and would totally mean that you aren’t you.

So basically, if we’re seeking perfection then, yes, we will never feel like we are enough.

But, if you’re seeking to be you, then you’re starting from a very good place. If you’re seeking to be you, then you’re in for the biggest adventure of all.

By Jessie Faerber

Taken from More Than Just Pretty by Jessie Faerber, published by SPCK, 2018.  For more information visit

Jessie is a Youth Pastor in South West London.
She is the founder of a project called Belle which
is passionate about girls realising their true value,
beauty and purpose through workshops in schools
and youth groups. She is enthusiastic about journeying with girls, being real and authentic with her story and championing girlhood in all that she does.


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Attending an all girls’ school for 7 years meant I was surrounded by the latest updates and analysis of Love Island, Ex on the Beach, and The Bachelor etc., which soon became talk about potential relationships and everything that goes with it.

I remember every year, from the age of 12, becoming so disheartened with having no boys interested in me or in coming no-where close to having a boyfriend. I had an irrational fear of being alone forever and dying with just my pet cats for company!

In our society, there’s pressure for young people to find a boyfriend or girlfriend, which can often lead to us rushing into relationships. Somehow in our single state we feel we’re not enough. We feel we need a boyfriend to have security in ourselves or to feel attractive. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You’re so, so, precious as an individual.

After years of being single and of feeling inadequate, I finally realised that my worth isn’t found in a relationship status, it’s from knowing that I’m wonderfully made and that no boy can add to my value. Singleness isn’t a waiting room for your next relationship or marriage but is such an amazing time in your life. It’s a time where you’re not responsible for anyone and where you’re able to invest in yourself and your friendships, becoming a better version of yourself.

Relationships can be wonderful and really encouraging. However, the wrong relationship can be damaging and hurtful. These situations can’t always be avoided but I just want to encourage anyone longing for a relationship to not rush into anything that isn’t right for them.

The right person will come along at the perfect time who honours you, respects you and build you up. It says in the Bible that God has a plan for your life, and that these plans are good and give us hope for the future (Jeremiah Ch.29:11). We can be expectant and excited for these plans but the season you’re in now is also bursting with life and can be enjoyed to the fullest.

By Hollie Chamberlain

I’m Hollie! I’m 19 and studying
International Development with
Economics at the University of
Bath but am an Essex girl at heart!
I love Jesus, Nandos and outdoor

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Photo by Volkan Olmez

At the beginning of year 7 our year group was told that there would be a school trip to Norway at the end of year 8. I can’t tell you how excited me and my best friend Chloe were! We signed up, paid our deposit and over the course of the next 18 months we excitedly talked about mountains, snow, abseiling, canoeing and building fires. We were the only girls going on the trip so we decided we’d have to really stick together and look after one another whilst we were out there.

One night with just 6 weeks to go before we flew off to this unexplored land, my mum walked into my room. She sat on my bed with me and said ‘Meg, I’m so sorry, I’ve just had a phone call from Chloe’s mum… She doesn’t want to go to Norway anymore.’ I remember throwing my face into my pillow, and that night, I sobbed my heart out for a very very long time.

How could she DO this? WHY would she do this?? I was cross, so upset and felt let down by my best friend.

The next day at school was painful. Although I didn’t want to talk to Chloe, deep down I was hoping she would come up to me and apologise or give me an explanation as to why she had suddenly pulled out. Only, Chloe never approached me that day. We sat apart in tutor for the first time since the start of year 7 and I had lunch on my own in the canteen. I felt confused and let down.

Over the next few weeks I found someone else to go on the Norway trip with me, but it felt strange going without Chloe, I missed her when I was abseiling and I missed her when I was canoeing.

When Chloe passed me in the corridor with her new best friend I felt so much sadness and jealousy. I desperately missed Chloe at school, I felt absolutely lost without her. We never regained that friendship we once had, why? Because neither of us would clear the air.

When Chloe pulled out of the trip and ignored me at school it’s like she wounded me, but every time I replayed it over and over in my mind, it was like I was picking at that wound. I wasn’t letting myself heal, I was only hurting myself.

Practising forgiveness
Throughout our lives we are wounded by people. Some may be deep wounds, others may be scratches.

Someone once told me this:
‘When we don’t forgive, it’s like we are locked away in a prison, but the key is on the inside. You can choose to release yourself and be free by forgiving.’

Forgiveness is not saying ‘I agree with what you’ve done’ and it’s not pretending we’re not hurt. It’s letting the bitterness go and about saying ‘I choose to stop picking at this wound you’ve given me, because I want to heal.’

If you tripped and cut your knee it would be important to clean your wound and remove any dirt to prevent infection. Forgiveness is like a cleansing, wiping away the dirt and preparing ourselves to heal.

Please don’t think that I am suggesting that forgiveness is easy. I find it really hard. When I remember things that people have done that have hurt me, I’m suddenly churned up with old angry thoughts and frustrations. In that immediate moment I have to choose to let it go and ask God for His peace, otherwise I waste my day being caught up in frustration.

The challenge is, because we can’t forget, we must daily practise the art of forgiveness, that means that forgiveness is a lifestyle. We are often taught the opposite:

  • ‘Distance yourself from them.’
  • ‘Give them the cold shoulder.’
  • ‘Tell everyone what they did.’
  • ‘Teach them a lesson.’

When someone does something wrong, don’t forget all of things that they’ve done right. Whether we realise it or not, we all wound each other, we say and do things that hurt.

I don’t know whether you feel hurt at the moment. You might feel like you have a deep wound or maybe you have a fresh scratch. Choose to stop picking at that wound of yours, replaying over and over what’s hurt you. Choose to forgive and let yourself begin to heal.

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Compared to her…

I wonder how many times you’ve thought this or said it, without even thinking about it, to your friends or family? Do you ever think about just how often you compare yourself to other girls? The way they look, the stuff they have, their popularity, their intelligence, how many Instagram followers they have?!

In a time where we have constant 24-hour access to our friends and family, to celebrity culture and even strangers we don’t know on social media (!), it’s tough to avoid comparative trains of thought each day. Comparison is a subtle yet destructive thief. A thief of joy. The only person comparison steals from is YOU and I’d love to suggest that you don’t have to remain stuck in these life-sucking, joy-stealing thought patterns…

Here’s a couple of practical ideas that might help you in knowing a greater freedom from the culture of comparison you find yourself in.


I love Instagram! Editing a picture, capturing a special moment, creating just the right hashtag – it can become a treasure trove of great memories! However, it must come with a warning sign. I recently decided to give up social media for a few weeks and it was eye-opening! The subtle thought patterns stirred up by social media: she looks more beautiful than I feel, they look like they’re having way more fun than I ever do, they didn’t invite me to that; can all end up seeping into real friendships and taint them with bitterness or hurt. Let’s not be a generation of girls that lose the art of real, genuine, face-to-face, honest friendship. Why not try giving Instagram and Snapchat less of your time or, dare I say, even cut it out altogether, and instead choose to be present in each moment – you might just be surprised at what you’ve been missing!


There are certain things that you bring into your community, your family, your friendship group that no one else does. There are certain passions and abilities that you have that are unique to you, no one else is wired quite like you. How incredible! This said, it’s all too easy to start longing to have what someone else does or to be more like somebody other than you. What would it look like if you sat down with a pen and paper and listed your abilities, passions, interests, achievements (however big or small) and things precious to you in your life. If you struggle to think of these things, ask someone close to you to help you! Becoming thankful for all of these things might just give comparison that little kick out of sight that it needs!

By Rachael Clear
Tw: @RachaelClear

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I was standing backstage at a conference, waiting to go and speak to my first big crowd of people and oh. my. gosh. I was petrified.

I could hear my heart thumping in my head, I was shaking with fear, my breathing was erratic and I just felt so nervous and stressed out. It was like my mind was racing at 100 miles an hour and I had no control. The 10 minutes I spoke for were a blur, I walked off stage and was violently sick.

Stress is a word that we hear a lot, but what is it? What’s actually happening in our bodies to make us feel so… stressed out?

The NHS says this:

‘Stress is how the body reacts to external pressures that we perceive to be difficult or uncomfortable. It causes physical changes in the body designed to help you take on threats or difficulties. You may notice that your heart pounds, your breathing quickens, your muscles tense, and you start to sweat. This is sometimes known as the fight or flight response.

‘Once the threat or difficulty passes, these physical effects usually fade. But if you’re constantly stressed, your body stays in a state of high alert and you may develop stress-related symptoms.’

Sometimes we can’t run from stressful situations like exams, family and friendship breakdowns, or illness. So how, then, can we mange this stress and prevent it from taking over and controlling us?

10 ways to deal with stress:

1. Talk
Try to identify the cause of your stress and talk to someone you trust about it. This can feel quite nerve-wracking but when something’s really bothering you it’s good to share it and ask others to help us. Feeling stressed can be a very lonely experience, please don’t battle through feelings and situations alone.

2. Relax
How do you find it best to relax? Here are some ideas – go for a walk, play with the dog, have a bath, read a book, take a nap, listen to some calming music, stretch, write a diary. Make time in your day to rest, even if it’s just for 5 minutes.

3. Change your scenery
It can be so easy to rush through life without stopping to notice or appreciate much. Get out and see something new, walk a different route, put your phone away in your pocket and take in the world around you. Paying more attention to your thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you can improve your mental wellbeing.

4. Go to sleep
Sleep is incredibly important, not just for your mind but for your whole body. Aim to get around 8 hours of sleep each night, and try not to be on your phone just before bed. Lots of studies have shown that the light given off by our phones affects our sleep. The blue light that it emits can slow down the production of a hormone called melatonin, which tells our brain that it’s time for bed.

5. Forgive
If you tripped and cut your knee it would be important to clean your wound and remove any dirt to prevent infection. Forgiveness is like a cleansing, wiping away the dirt and preparing ourselves to heal. When we forgive it’s not saying ‘I agree with what you’ve done’ and it’s not pretending we’re not hurt. It’s letting the bitterness go and about saying ‘I choose to stop picking at this wound you’ve given me, because I want to heal.’ Perhaps it’s yourself that you need to forgive.

6. Breathe
Here comes the science bit – ‘Taking deep breaths increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness’ (AIS). Aren’t our bodies clever? Click here for an example of a breathing exercise from the NHS.

7. Move
Ok, more science, but stick with me! Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, it also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Exercise, such as taking a brisk walk shortly after feeling stressed, not only deepens breathing but also helps relieve muscle tension (Harvard).

8. Laugh
Laughing in the face of stress might feel like an odd suggestion, and perhaps you don’t feel like laughing but apparently it can be hugely beneficial! Studies have found that laughter lowers the levels of cortisol in our body which means lower stress levels! Hurray! You know what they say? Laughter is the best medicine.

9. Pray
God cares about the things you’re facing and He wants you to share it with Him.
Jesus said this Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’
If you’re not sure about prayer, my friends have made a great video about it:

10. See your GP
If you’ve tried the suggestions noted above but none of them seem to work then your doctor will be able to give you more help and guidance on dealing with stress.

I really hope that these 10 points are helpful, for more information on stress, MIND and have some great advice.

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Self-esteem… that thing many people think is just a fluffy feeling and, if you could hold it, would look and feel like candyfloss.

But, it’s a good deal more than that… in fact it’s the secret to a happy life. But is so hard to manage and get right. When we think of ourselves, we can very quickly tie ourselves in knots worrying about what someone might be thinking about us, or why we think negative thoughts all the time. Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone! Self-esteem is something that goes up and down throughout our lives, depending on what we’re facing at any given time. Some signs that our self-esteem is struggling a bit are:

Constantly comparing ourselves to others
Blaming ourselves for the actions of others
Seeking approval from others
Feeling frightened to reach for our dreams because we have so little faith in what we can achieve
Feeling undeserving of help and kindness
Playing down achievements
Fearing rejection
Feeling helpless, hopeless, worthless and unlovable.

I want to give you 5 ways in which you can help your self-esteem to soar, even in difficult times:

1. Practice self-care
It’s so important that we look after ourselves as best we can and treat ourselves gently and kindly – the way we love ourselves has a huge impact on our overall well-being and the way we handle tough situations. Be sure to do 1 thing every day that you love, it may be sitting alone with a favourite book, watching your favourite movie or walking in the fresh air. Whatever it is, make it a daily part of your routine, it will help!

2. Try not to compare yourself to others
This is easier said than done and it can be really difficult, but maybe write down something every day that you like about you, something that you can look back on during the times of self-comparison and remember the exceptional qualities that you have.

3. Break things down
When we have a huge mountain of goals to achieve it can be hard to climb them, so the best thing you can do is set small achievable goals. Sometimes people use the word SMART to achieve this – Specific Measureable Achievable Realistic Time-limited. Using this can help you to better achieve the big goals in your life.

4. Think about who you spend time with
Hanging out with those people that make you feel ‘icky’ will not set your self-esteem up well. So, if you can identify the people in your life that make you feel bad about who you are, try and see them less. We all have to spend time with people that are difficult from time to time but, if you can identify who they are and limit your time with them, I guarantee it will make an impact on how you feel about yourself.

5. Self-esteem collage
Use magazine cuttings to make a collage of all the things you love in life or your hopes and aspirations. Hang this above your bed or somewhere in your room, when you look at it think of all the hopes, dreams and loves that you have.

These things are fairly simple, but I hope they go some way to helping you manage all the thoughts and feelings you have about yourself.

By Ruth Ayres

Ruth has worked with young people
for many many years, into double figures!
She is passionate about helping young
people reach their full potential anyway
she can and is particularly passionate about
the area of mental and emotional health.
She lives in Buckinghamshire with her
husband and two cats, she enjoys good food
and meaningful friendships.

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Get out of the storm.

There are so many pressures that come with being a teenage girl; suddenly feeling that the world requires you to look a certain way, being in the ‘right’ crowd in high school, and keeping up with what’s in/out. It’s also the time we start thinking about love and relationships.

You have to sit through PSHE where the teacher explains sex from a weird scientific point of view, and talks about contraception – in my class I remember one girl asking if a crisp packet was sufficient in that area… When I actually started dating my first boyfriend I was so scared of relationships in general that it took me four months to agree to being his girlfriend. I was 15 years old and I had my first kiss which actually freaked me out a little. He was a teenager as well, although two years older than me, and I didn’t really know anything about emotional abuse and always believed in second chances.

When it started it was subtle things – he’d take control of small areas of my life and I didn’t realise what was happening at the time. Gradually it got worse and worse and I felt like I was stuck in this overwhelming storm that would rage around me and I just had to stay in the eye where it was calm and safe. The problem with doing that is that I could never actually get out of the storm, and often I’d get tossed into the thunder, which in my case was being told I couldn’t see my friends and family, being screamed at on a regular basis, having my self confidence knocked by the constant criticism of my character, and, later down the line being physically pushed around, grabbed, and thrown to the floor.

This was also the time I had my first sexual experiences. I wish in my PSHE class they’d taught me about consent and not feeling under pressure. I wish they’d talked about how when you have your first sexual experience you should feel comfortable and it should be something that you want and enjoy.

For me, my high school boyfriend asked me for some kind of vague consent in a roundabout way and he wasn’t clear on what I was consenting to. When it actually happened I was confused and sad and felt manipulated and alone.

He had taken me away from my friends and family, knocked all my self-esteem out of me and put me in a position where I was afraid of him and his anger. Consequently I felt I had no control, no courage, and no right to say no. And from that point onwards when I tried to say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ he didn’t listen, and he pushed me further into a place where I felt uncomfortable and confused.

Now as a woman, and a strong one at that, I’ve grown so much and become a person that I love and admire. Feeling under pressure, or uncomfortable or confused should not be a part of any sexual encounter ever. Neither should force or cruelty or abuse.


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Don’t ever wish you were anybody else.

Have you ever compared yourself to someone else, only to end up feeling totally rubbish? Suddenly you feel like a gremlin standing next to a princess, when you’re simply hanging out with your best friend.

Many years ago, I suffered an outbreak of acne all over my face. It lasted for several months and was very noticeable. I was incredibly self-conscious, and would feel envious whenever I was around anyone with a clear complexion. It seemed like everyone else had perfect skin compared to mine, and all I wanted was for my face to go back to normal.

Have you ever felt something similar? The temptation to compare ourselves to other girls is all around us, especially with the world of Instagram and Snapchat at our fingertips. In these moments, we can often feel like our own looks just don’t measure up!

Theodore Roosevelt once said that comparison is the thief of joy, and it couldn’t be more true. So how can we avoid comparing ourselves all the time?

One of the best things to do is learn the truth about ourselves.

Did you know that, according to the Bible, each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made? The word ‘fearfully’ means to be breathtaking or awesome. You were made to be absolutely incredible. And the word ‘wonderfully’ means to be unique. You’re completely distinct in your characteristics. You weren’t made to be quite like anybody else. I find it fascinating that no two people have ever had the exact same set of DNA, or the same fingerprint. Isn’t that amazing? That means there isn’t, and there never has been, anybody quite the same as you.

You weren’t designed to look like Kylie Jenner, because then you would be without your lovely eyes and your smile that lights up the room. You weren’t given the charm of Emma Watson, because then you wouldn’t grace the world with your wonderful personality and presence that is unique to you.

The truth is, you were born to be beautiful! Each of us has something remarkable within us, although sometimes we aren’t aware of it. You’re wonderful just the way you are. Your beauty is found in the way you smile, the jokes you make, and passion with which you talk about the things you love. So, dear girl, don’t ever wish you were anybody else, because the world wouldn’t be the same without you!

Written by Rachel Waterman

Hi! I’m Rachel, I’m 27 and I live in Sheffield.
I’m originally from Harrogate, but fell in love
with the Steel City when I moved here for uni.
My passions and interests include spending time
in the great outdoors, travelling, and writing!


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Celebrate your uniqueness

Lugging my HUGE suitcase across the London Underground on my travels home from university, I recall sitting on a platform watching hundreds of people flooding in and out of the tube. I remember noticing many slim, beautifully-dressed women and I was suddenly overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety and insecurity. It was on this day that I made the decision to change tomorrow and the future me.

As a girl leaving student life and entering the adult world, I’m all too aware of the months and years I’ve wasted wishing I was, or looked like, someone else – forgetting how insanely unique, precious and gifted I am. I’d spend time with my crazy, hilarious sisters wishing I could make people laugh like they did. I would chat for hours on the phone with my super generous, kind-spirited childhood friend wishing I could have a heart for others like she did. I would watch my confident, joyful best pal who always had a spring in her step wishing I could have as many friends as she did. I became anxious in large groups of people feeling the pressure to be like others and I found myself suppressing all the beautiful, unique parts of my own personality out of fear I wasn’t enough for others. Wow, if only I could talk to my 14-year-old self now and give her the freedom, zest for life and joy that I feel now, knowing that I’m crazy, confident, kind-hearted and ENOUGH.

It’s not easy when the world tells us that success is being wealthy and well-known, that being beautiful is being slim and spot free and that being happy is having both success and beauty. It’s hard but it’s easier than you think. Wherever you are right now, whatever you’ve planned for tomorrow, whoever you’re sitting next to, you’re in control of what you spend your time thinking about.

It begins by understanding that we’re given 86,400 precious seconds in a day to be the best version of ourselves that we can be, without letting comparisons rob us of this time. We’re unique, incomparable and always amazingly different to the people around us. By learning to love ourselves we’re free and bold enough to be and do the things we love.

There are no set rules for loving who you are and not comparing yourself to other people but it starts by realising your smallest of talents and largest of gifts. Write them down, stick them on your mirror, remind yourself of them every morning and run with full speed at using them.

By focusing on the positives, you’ll be reminded that you’ll always be brilliant you and that like everyone else you’re not polished and perfect. Understand that no one is sorted and that by encouraging others instead of competing or comparing, you’ll feel more comfortable in who you are and will love the differences you see around you.

When you next find yourself comparing who you are or what you look like you’ll feel sadness and hurt. Kick those thoughts out and remind yourself of the precious you that’s like no other. You’ll love yourself, others, and life so much more.

Written by Hannah Stannard

I’m a third year student at the
University of Sheffield studying Psychology.
I love camping, being by the beach
and pretending I’m a professional backing dancer


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An unhealthy relationship… with my phone.

I don’t know about you but my phone is always in my hand. Or in my pocket. Or on my bedside table right next to where I’m sleeping. I don’t think it’s ever more than a few metres away from me at any given time.

But I’ve been thinking quite a lot recently about this and about how healthy these habits are.

I definitely don’t think that having a smartphone is a bad thing. Without mine I wouldn’t be able to keep up with friends and family around the world, listen to podcasts when I’m on a long train journey, or even just keep up with what’s happening in the world. But, I do think that sometimes our relationships with our phones can become unhealthy.

Have you ever been in a room of people where everyone is staring at their screen, rather than interacting with the people sitting right next to them? How many meals with friends are accompanied by the presence of iPhones on the table next to your cutlery? When did you last have a conversation with a friend that wasn’t interrupted by the pinging of a Whatsapp, Snapchat or Facebook message?

My guess is that we’ve all experienced these things – and are even guilty of doing some of them ourselves.

In 2015, research found that 92 per cent of teenagers went online daily – and nearly a quarter of them were almost constantly online ( But, psychologists say that our brains were never designed to be always on and permanently connected in this way ( And, if we’re not careful, there could be very serious side effects to using our smartphones so much.

Researchers found that even just having your phone nearby can be distracting ( They say that it represents all these other possible conversations that we could be having, rather than the one right in front of us. And it’s not just when we’re awake that it’s a problem – a survey of teenagers last year found that almost half of them wake up to check their phones at least once a night and 10 per cent admitted to waking up at least 10 times to check their phone when they should be sleeping (

Not only is it worrying that we can’t go for eight hours without checking our phones, it’s also really bad for our bodies to be checking phones and devices in the middle of the night. The light that comes from the screens confuses our brains into thinking it’s morning and that we should be waking up – making it harder and harder to get back to sleep.

So, with all this in mind, I’ve got a couple of challenges for you.

  1. Stop multi-tasking. I know as girls we think that we’re capable of juggling multiple tasks and doing a million things at once but scientists say that’s just not true. Actually, multi-tasking is more about task switching – and it can take up to 10 minutes to get back on task each time you switch, meaning that really you’re just taking more time to do lots of things less effectively. So if you’re supposed to be studying, log out of Facebook and leave your phone in another room so you’re not tempted by Snapchat and get to work.
  2. Have a phone-free dinner. Next time you’re going out for dinner (or lunch, or even just coffee) with your friends, leave your phone in your bag. Spend your time focusing on and chatting with the people in front of you, instead of being distracted by other conversations.
  3. Introduce a device curfew. Stop looking at screens half an hour before you go to bed. This will help your body to understand that it’s bedtime, meaning you should get to sleep quicker. And don’t check your phone overnight – not even to see what the time is (those notifications will just be too tempting, even at 3am). Instead, invest in a bedside clock that will let you know when there’s still time to sleep or if it’s time to get up already.

I’m going to be trying to do these things too, so please let me know how you get on.

Written by Natalie Clarkson

Natalie is a writer and a Christian from Essex.
She loves baking, bingewatching Gilmore Girls,
spending time with her
and singing loudly when she’s in

her car on her own.

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Dealing with exam pressure

Let me just put it out there: I loved school. I know that may make me a little odd but there you go. I loved school so much that I even wanted to be a teacher – I never wanted to leave!

I was good at quite a lot of my subjects, but that didn’t mean I was immune to feeling the pressure every time exams came around.

There were a few ways that I dealt with that dreaded ‘exam pressure’:

  • I sunbathed and pretended the exams weren’t real. (Spoiler: they were!)
  • I invited friends round in the hope that we would motivate each other to study – but we always managed to go off on a tangent!
  • I overwhelmed myself with colour co-ordinated and organised folders for every subject, module and theory.

Does any of that sound familiar?

It took me a long time to work out how I learnt best and to get the most out of revision (it turns out I’m a kinaesthetic learner – I learn through actions…try doing that in an exam room without looking like a weirdo!) I’d tried a lot of revision techniques before I found ‘the one’ and even then I still had to shake it up sometimes to keep me focussed. And even though I was becoming more productive, it doesn’t mean that the pressure went away entirely (or that I stopped crying to my Mum about it!)

But why did I feel that exam pressure quite so much? Looking back I think it all boiled down to one thing. I was scared to fail.

Now that I’m a bit older I still face tests and challenges and sometimes I still feel under pressure and scared of failure. But often that doesn’t last because now I know something bigger and better. I know that I don’t have to be scared of failing because God loves me unconditionally – that means that it doesn’t matter what happens, whether I fail or do well or embarrass myself in an exam – God loves me anyway.

It says in the Bible ‘Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, [God] had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.’ (Ephesians 1:4, MSG) So now when big things come and threaten me I hold on to the fact that God loves me no matter what – and that’s bigger than any fear or failure that I’ll ever face.

Written by Charlotte Hendy

Charlotte is The Esther Collective project leader for
Girls’ Brigade Ministries. Originally from Plymouth,
she studied Theology at Oxford and now lives in Sheffield.
Charlotte suffers from seaside withdrawal symptoms
and dreams of one day owning a house by the sea!

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It’s time to talk about the F word

During the week I work in our local high school. My role is to befriend students, listen to them, give them advice and help them with tricky situations. When I’m talking to them I listen carefully to the words they use, because it tells me a lot about how they’re feeling. There’s one word in particular that always draws me into a conversation and I like to challenge the way they use and view this word. It’s the F word.

Recently I got asked by a girl, in her first year at high school, how she could cope with the stress of doing class tests. She told me she often got anxious about upcoming assessments and wanted to know how she might deal with her worries. I could understand her concern – I spent years in education and for 11 years through high school and university I had exams and assessments every term. Not fun! I still dread Christmas because it feels like I should be studying! I asked her what her greatest fear about sitting the tests was and she said her biggest worry was that she might fail. There it was. The F word.


If we’re honest, failure is something that most of us fear in some way. Maybe we fear failing exams or a driving test. Maybe we fear failed relationships. Maybe we fear failing our families or letting them down in some way. In most situations, when we express our concern about failing, a sympathetic and well-meaning friend will say ‘Don’t worry – of course you won’t fail!’. Now, while it’s encouraging to have somebody believe in us and have high expectations for our future, we know in the back of our minds that there’s still a possibility that maybe, just maybe, it will happen. A positive pep talk might help us move forward with a little more confidence but it doesn’t really prepare us for the time when failure does come our way. If we’re not prepared for failure, the fear of it can hold us back and ultimately be more costly than taking the risk of stepping towards our goal.

Over the past few years I’ve stepped out on some big adventures. One of them was crowd-funding my first album. Another was launching a brand new national teen girls conference. Talk about the potential for failure! These were massive leaps of faith with no real promise of success. I was so passionate about both of these things and, at the same time, totally terrified of putting myself out there knowing that I would probably make some mistakes and maybe even fall flat on my face in a very public way. So why did I do it? Because I’ve learned not to fear failure. Here are some of the things I’ve learned from failing and almost failing throughout my life:

Failure doesn’t define us. Just because I failed at doing something doesn’t mean that I’m a failure. Our identity isn’t dependant on our success or our failure. Failures can be a great opportunity to develop our character, and failing at doing can actually make us better at being – being resilient, being determined, being persistent, being forgiving or being courageous.

Failure is not final. Just because we fail something once doesn’t mean we can never do it again. Failure is an opportunity to say ‘That didn’t work. So, what will work?’ or ‘What can I learn from this experience that I can improve or change next time?’. Maybe you’ve mishandled a friendship situation and it’s left you both feeling hurt. Look at the role you played in that situation? What could you have done differently or better? What can you do to fix or change the situation now? What can you learn that will prevent a similar problem in the future? If you fail a test, ask the teacher to show you the gaps in your knowledge or skills. Ask them to help you make a study plan to improve those gaps until you’re able to complete the test successfully. Every failure is an opportunity to stop, review, and try again. It helps us develop resilience, making us stronger for the future.

Failure feeds success. I love reading biographies or stories about people who became incredibly successful in some way. The thing I notice with all of these people isn’t that they were successful because they never failed, but they were successful because they didn’t let their failures become final. Many people don’t succeed because the first time they trip over an obstacle they say ‘I’m done!’. The successful people allowed themselves recovery time, then got back on track with greater determination and perseverance until they made it past that hurdle. Their failures became fuel for the success they’d eventually find and they often say that, without those failures, they wouldn’t be where they are today.

So, while I gave that girl at school advice about how to stay calm, and prepare as best she could for the upcoming test and find confidence to give it her best shot. I also made sure to say ‘Don’t fear failure. It’s not final. It’s an opportunity to ask for help, to reset your goals and develop the courage to try again.’

When we stop fearing failure, all the things we dream of become incredible possibilities. So, ask yourself this ‘What would I have the courage to do, if I didn’t fear failure?’

Quotes on failure to reflect on this week:

‘I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work’ – Thomas Edison.

‘I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed’ – Michael Jordan.

‘There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period’ – Brené Brown.

Written by Amie Aitken

Amie is a full time tea-drinker who

works as a chaplain in local schools.
She pets all dogs and co-founded “Sanctuary” – a nation conference for teen girls.

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Recovery isn’t all sunshine and rainbows

rainblogDid you know 1 in 4 people live with a mental health problem? I’m among them. Here’s my story of living with an eating disorder, depression and anxiety. A journey of pain, but also a journey of hope and transformation.

Depression was spending every waking moment worrying about every single thing I did or said. Wishing I was dead was definitely my lowest point, taking an overdose seemed to be the only way out. I don’t think you can feel any more rock bottom than sitting with 80 tablets in your hand, ready to go to sleep and never wake up. You feel that the fight is too much and the mental and physical energy has been drained from you.

Anxiety was not leaving my room for days on end because being in the vicinity of other people made my chest so tight I struggled to breathe; throwing away opportunities, throwing away creativity, and losing my spark.

Having an eating disorder was not just about weight loss and being obsessed with calories and restricting, it was pushing my entire family and friends away. I was having irrational thoughts that nobody liked me, that I wasn’t enough. I was breaking the hearts of those around me one at a time as they watched me struggle and sink further into the illnesses that were killing me.

Mental illness for me was spending every day feeling that I was standing on the edge of a cliff and with one tiny step I would fall to never return.

It took courage and bravery to accept help. It felt too overwhelming but I knew I couldn’t carry on the way I was. I was fading into nothing, becoming more and more depressed. I couldn’t even go to school anymore. Threatened with admission to a mental health hospital under a section, I started to engage with support.

Child and Adult Mental Health Services (CAMHS) offered me Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), medication and dietician appointments to cope with food increases. They even offered us family therapy so my family could understand my illness better. It took month and months of hard work but I slowly started to make changes and regain my life.

The journey from then to now has been tough. Getting used to taking anti-depressants was hard to come to terms with. I remember standing on the scales and then running into the toilet staring at myself in the mirror. Tears, anger, frustration. But, with the weight I gained, I also gained back life, energy, family and friends.

People ask me if it gets easier. Yes, it does, but you can’t do it without support. It’s little steps that make the process manageable. I encourage anyone reading this who may be living with a mental health problem or knows someone living with a mental illness to speak to someone about it. Be brave enough to seek those conversations.

So where am I now? Recovery isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, it can be difficult beyond belief. When I come across a bump in the road I try and be rational about the situation. I put my faith in God. I still struggle with my weight, wanting to fall back to bad habits to feel in control. Having to fight thoughts like that constantly can be exhausting but recovery is worth it. It’s worth the pain, it’s worth the tears to know that I’m living, not just surviving. Knowing that I can make a difference in this world, injecting hope. I’m Jessie and I’m more than my mental health problems.

Written by Jessie Emms

Jessie | 20
Student mental health nurse
Coffee enthusiast | Feminism
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RESILIENT – a film about mental health

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Bokiya’s story

What an inspiration Bokiya is!
Please help to get her story of bravery shared.

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Lost // me

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Lost // someone

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Lost // family

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The brush and the broom by Eve (age 4)

‘Friends are really special.’

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The story of the knots and tangles…

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Street compliments

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The story of the face at the window.

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Inspiring stories of hope and perseverance in koko’s first mini documentary.

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Worth the wait.

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Fine Lines

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December is for…

decisforPhoto by Pen&Shutter

As I sit and type this, the song Simply having a wonderful Christmas time is ringing out in my local coffee shop. There are snowflakes and robins hanging from the ceiling and my cup is filled with sweet Christmassy-titled goodness.

It feels kind of weird to be blogging about anxiety at a time of year when we’re expected to be all jolly and excited, but recently I’ve been reminded by my friend Amy* that for many this time of year simply doesn’t feel so wonderful. Most weeks I meet with Amy, who has taught me what it’s like to be dealing with anxiety. Amy is learning week by week to be brave, to persevere and not be held back by the sad and anxious thoughts that she has. I’m aware that there will be many people who feel like Amy and so I’ve asked her to share her thoughts, her advice and some of the things she’s learning.

Hello I’m Amy. I’m 12 and ever since I was in Year 5 I noticed that I was always very anxious and upset and it was horrible. I felt like no-one understood and they just thought I was doing it for attention. People started to listen and understand me when I was in Year 7. I went to the doctor and he said that I had anxiety and depression but we don’t really know why.

I’ve been off school for six months and I’m not fully over my anxiety yet, but I’m now getting help from people and slowly getting better. I’m nearly ready to go back to school!

The way I deal with my anxiety is by talking to people, it really helps! In the past six months I’ve really changed for the better… I now want to do SO much more than just sitting in my room alone. I’ve learnt that I’m stronger than I think.

Here’s what else I’ve learnt…

Talk to people
People always used to tell me you have to talk to people but I never did because I thought it would make me worse. Over the past year I’ve started to talk to people about how I’m feeling and it’s really helped. So my advice would be don’t bottle things up, it’ll only make you feel worse.

If you have a fear of something, stand up to it
If you have a fear of going out to places, each day go out the front door and go a bit further when you feel you can. Try to face up to your fear, you can do it!

Go and see your doctor
If you feel down and then happy, have sad thoughts, don’t want to leave your home, don’t care about friends or struggle to go into school then go and see your doctor. It’s not scary – they can really help and give you good advice about how to get better.

Get some fresh air
I used to stay in my house and not want to go outside but then when I did I felt so much better and happier. Fresh air and a walk is good for you!

Eat well
I starved myself for days at a time and lost so much weight, but it didn’t make me feel any happier, in fact it made me feel worse. Eating well helps to make you feel better, even if you don’t feel like eating try your best. Your body is important and you need to look after yourself.

Focus on positives
Sometimes we can get into the habit of always focusing on the negatives, which only ends up making us feel worse. Each day I write in my diary something that I’m grateful for e.g. my family, for the sunshine, for my house. Focusing on positives makes you feel so much better.

I didn’t do exercise for quite a long time, I didn’t go to school or leave my house. But since I’ve been getting outside and doing exercise my mood has improved. I’ve heard that exercise releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel happier and brighter. Clever!

If you feel anxious, worried or upset then I want you to know that you’re not alone and you can get through this. Life can be hard sometimes and dealing with anxiety can be a difficult challenge but I’m proof that you can get through it and feel a whole lot better! It can take time so don’t rush yourself. Talk to people, enjoy the fresh air and be honest about what you’re going through.

Love Amy

*Names have been changed

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We’ve been hearing from girls all around the UK, and here’s what they had to say…

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November is for…

NovfinPhotography by

Do you ever get that feeling when you hear the rain pouring outside but you’re all cosy inside? It’s a feeling that makes you feel warm and comfortable. You know the feeling?

Well my mum has totally ruined it for me.

I remember a few times when me and my sister were little and used to get into bed on a rainy, windy night my mum would ask if we could hear the rain. We’d listen to it pouring and say ‘yes!’. Then she’d ask if we felt all cosy, which is where that warm feeling would creep in as we’d snuggle down under our covers and say ‘yes’ again. And just as we felt ready to drift off to sleep in a cosy warm haze my mum would say ‘Well remember, there are thousands of people outside who aren’t cosy and warm tonight, but wet and cold. They don’t have houses and beds to go to’. I remember we’d talk about the wet and cold people together, and when she left I’d lie there and feel sad for them.

My sister and I used to moan (and joke) about mum’s reminders about the homeless people. We used to tell her she totally ruined our cosy moment. But now I’m older I realise my mum has got this beautiful quality of noticing people and caring about them, and I realise that way back on those rainy nights she was beginning to pass this ‘noticing’ onto us. Like when I started secondary school, on the very first day of year 7, she said to me ‘Remember to watch out for the people who look lost, lonely or don’t seem to have any friends’. My mum was beginning to teach me that it’s a choice to care for those around us, a choice that if made regularly can become a healthy habit.

Since then there are many occasions when I’ve seen her noticing people – speaking to people around her in queues and caring about their lives, doing shopping for the elderly, making meals for those who are sick, comforting people who have lost loved ones, kneeling down on the pavement to chat with those in sleeping bags, visiting the frail lady down the road. My mum teaches me that my life shouldn’t be focused entirely on myself but that I have a role to play in the lives of others. If we don’t notice and care for those around us, we end up going through life with ourselves at the centre – self-centered, and miss out on learning from others around us.

So my question is – can you make more of an effort to notice the unnoticed? To care for the uncared for? And to offer help to those who look like they’ve lost their way?
I love this quote by Mother Teresa –
‘Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts of people.’

Can you imagine how much of an impact we’d have if we all chose to watch out for people who needed to be cheered up? – the girl at school who looks upset, the lady on the bus who could use a hand or offering to do the washing up for your tired looking parents.

This quality of noticing people is a choice, will you join me in making it a healthy habit?

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‘Fine lines’ – Spoken word

I’ll be a success when I’ve made a difference
To those I meet along the way,
And I’ll be a success when I am kind
With the words that I give away.

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October is for…

I used to hate hurdles at school.

I could never seem to get myself over all of them. I can’t tell you the number of times I hobbled back to the P.E. changing rooms with blood dripping down my knees.

Hurdles frustrated me because I just couldn’t understand why everyone else could glide over them like elegant deer leaping beside me and I was like a big clumsy elephant bashing most of them over. I used to watch them all leaping ahead while I stumbled and limped. To be honest, most of the time I just sat on the floor and gave up on the race.

What was more annoying was the fact that I was one of the tallest in my year, these long legs of mine weren’t playing their part! How could all the shorter girls get over them but I couldn’t?!

I never mastered the hurdles but I discovered that my legs did do me proud on the high jump… well done legs.

Obstacles in life
Sometimes we come up against difficult obstacles in our lives; difficult, upsetting or frustrating situations which we find it hard to get over or get around. Sometimes we find ourselves tripping over, bloodied and bruised. We can look up and see others leaping along, with smiles on their faces, like elegant deer. How can they get it right, but I can’t? Why is it so hard for me? When will I be able to leap and smile?

When we sit on the floor and watch others around us living and leaping along it can be so discouraging. We sit there looking up, comparing ourselves. Whatever the obstacle is in front of you the first challenge is to stand up and stop comparing yourself with the girl on your left or the girl on your right (or the girl on your screen).

Stop focusing on the hurdle
My teacher used to tell me ‘Stop looking at the hurdle but lift your eyes and look ahead’. Apparently when you’re always looking at the hurdle your head comes down and you become top heavy and can end up tripping. It seems that if we are up against obstacles, however difficult or painful, it’s important to lift our eyes up and look ahead rather than always focusing on the obstacle itself.

When I was struggling with the way that I look, I started to realise that these thoughts I had about myself weren’t healthy and were making me incredibly unhappy. The view I had of myself was my hurdle. I needed to get over it because I didn’t want these thoughts to interfere in my daily life anymore.

So I decided to do something about it… I told people I trusted about how I was feeling and asked for their help. I stopped reading all magazines because I was find their obsession with ‘perfection’ was weighing me down and I started reading what God says about me, about how I’m loved and cared for. I also made a decision to spend time with people who weren’t obsessed with image. Slowly but surely I stepped over a massive hurdle in my life.

I don’t know what the hurdles are in your life, there may be one or two, or perhaps there are hurdles in front of you for as far as your eyes can see. You may be tired from attempting to get over them but don’t sit down and give up on the race. You won’t always feel like you do today – sad, angry or frustrated… it won’t always be this way.

Take small steps towards each hurdle, eyes up, focused forward, don’t compare yourself to those on your left or those on your right but move at your own pace. Slowly you’ll be able to step gently over a hurdle and make progress. Ok, you might stumble, yes you might have to limp along but your bloodied knees will heal. As you move forward remember to look out for those struggling and limping over their hurdles too, make an effort to always be a cheerleader for those who need a little encouragement in their race.

Love Meg x

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September is for…

septSo this week I lost my phone for TWO WHOLE DAYS – ARGHH!

This is a pretty big deal for me. I searched high and low but it was nowhere to be found. So I left the house on the first day phoneless and it felt weird. My hands were empty, no phone calls, no texts. It’s like the world was carrying on but I was out of the loop. My hands were itching to type and check Twitter for the latest news. When I returned home, at the end of the day, I found that all was well and I hadn’t really missed a thing.

Day two began and I started to notice that this phonelessness was beginning to have an impact on me… usually when I go to a coffee shop I’m so engrossed in my phone, in social media, texting and emails that without realising it I can lose an hour (or three) of my life to a screen. But on this visit I read a book with no distractions and ended up having a long chat with a lady at my table. ‘Maybe having a phone glued to my hand has become a barrier to the world around me, maybe I’ve been missing things,’ I thought. Deep!

By the afternoon of day two I was sure my phonelessness was having a positive effect on me. I realised that I felt more productive and focused. I decided to paint my lounge wall which I’d wanted to paint for ages. I danced around to the radio with a paintbrush in hand with no beeps or rings to distract me.

I honestly hadn’t realised how much of my time and attention I’d been giving to my phone and technology. Not just texting and calling people but Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and reading the news. I’m totally glued to it, my phone is like an extension of my hand. It always on the table when I eat and beside my bed when I sleep, it’s the first thing I look at in the morning and the moment it makes a noise it has my undivided attention. However, when I found myself detached from it, I began to realise how much of a distraction it can be.

Finally after two days I found my phone hiding under a hat in my spare room.

I thought being phoneless would be an isolated lonely nightmare (slightly dramatic, sorry!) but it turned out to be a really productive, focused two days with no distractions filled with painting, reading and meeting new people. It’s been an enormous wake-up call, and really challenged me to switch my phone off every now and again. So I’ve decided to pass on the challenge to my friend Hannah. I’ve challenged her to switch off her phone and all technology for 10 whole hours and let us know how she got on…

Here’s what she said:

10 hours tech free
Before I attempted this, I simply had no idea how much technology has totally taken over. Overall, I’m glad I did it! The time I’ve spent with family and friends hasn’t been interrupted by incessant notifications as I’ve concentrated on putting my phone away in order to invest in real life relationships. However, those two days served as a reminder as to what a wonderful thing it is to be connected with friends and loved ones so much, but with this is the temptation to spend so long looking down that we don’t look up at what’s around us.

If I can learn to switch off more, I’m confident that I can experience more and share more experiences with those around me. Hopefully then ‘sharing’ turns into listening to a friend’s story, a ‘like’ turns into a genuine smile, a ‘comment’ turns into a meaningful conversation, and a ‘group message’ turns into spending time with those who mean the most.

And so, you can probably guess what’s coming…

The challenge: 
My challenge to you this September is to switch off, ok I know that might be a really crazy suggestion and if you’re anything like me then this will definitely be a challenge for you. But I really think this addiction to our phones and technology is affecting us and a break every now and again is healthy. Could you switch off for just an hour at first? Perhaps while you’re at the dinner table with family, switch off and give your friends your complete attention when you’re spending time with them, or maybe you feel ready for the whole 10 hours!

So do you accept the challenge? This is all about freeing your hands and focusing your attention. Go on, rise to the challenge and let us know how you got on.

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‘You don’t have to suffer in silence.’

‘If you are struggling, you don’t have to suffer in silence. Let’s talk.’
For more information and advice about mental health, take a look at

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August is for…

Aug-RecoveredOh dear – this is how my morning went one day this week:

I threw open the curtains (expecting a sunny garden) and was greeted with rain and I thought,
‘Ugh, what a dull, grey day.’
Then I looked in my wardrobe and thought, ‘Great, I have nothing to wear’.
I looked at my list of jobs to do that day and thought, ‘Oh, I have so much to do’
I walked to the kitchen and looked in the fridge and thought, ‘Ugh, we’re out of yoghurts’.
I left the house and looked at my old car and thought ‘I’d love a new car’.

What a miserable attitude!

You’ll be pleased to know that I did actually notice how miserable I was being, and managed to snap out of it pretty fast, but it made me realise that sometimes I completely forget to look for the good that is in my life.

It’s really easy to get sucked into wanting to have more and then being miserable about our reality. That’s what all the ads seem to do to me if I’m not careful, but I suppose I shouldn’t really be surprised – after all they ARE designed to make us long for more. They tell us that we need the newest phone, or those ‘to die for’ new shoes and that miracle-wonder-scientific-breakthrough-longer-lasting make-up.

But what I’ve been realising is that we don’t really get encouraged to be grateful for what we do have.

So, the challenge this month is to have an attitude of gratitude.

the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

WOW! I totally love that definition. It makes me aspire to be the sort of person that appreciates the people around me and the things I have. I don’t want to be someone who just wants more and more and more and is never satisfied, do you?

I’m guessing though that an attitude of gratitude takes practice – So as you get up, as you brush your teeth, as you walk, as you meet people, as you eat, as you rest this month, try looking for the good around you.

It might help to write it down -‘Today I am grateful that I have clean running water to brush my teeth’.

We could even encourage someone else to have an attitude of gratitude too by choosing to tell someone each day what we are grateful for, and encourage them to do the same!

Are you up for giving it a try this month?

Here’s my starter – Right now, I’m grateful for the town that I live in, that I’m safe to walk to this coffee shop where I’m free to sit and write. I’m thankful for this Fairtrade coffee and the people that worked hard to pay the coffee farmers a fair wage. I’m thankful that I have food in my bag for my lunch, I’m thankful for my Goddaughter who just squeezed me tightly and told me she loves me (it totally made my heart melt) and I’m so grateful for my friends who care for me.

Now it’s your turn to have an attitude of gratitude… Let me know what you’re thankful for today: @thekokostory #Imthankfulfor

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B7Ooom9IEAEeedl.jpg-largeLove this.

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koko explores: self-harm

What actually is self-harm? Can you recover from it? How can you support someone who is self-harming?

Inspiring stories of hope and perseverance in our new film ‘koko explores: self-harm’

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July is for…

A few years ago I was on a train with my mum. We hadn’t seen each other in four weeks so we had loads to catch up on. During the 45 minute train journey we spent every moment sharing stories and news, it was so lovely to finally spend time with her again.

That lovely feeling, however, was about to fly out the train window as a man behind us stood up, walked towards us, pointed at me and aggressively said ‘DO YOU EVER *insert rude word here* SHUT UP?!’.

And, with that, he turned around and walked off the train.


We were so shocked at his outburst because we hadn’t been talking particularly loudly. I suddenly thought we might have been sitting in the quiet coach (where signs ask you to keep the noise down at all times) but, on checking, I discovered that we weren’t.

I began to look around worrying that we’d upset others with our story sharing but on inspecting the faces of the people in our carriage it seemed everyone was oblivious to what had just happened. But my worry didn’t settle there – ‘Why did he get so annoyed at me?’, ‘Am I really that annoying?’, ‘Do other people think the same but never tell me?’. This man’s words really began to play on my mind.

When people are pointing fingers at us and commenting on how we look, how we speak or perhaps the way we do things, we can feel under pressure to conform and change ourselves. But what I’ve realised is that people will always have an opinion about you. Some people will like you, others won’t but some people will want to affect you and bring you down.

-Do people’s opinions of you play on your mind?
-Do you feel the pressure to be someone that you’re not?

Well this month’s challenge is…




We’ve all got our quirky, weird and wondrous ways, let’s accept ourselves as we are and no longer allow the opinions of others to affect and change us.

Yes this is easier said than done, but we all know the saying goes ‘Practise makes perfect’, so this month practise being perfectly you, nothing more, nothing less.

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The story of the wrong direction…

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June is for…

Juneisfor2My friend Katie* told me a story recently about a student who had put their wet washing up on the line before they went out. When she returned, her washing had been taken down and someone else’s was up. She was furious and she said to Katie ‘This boy has taken my washing down just so he could put his up!’

Katie decided to get them both together and find out what had happened.

The boy, when he arrived, said ‘When she was out, it started raining so I ran out and brought her washing in. That’s not my washing on the line.’

Oh how the girl had got it so wrong!

She’d jumped straight to the conclusion that he’d sneakily removed her washing just so he could put up his own.


Do you jump to conclusions? I do, way too much, and that story has really spoken to me.

If we see someone look at us in an odd way we can be totally convinced that they have an issue with us. Or sometimes reading a short text or email we’ve received can really cause us to worry that it’s blunt because the person has a problem with us for some reason.

Recently I reacted like that in front of my friend Amy, and ended up saying about someone else ‘Well she thinks I’m too dramatic and annoying.’ To which Amy wisely replied ‘Meg, but you don’t know that.’

Amy hit the nail on the head. She’s completely right and reminded me, again, that I shouldn’t go about guessing what people are thinking, and jumping to conclusions about them as a result.

Working on why we do this conclusion-jumping thing is probably the key, and I’m beginning to realise that for me it usually stems from my own insecurity. A blunt text or odd look triggers my brain to spin with insecure thoughts that lead to that jump and it’s worse when I’m having a bad day.

When our brains are spinning and jumping to conclusions, we do have options:

Ask the person or ask yourself, or put another way, be clear about the actual facts and don’t jump straight into negative feelings about yourself or other people.

Ask the person
 ‘Did you take my washing down?’ – if Katie’s student friend had simply asked the boy about the washing on the line she would have avoided all those negative emotions. Remember though – ask, don’t accuse.

Ask yourself – even if you don’t ask the person if their email is blunt because they’re unhappy with you, you can choose not to just think the worst about the situation or person.

Learn to be a bit clear headed about yourself. Ask yourself ‘Why am I jumping to the worst conclusion about me or the other person?’ ‘What has triggered me to spin like this?’ ‘Am I having a bad day because I’m tired or stressed?’ Remember, these worries often do stem out of our insecurities.

Also it’s always good to ask about what you know about the other person in this situation – would they really be like that with you?

Learn to stop in the spin and jump to great conclusions.

*Names have been changed.
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Dear 16 year old me…

Have you checked your skin recently?

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May is for…

mayimSome of you will know that last week I brought home a puppy called Mollie! She’s lovely but my week has been filled with poos and wees everywhere! At one point Mollie pooed and then she ran in it – aaagh! I was going to take a photo to show you, but no one wants to see that.

molsI’ve been trying to get her used to different noises and smells so I carried her down to my local coffee shop and sat outside. In the space of about two hours I had at least 15 people stop and start conversations with me… ‘Oh she’s lovely!’ ‘How are you getting on?’ ‘Is this your first?’ ‘Is she settling in?’

I couldn’t believe how many strangers were more than willing to talk to me just because I had a dog. So it seems dogs bridge this gap and make conversation with strangers acceptable, amazing!

This new experience of talking to so many strangers each day has had a big effect on me. So much so in fact that when I was standing in a queue the other day (without Mollie) I said to the lady in front of me ‘So, how’s your day going?’ She did look a little surprised but started telling me about how much stress she’s under at work and how her family members are unwell. We were strangers to each other but in the space of two minutes we’d connected.

So maybe, just maybe, we don’t need dogs. Maybe we just need to take more of an interest in people.

Sometimes we get into a habit of keeping ourselves to ourselves and are closed off to the world in front of us. So often we live internally and don’t make an effort to interact with the people around us. What we all need to remember is we have so much that we can learn from each other. It’s in sharing a ‘Hello’, a ‘How are you?’ and our kind words that we can encourage the people we come into contact with. Ok, it can feel silly or nerve-wracking saying ‘Good morning’ to someone you don’t know, but the more you speak with new people, the easier it gets.

So I want to challenge you this month to take a brave step and speak to people that you’re not familiar with; the person who serves you, your bus driver, the postman (or postlady), the shop assistant or that girl at school who looks alone. Together let’s take a step towards opening up and living outwardly.

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‘Life doesn’t begin when you find a relationship’


The majority of us have watched the film Mean Girls; ever noticed how the character Cady Heron lets the idea of acting mean and thinking in a mean way take control over who she actually was?

Through talking with many of my single friends that are now taken, I’ve found that for many of us, this is an area we all struggle with. With a media culture which expresses that boyfriends are a ‘must have’, it’s so hard to be happy with the fact that we don’t have one.

But being single doesn’t mean we have less, it actually means so much more. It means we have more room to love, more time to spend with our friends, family, and those that truly need our help.

Over the past couple of years, this culture and my own ideals have consumed and broken me. My constant want and longing for a relationship soon caused me to be a Cady – I let it become my identity.

Relying on another human being to provide all of these satisfactions is so temporary and confidence shattering.

Imagine this, you long so much that you believe all of these lies, then you find love, you let it consume you, you let it build your confidence and then… it’s taken away. Gone. He cheated. Or he told you he didn’t love you anymore. You weren’t good enough.

I made myself think of being in that situation, and I became terrified of what that would do to my confidence, my identity and self-worth.

The real truth is that your beauty, your individuality and personality go incredibly far beyond the walls of a relationship.

I just want to encourage you to find yourself. Spend time discovering who you are, what you love about the world, your dreams for the future, growing in faith, exploring life, and learning from mistakes.

You didn’t need to force it. You didn’t need to date a million guys before you found the right one. You didn’t need to change yourself, your body or your personality to get into a relationship where you aren’t yourself.

Life doesn’t begin when you find a relationship, and the books you’ve read have already been written, so write your own.







Hey, I’m Emilie, a born and bred Essex girl of 18 years,
studying Sports Science at Oxford Brookes Uni.
Disney World is my favourite place on Earth.
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Chibok girls, we’ve got your back!

by Claire Rush


We have been so inspired by koko’s ‘I’ve got your back!’ video. Those four words are easy to say when you’re saying them to people that you know and love. But there are many young women across the world that we don’t know who need us to say (really loudly) ‘I’ve got your back!’

Can you imagine what it would be like to be taken away and be separated from your family and your home for nearly a year? Unfortunately this is what 219 young women from Chibok in Nigeria have had to endure. On 14 April, they were kidnapped by terrorists and have remained missing since. Simply gone.

Like me, six of the young women – Esther, Awa, Deborah, Grace, Abigail and Deborah – are members of The Girls’ Brigade, a movement for girls that spans across the world. Over the past few months, the GB family have been saying ‘I’ve got your back!’ Across the UK, over 2,500 people have made a Card of Hope (like the one’s below). By doing so, they’ve chosen to remember these young women and turn up the volume of hope for them.


On Tuesday 17 March, six young women – Anca, Ellie-mai, Kelisha, Lily, Sharon and Obusola – delivered the Cards of Hope to the UK Parliament and the Prime Minister’s home at Number 10 Downing Street.

Below is their photo story of the power of saying ‘I’ve Got Your Back!’:


‘I care about the girls because they’re like me’ – Anca (11) from Birmingham.


We met Baroness Anelay who is a government minister responsible for the UK’s relationship with Nigeria.

‘I think the most important thing Baroness Anelay said was never give up because we need to continue to show how much we care for the missing girls’ – Lily (10) from Reading.


‘For me the important thing is to say that people care and haven’t forgotten about the Chibok girls, and girls getting education, and the evidence of this is the visit I had from the Girls’ Brigade’ – Baroness Anelay.


After we spoke to Baroness Anelay, it was great to have a chance to look around the Houses of Parliament – Kelisha, Zoe and Rachel even had time for a cheeky selfie!


We even got the chance to knock the most famous door in the UK – the home of the UK’s Prime Minister. ‘My highlight of the day was going to Number 10 Downing Street because I hadn’t been there before and we got to deliver the cards of hope’ – Oluwabusola (11) from Croydon.


Our hope is that the UK government will listen to our voices and do all they can to help these young women return home.

‘It’s important that we never give up on the Chibok girls. We need to continue to show how much we care for these girls’ – Lily (10) from Reading.

Girls of Chibok, we’ve got your back!

Inspired these girls? Join them in spreading hope for the Chibok girls by making a Card of Hope. After you’ve downloaded the template here, you can choose a name here. Once you’ve created your card, send it to The Girls’ Brigade England & Wales, Cliff College, Calver, Hope Valley, Derbyshire, S32 3XG.
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April is for…

aim high9

My Dad eats woodlice. He says that you have to crunch them quickly before they run around your mouth – euggh!

He told me that after you’ve eaten them you’ll find their legs between your teeth later on in the day. Again – euurrghh!

You’re probably thinking ‘er, why?’ or more likely ‘What’s wrong with him?’

Well, y’see, my dad is a survival specialist and teacher. He’s climbed a gazillion mountains, makes a rather spectacular fire and builds shelters sturdier than my house.

When I was little I remember my teacher asking me what my Dad did and I said something like ‘My Dad walks in the arctic and catches rabbits and eats them.’ I’m sure my teacher was probably like ?!?!

Recently I received an email saying ‘Meg no one believes in me or encourages me’. So I want to tell you my Dad’s story because it inspires me and I think it might inspire you too…

My Dad decided he wanted to be a teacher when he was in secondary school and he told his careers advisor who heartlessly replied with ‘You’ll never be a teacher, you’re only good for being a bricklayer.’

It was around that time that his inspirational geography teacher Pete Bradley told him that he had talent for the subject and, thanks to Mr Bradley, my Dad left school with just one GCSE (in geography!). Before he left Mr Bradley said ‘If you want to pursue teaching you’ll have to work really hard but go for it, you can do it.’

So my Dad didn’t just leave school with a GCSE, or O-Level as they were called back then, but also with an utter determination to become a teacher.

To cut a long story quite a bit shorter, after many years of relentless studying, training and learning my Dad achieved his dream and became a teacher and survival specialist.

He’s spent 40 years teaching geography and survival skills, leading polar explorations, wilderness courses and mountaineering expeditions throughout the UK and Scandinavia and spent a number of years working for the MOD as a Combat Survival Instructor – wow! He totally did it!

My Dad aimed really high even though certain people told him he couldn’t achieve his dream. He could have listened to the negative voices but instead he chose to listen to the positive encouraging voice.

What does aiming high look like?

I went out with my Dad for a coffee last week to hear more about his story and aiming high. We sat for ages discussing some of the things we’ve learnt about pursuing our dreams and here’s what we agree is important…


If you want to aim high and achieve you’re going to need to focus your attention. This is all about giving time to study and learning to learn. Prioritise! Are there things you need to do less of? Or more of? Get yourself into a good rhythm and use your time wisely.


We can learn so much from one another, especially the people who have gone before us. If there’s something you want to achieve, seek the people you can learn from. Ask questions, listen and soak up their advice. It’s often helpful to keep a journal of the things you’re learning and finding out.


And I’ll say it again, practise. This is about perfecting your craft and honing your skill. I’ve heard some say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in something so begin today and keep at it.


Get up and go! You have so much potential. The last thing you want is to look back and regret not making the most of your time or talents. Be brave and take a step forward.


‘humble’ : adjective hum·ble: Not proud : not thinking of yourself as better than other people, respectful.
Remember, you’re no bigger, better or more important than anyone else. Don’t puff your chest and try to impress but instead strive to have a quiet inner strength. Equally, remember no one else is bigger, better or more important than you. Try not to be intimidated by others along your journey, but have confidence in your own skills and talents.


My Dad said ‘I’ve made many, many mistakes along the way and after 40 years I’m still learning. I’ve definitely learnt more from my mistakes than I have my successes.’ Don’t beat yourself up when things go wrong. Failure isn’t final unless you let it finish you, it’s just a step along the journey to achievement.

In life some people will doubt your abilities – they may try to put you down or make you feel inferior but, like my Dad, choose to defy those negative voices. Know that you have unique gifts and talents.

So, I’ll leave it there for now – that’s a whole lot to be getting on with!

But let me recap: Do you want to aim high?

Then be careful who you listen to,
be motivated,
be humble,
…and remember, failure isn’t final.

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40acts of generosity.

Over 70,000 of us joined in with the 40acts challenge:
Instead of giving something up for Lent,
give something out to those around you.
Here’s what Hannah, Lydia, Sarah, Rachael, Nat, Grace, Beth and I got up to…


Read More…

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The story of the door in his face.

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I’ve got your back

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March is for…


On Monday I had 637 words (I used word count) constantly running through my head.

I was filming a new rhyme up in Manchester and my mind was not only racing with words, but also with worries; would I remember the script in the right order? Would filming run smoothly? Would the weather be ok? Would I get to the shoot on time?

As I drove through Manchester to get to a meeting about the film I came to a stop at some traffic lights. I was sat waiting, and worrying that I’d be late for the meeting, when out of the corner of my eye I noticed a clock on the side of a beautiful old church.


I read the letters around the clock as ‘NGTIMEISFLYI’ and I was like… ‘huh? What does that mean?’

And then I suddenly realised it actually said ‘TIME IS FLYING’.

In that moment I stopped reciting the 637 words of my script but instead thought of just these three.

The reason is this: I’m a bit of a worrier, ok so my family would probably say I’m more than a bit of a worrier. I worried all through school; I worried about my exams, about whether I would get into college and then I was worried about what I would do after college. I thought by now it would have changed, it hasn’t – the last time I spoke on stage I got myself so worried that I ended up being very sick afterwards. Not cool. Looking back I totally missed the fun of that event because I was so focused on my fear.

When I look through my diary and see some of the things I have to do this year I shudder with nerves and worry. There have been so many days that I’ve just wanted to hide away because I’ve been worried about facing the camera or the stage or the people.

But I owe a huge thank you to the person who chose to put those letters around that clock face, because they’ve been a bit of a wake up call.

Time is flying and by being constantly worried about what’s next I’m missing the enjoyment of the now.

I’ve spent far too much of my time being worried and doubting my abilities, and things have to change. Funnily enough, as I typed this blog I accidentally wrote warrior instead of worrier. So I’ve decided I want to be a warrior rather than a worrier – I want to be brave and conquer this constant need to worry. It’s not healthy and it certainly doesn’t make me happy. I want to face my fears one day at a time rather than looking ahead worried about what may or may not happen.

Are you a worrier? If so, I want to challenge you to become like a warrior, practise being brave and try to conquer your worries.

Don’t waste your time any longer worrying about what may or may not happen tomorrow but instead make the most of your time by enjoying the moment of today.

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40 days of living generously

Logo-2-white-on-redIt gets to this time each year when I think…

‘Ooh Lent begins today! Should I give something up?’ My mind races with different options – ‘Coffee? Facebook? Chocolate? No I did that last year. Clothes shopping?’

Then usually I come to this conclusion:

‘I don’t really understand why giving up chocolate or Facebook would be of any help to me or anyone else.’

So usually, I don’t.

But this year, well, this one’s different. My friends and I have given it some thought and we’ve decided to jump on the amazing bandwagon that is 40acts.

If you haven’t heard of 40acts, the campaign challenges people to do Lent differently. So, instead of just giving something up, participants are encouraged to give something out to those around them. Sounds great right?

Each day we’ll be challenged with a simple act like saying thank you, talking to strangers, sharing a skill, forgiving people and sending anonymous gifts.

We absolutely love the fact that the campaign hopes to make living generously a daily habit.

So, we’re going to rise to the challenge that we’re given each day by 40acts and let you know what we’ve been up to!

We’d love you to join us and do Lent differently, if you’re up for it, you can sign up here:


I’m excited that today is day 1 and it’s called ‘Starting line’. I’ll let you know later how I’ve got on with the first challenge – let’s do this!

Love Meg xx

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‘The most powerful thing you own is your voice.’

I got an email from Yasmin in Manchester that said this:

‘I know a song that is great for boosting confidence about the way you look, it’s called ‘Perfect’ by Emma Blackery, and I thought it might help.’

So here you are girls, this is from Yasmin. 
(Thanks for getting in touch!)

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February is for…

Young woman by the water's edgeAt the beginning of Year 7 our year group was told there would be a school trip to Norway at the end of Year 8. I can’t tell you how excited me and my best friend Chloe* were! We signed up, paid our deposit and over the course of the next 18 months we excitedly talked about mountains, snow, abseiling, canoeing and building fires. We were the only girls going on the trip so we decided we’d have to really stick together and look after one another while we were out there.

One night with just six weeks to go before we flew off to this unexplored land, my mum walked into my room. She sat on my bed with me and said ‘Meg, I’m so sorry, I’ve just had a phone call from Chloe’s mum… She doesn’t want to go to Norway anymore.’ I remember throwing my face into my pillow and, that night, I sobbed my heart out for a very, very long time.

How could she DO this? WHY would she do this? I was cross, so upset and felt let down by my best friend.

The next day at school was painful. Although I didn’t want to talk to Chloe, deep down I was hoping she’d come up to me and apologise or give me an explanation as to why she’d suddenly pulled out. But Chloe never approached me that day. We sat apart in tutor for the first time since the start of Year 7 and I had lunch on my own in the canteen. I felt confused and let down.

Over the next few weeks I found someone else to go on the Norway trip with me, but it felt strange going without Chloe. I missed her when I was abseiling and I missed her when I was canoeing.

When Chloe passed me in the corridor with her new best friend I felt so much sadness and jealousy. I desperately missed Chloe at school, I felt absolutely lost without her. We never regained that friendship we once had. Why? Because neither of us would clear the air.

When Chloe pulled out of the trip and ignored me at school it was like she wounded me, but every time I replayed it over and over in my mind I was picking at that wound. I wasn’t letting myself heal, I was only hurting myself.

Practicing the art of forgiveness
Throughout our lives we’re wounded by people. Some may be deep wounds, others may be scratches.

Someone once told me this: ‘When we don’t forgive, it’s like we’re locked away in a prison, but the key is on the inside. You can choose to release yourself and be free by forgiving.’

Forgiveness is not saying ‘I agree with what you’ve done’ and it’s not pretending we’re not hurt. It’s letting the bitterness go and about saying ‘I choose to stop picking at this wound you’ve given me, because I want to heal.’

If you tripped and cut your knee it would be important to clean your wound and remove any dirt to prevent infection. Forgiveness is like a cleansing, wiping away the dirt and preparing ourselves to heal.

Please don’t think that I’m suggesting forgiveness is easy. I find it really hard. When I remember things people have done that have hurt me, I’m suddenly churned up with old angry thoughts and frustrations. In that immediate moment I have to choose to let it go and ask God for His peace, otherwise I waste my day being caught up in frustration.

The challenge is, because we can’t forget, we must daily practise the art of forgiveness, which means that forgiveness is a lifestyle. We’re often taught the opposite:

  • ‘Distance yourself from them.’
  • ‘Give them the cold shoulder.’
  • ‘Tell everyone what they did.’
  • ‘Teach them a lesson.’

When someone does something wrong, don’t forget all of the things that they’ve done right. Whether we realise it or not, we all wound each other, we say and do things that hurt.

I don’t know whether you feel hurt at the moment. You might feel like you have a deep wound or maybe you have a fresh scratch. Choose to stop picking at that wound of yours, replaying over and over what’s hurt you. Choose to forgive and let yourself begin to heal.

*Name has been changed.
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paintlearning something new.

To read more about my best things in life, check out my original post.
Tweet me a photo that you’ve taken of your best things in life and I’ll upload my favourites!

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Wooohooo!! koko is 1 today!

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Exam stress

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koko is nearly 1!

thistimelastyearThis time last year I had two weeks until the launch of koko & was busy writing, filming and creating final pieces!

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January is for…


Happy new year! Wooohoo! I hope you had a lovely Christmas are excited about the year ahead.

If you follow koko on Twitter you might have seen that I broke down recently on the motorway on my way home from Manchester.

I was just driving along, and then all of a sudden my car started beeping really loudly and the engine quickly began to overheat. I had to pull over on the hard shoulder in the dark with all these enormous lorries racing past.

Oh. My. Gosh girls. I sobbed so hard down the phone to the breakdown people.

When they turned up to save me, they said my fan belt had come off and flown down the M1… argh!

Needless to say, I was pretty upset and frustrated that I was stuck two and a half hours away from home. But the lovely breakdown people eventually took me to an airport where I was given a hire car and finally began my journey home to Essex. As I drove, feeling desperately tired and worried about how much my poorly car was going to cost to fix, a song came on the radio that went something like this…

‘Nothing but clouds, it’s dark in my heart, it feels like a cold night. I almost gave up but I smile, even though it hurts, I smile.’

I was hanging on every word of the song, it made so much sense to me in that moment. It had been such a long night, standing in the dark and the freezing cold and I just felt miserable. But to be honest, I was so frustrated with this stupid journey that I didn’t WANT to smile, I didn’t WANT it to cheer me up, I sort of wanted to wallow in my frustration. I felt like I had a very good reason to be annoyed, this four hour journey had turned into a nine hour one! But this song was so amazingly infectious and positive that before long I chose to give in to the music and found myself sitting at the wheel smiling from ear to ear.

I chose to smile even though deep down I was tired and emotional and, you know what, it made me feel so much happier.

Journeying in 2015
We’ve talked about journeying before in June, but seeing as it’s the first day of the year, I thought we should have a little recap. We don’t know what this year ahead holds, but there will be good days and there no doubt will be hard days. What I really want to encourage you to do is make a choice; choose to smile when days are tough, frustrating or upsetting. By that I don’t mean being fake and hiding how you’re really feeling behind a smile, it’s always good to be honest with those around you and share what you’re going through.

It’s about making a choice to have a positive attitude and look for the good in all things rather than keeping yourself held in that negative and miserable mindset. Smiling when days are hard is no easy task, I find it difficult but with practise and perseverance, bit by bit it can become natural to look for the best in every situation.

Each of our journeys are different but in 2015 let’s journey alongside each other, helping each other to keep going when days are difficult. Perhaps there’s a particular friend or family member you know who is struggling – can you make a decision to be their support and cheerleader this year?

I want you to know that you can be that person who chooses to focus on the positives and helps others to do the same.


P.s Here’s the song I heard on the radio, it’s called I smile by a guy called Kirk Franklin, enjoy!

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Take a moment to stop this Christmas, and consider.

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be yourSaw this and thought of you.

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Wintery walks on the beach.

To read more about my best things in life, check out my original post.
Tweet me a photo that you’ve taken of your best things in life and I’ll upload my favourites!

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17 years old and changing the world.

Woohoo! Go Malala! She’s become the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize today.
In her acceptance speech she said:

I chose to speak up, I am Malala… I am those 66 million girls who are deprived of education, and today I’m not raising my voice, it is the voice of those 66 million girls.

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‘The story of Catherine’s advice…’

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‘How would I cope with crying all the time’

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December is for…

DILIGENTfinWell, we’ve had a whole year of these blogs; 2014 has gone so fast! I don’t know whether this year has been a really good one for you or whether it’s been a tough one. But let’s remind ourselves of some of the things we’ve been learning about. (Have a read if you missed any throughout the year.)

jfmRead:  January  February  March

amjRead:  April May June


Read: July August SeptemberondRead: October November December

I’ve thrown a lot of challenges at you this year, and I’ve got one final challenge for you in December… here goes, are you ready?

Be diligent.

There. That’s it! Ok, so you might be wondering what the heck ‘diligent’ means, let’s take a look.

Diligent is one of my favourite words, the reason why I love it is because of its definition: ‘Careful and persistent work or effort.’

How can we be diligent?
The vast majority of questions I receive on koko are about friendships. It can be so hard making friends and sometimes it can be even harder keeping them.

So, what does being diligent look like in our friendships?

I think it looks like being careful in what we say, it means paying attention to our friends’ needs and feelings. Being diligent looks like continuing to work hard at mending a friendship when actually you might want to give up on someone. Being diligent is making an effort to ensure your friends are feeling supported and encouraged. It’s asking things like ‘How are you?’ or ‘Can I help?’ and sometimes being diligent is bravely saying ‘I’m sorry.’

Being diligent in a friendship is listening. Take time to really hear what your friends are saying. Diligence is seeing the best in your friends – we all have good points and bad points. It’s very easy to see the things in people we don’t like, but being diligent is making an effort to look for the best.

Maybe that really does sound like a challenge? But, you know, being diligent is a decision, one that I’d encourage you to start today. Be aware of the people around you, especially the ones that perhaps need a little bit more support and kindness.

Diligence is carefully persevering, step by step, working hard to be best you can be.

In December can you work hard to be careful in the way you speak to your parents?

Can you work harder in your efforts at school or college right up until the end of term?

Are there friendships that you need to carefully mend by saying sorry?

Can you make a real effort to treat your brother or sister kindly?

As you say goodbye to 2014 and move into a new year I want to set you one final challenge – be full of care, and persistent in your efforts and work.

Will you join me?


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Today I’ve mostly been listening to…

Hillsong : ‘Alive’

I was lost with a broken heart
You picked me up, now I’m set apart
From the ash I am born again
Forever safe in the Saviour’s hands
You are more than my words could say
I’ll follow You Lord for all my days
I’ll fix my eyes, follow in Your ways
Forever free in unending grace’Cause You are, You are, You are my freedom
We lift You higher, lift You higher
Your love, Your love, Your love never ending
Oh oh ohYou are alive in us
Nothing can take Your place
You are all we need
Your love has set us free

In the midst of the darkest night
Let Your love be the shining light
Breaking chains that were holding me
You sent Your Son down and set me free
Everything of this world will fade
I’m pressing on till I see Your face
I will live that Your will be done
I won’t stop till Your Kingdom come

‘Cause You are, You are, You are my freedom
We lift You higher, lift You higher
Your love, Your love, Your love never ending
Oh oh oh

You are alive in us
Nothing can take Your place
You are all we need
Your love has set us free

You are, You are, You are my freedom
We lift You higher
You are, You are, You are my freedom
We lift You higher, lift You higher
Your love, Your love, Your love never ending
Oh oh oh

You are alive in us
Nothing can take Your place
You are all we need
Your love has set us free

You are alive in us
Nothing can take Your place
You are all we need
Your love has set us free

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Be authentic

authentic posterfin

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*Note: because this video is interactive, it is best viewed on a desktop or laptop computer*

Check out this amazing interactive anti-bullying video created entirely by volunteers. Throughout this video you will be asked to make a decision from the point of view of the bully, the victim or the friends. These choices will alter the story as you go.

For more information and advice about bullying please visit BullyingUK or Childline

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‘Come and find me.’

I represent a teenage girl. My question is do you know what I’m facing?

-A few of you have been asking about the monologue I performed at YWS14 so I thought I’d post it here.
I hope it challenges and inspires you x

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mentalhealth4I’ve been at university for about six weeks now and it’s already feeling like a second home. My course is great and my flatmates are lovely. It’s funny how quickly you can become close friends with somebody when you live with them.

We talk about everything – from the Scottish independence vote to how many pairs of socks we brought with us (not enough!); from what we bought at Aldi this week to if there really is a god; from who’s caught our eye in our lectures to what songs we used to sing in primary school… anything goes.

Apart from one thing.

Mental health. And it’s not just at uni that this is a problem. I’ve noticed it everywhere. At school, at church, with my friends, and with my family. Why is it that mental health has become such a taboo?

‘I think I’m coming down with a cold’ or ‘I’ve got such a headache’ – we don’t seem to have a problem with talking about our physical health. But when it comes to the wellbeing of our minds we decide to keep our mouths shut and deal with it alone. We open a new tab online and Google ‘I’m feeling really down’ and try to make sense of it through cyber doctors and medical forums. Then someone knocks on our bedroom door and we quickly exit the window, making a mental note to delete our internet history later – as if it’s something to be ashamed of.

Someone very close to me back home is going through a difficult time and has just been prescribed anti-depressants. As I sit here in my uni room, 100 miles away from my home town, I feel helpless. I’m worried about them and I wish I could keep them here with me, to look out for and to love. But I’m here, and they’re there.

I felt I couldn’t tell my flatmates about my concern. People don’t talk about that kind of thing. I thought they’d think I was paranoid or overprotective and wouldn’t understand.

But one day I mustered up the courage to express what I’m feeling – that I’m worried about someone back home. And they didn’t mock, they didn’t laugh, or tell me to get over it. They understood – because they’re going through the same thing.

Each one of us sat at that table had a mum, friend, brother or boyfriend back home who had a mental health issue. Naturally, we were all worried about them, but we’d kept it to ourselves.

This is half the problem, we’re too scared to talk about these issues so they never get dealt with. They’re left to build up until we feel we might explode with emotions, words and tears. Maybe if we weren’t so reluctant to talk about it, people could be more open about how they’re feeling. They can be supported sooner, and receive help if they need it.

So if you’re worried about your own mental health, or that of someone close to you, don’t be afraid to talk about it. Find a friend, someone you trust, a mentor, a family member and talk. The likelihood is that they’ll have gone through something similar.

Maybe we can also be more careful with the way we use our words. We throw around phrases like ‘Kill me now’ and ‘FML’ as if they mean nothing when really we’re underestimating the precious value of our lives. We don’t know what those around us have been through and these words might spark painful memories.

Let’s show a little more respect and a lot more understanding – and let’s talk about mental health.

GRACECLAYBy Grace Claydon.

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I sat at my computer the other day with Twitter open in front of me. My fingers were poised over the keys and stayed that way for some time.

I couldn’t think of what to say.

And then I realised that actually I didn’t have to say anything!

Do you ever try to think of something interesting to put on Twitter or Facebook? Sometimes I sit there and just can’t think of anything exciting, clever, funny or interesting to say. In my head I’m thinking, I wish I could be like @someone who is hilarious or I wish my tweets were as interesting as @someoneelse. I often look at other peoples tweets and think ‘I wish I’d thought of that!’

Sometimes being on Twitter and Facebook can feel like one big giant competition. I feel like so often they’re just one big platform for people to boast from; boasting about things that they’ve bought or places they’ve been.

I didn’t really realise I was doing it until I looked back at my tweets from previous years – tweeting about how I was in a recording studio or how I was on tour in the states or cuddling baby lions in South Africa. When I met Dougie from Mcfly at a party, I put it on Twitter because, in all honesty, I wanted people to be impressed.

I know at the time I was putting these things on Facebook because I wanted people to think ‘wow’. I wanted people to notice me and be interested in what I was doing. I put these things online for one reason – to feel important.

So often something will happen now like ‘I booked my holiday’ and I’ll feel drawn to Facebook to tell everyone. I have to stop myself from doing it. It’s boasting and it’s not a good look.

But why? Why do I feel a need to tell everyone what is going on? Because with each person that likes our status, or retweets our tweet we feel built up… almost like we’re worth something, like someone is taking notice. We’ve got caught up in a culture where we flash what we have. I was pretty shocked the other day when I bought some wellies on Amazon and there was an option to share my purchase on Facebook!

Slowly I’ve got into the habit of checking what I’m uploading. I love this acrostic:

T: Is it true?
H: Is it helpful?
I: Does it inspire others?
N: Is it necessary?
K: Is it kind?

Just be careful with what you put online and think before you tweet.

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November is for…


It’s such a beautiful day today that I’ve wandered down to my local park. The sun’s beaming down on me and the birds are singing away. I’m quite tempted to do some sort of Disney-esque dance and song through the park, but I’m resisting the urge… just.

I’ve just noticed a little girl with her mum two benches away from  me.  She’s been running around the edge of the park all the way to her mum and when she reaches her, all huffing and puffing, her mum says ‘WELL DONE! That was only 11 seconds!’

She gets up, does a cute little shake to brush the leaves off her dress and starts running again. She absolutely loves it, you can tell. She’s giggling as she runs all the way back, until she falls into her mum’s arms and is swallowed up by a big cuddle. ‘Nine seconds!’ laughs her mum. ‘Well done, you’re getting better! You’re so good at running!’

What I’ve realised is that the more this little girl gets encouragement, the more she wants to run, faster and faster. It’s made me wonder, how many of us girls are encouraged to try harder and go further?

Many of us won’t have had encouragement from our family with cuddles and ‘well dones’.

Many of us doubt our abilities and just don’t feel good enough.

But this beautiful little girl has reminded me that we all have a race to run. A race that’s different to everyone else’s, where we can always try our best to get better. Better in our friendships. Trying to be a better sister, daughter, student…

It’s pretty true that life does sometimes feel like a marathon, with more than a few hurdles in there to challenge us. But run the race marked out for you. Don’t try to run anyone else’s race.

Keep on keeping on.

And if, like that little girl, you take a tumble and trip up, remember the words of that mum:

‘It’s ok, don’t give up, just try again!’

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Feeding the ducks

To read more about my best things in life, check out my original post.
Tweet me a photo that you’ve taken of your best things in life and I’ll upload my favourites!

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Jam Thank you Gemma for sharing this photo with us! It’s a great reminder for us all.

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We cannot be defined.

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The Girl Declaration.

Today is International Day of the Girl, a day to celebrate and champion the value of girls across the world.
There’s lots of people tweeting about today, take a look and get informed: #dayofthegirl

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To read more about my best things in life, check out my original post.
Tweet me a photo that you’ve taken of your best things in life and I’ll upload my favourites!

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I see you.

A poem for National Poetry day 2014.

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October is for…


This month I want you all to eat omelettes.

…ok, I’m just kidding.

So my family has eight lovely chickens:


They’re pretty cool and give us lots of eggs each day. Ever since we got the chickens I’ve thought I’d like to cook with the lovely fresh eggs, but I’m always reminded of watching my mum making omelettes when I was little. I remember seeing her moving the egg around the pan and it all looked very tricky. I think it was then that I decided making omelettes would be one dish I’d definitely avoid in the future.

But the other day I looked at this enormous pile of eggs mounting up and thought… ‘It’s time… to face… the omlettte.’

So asking my friends and family for their expertise, tips and techniques I embarked on a mission to make my first ever omelette, something which I once imagined impossible.

And, ladies and gentlemen, I can now provide you with photographic evidence of the final product!

IMG_4162 copyI did it! I made an omelette with cheese and chorizo! And it tasted ah-may-zing. Thank you chickens.

Ok, why am I telling you this? (Good question).

Well because ever since starting koko in January I’ve had nine months of trying lots of new things, making omelettes being just one of them! Some have been fun, some have been ridiculously nerve-wracking, all have been challenging.

I’ve been learning to blog and make vlogs, I’ve been learning the ukulele, I’ve been writing rhymes for magazines, learning about working with charities, and my biggest challenge has been standing on stages and learning to present to lots of people (scary).

It’s been a crazy nine months… some things have gone well, other things I’ve failed at – but that’s to be expected when you’re trying new things. I feel like I’ve learnt a lot but, more than that, I feel like I’ve conquered a few fears too.

So, my challenge to you is to try something new in October. It might be as simple as making your first omelette, but there might be something deep down that you’ve always wanted to try or learn or do. What I really wanted to say is go for it. Why don’t you start today? Practise, practise, practise and have fun.

I’d really love to know if you’re going to start, or learn, something new – if you are get in touch!


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imageThis is my amazing friend Mary who today shaved her head for Breast Cancer Care and Brain Research UK. #sobrave #sobeautiful

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koko’s article for Christian Aid magazine:



You can read the whole magazine for free here, yay!


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autumnHello first day of Autumn, you’re looking lovely.

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It’s raining, it’s pouring…

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I’m sitting in my car called ‘Poddington’, down on the seafront. It’s a REALLY chilly, dull, grey day.

The rain has just started to patter onto my window, I was going to get out and go for a walk but I’m seriously worried that I’ll get blown away – the wind is insane!

I’ve decided to stay in my warm car with my yummy coffee and do some serious multi-tasking – people watch (one of my favourite past times) and write to you! (Also one of my most favourite past times.)

I’m watching the sea wall, the tide is so high that it keeps crashing over the top and absolutely soaking unsuspecting passersby. The shock on their faces as they get drenched by freezing seawater is making me half giggle/half feel like I should go and buy some towels for them all.

There’s a girl getting dragged along by her huge dog (which looks more like a small horse), her arm looks like it’s about to be pulled right out of it’s socket – it can’t be good for her.

The rain is getting heavier and starting to hammer down, I’ve just seen a very cute old couple battling through the wind and pouring rain together. They’re holding hands and cuddling under an umbrella – aww. They’re laughing to each other as they try to avoid the swimming pool-sized puddles. They look like they’re having so much fun.

I can see a little wooden boat with a red sail being thrown about, waves crashing over it. It’s dipping and rolling, almost going under the waves completely.

I’ve had to put my windscreen wipers on so I can see out of my window. It’s like a storm out there. All these things I can see from my car window remind me of life.

I don’t know where you’d say you are… are you warm and dry? Quite comfortable, like me in the car? Are you like that girl, being dragged along by people and perhaps doing things that aren’t good for you.

Maybe you feel like that little wooden boat, being battered, thrown around, unsure of which way is up.

Do you feel like one of those unsuspecting people, you’ve suddenly been drenched – out of the blue something has happened that you weren’t expecting.

Although I’m warm and dry in my car, quite comfortable, I know who I would like to be. I’d like to be that old couple. They are prepared, with their rain coats and umbrellas, they’re helping each other along, laughing as they go.

It makes me think about the fact that life is about getting out there, not just staying in the warm where you’re comfortable. Take risks, be prepared, be brave. When it feels like life is a bit stormy be like that lovely old couple – hold onto God and the ones that you love, and together you can try to avoid life’s puddles.

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The Girl Effect

‘When you empower a girl or a woman, she becomes a catalyst for positive change whose success benefits everyone around her’  –

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The story of the coffee machine…

The story of the coffee machine…

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September is for…

septMy friends will all tell you the one phrase that leaves my lips more than any other is…

‘Where’s my phone?’

Constantly. Every day. Without fail. It’s become a bit of a joke. But ohhh no, it’s not a joke to me! The panic, the worry that rushes through my head – thoughts of some stranger with my precious phone, running up expensive phone calls. And then, after those few horrendous moments… I find it.

And. Breathe.

But my worry is justified, I left my phone down the side of a Starbucks armchair once and some lovely lady took it home with her to keep it safe. I had to go and pick it up from her house, what a kind person.

Anyway, the other day it happened, I couldn’t find it. I was at home so I thought it couldn’t have gone far. So this was a very mild panic. I searched all the usual places – my pockets, the deep dark depths of my bag which is so big that sometime I feel like I could lose myself in there. Down the side of the sofa, every nook and cranny of the house. Nowhere.

Mild panic started to increase to full blown phone loss. Worst case scenarios set in, imagining someone on my Facebook or Twitter, stealing my photos, my details…

Then my mum piped up ‘Could it be outside?’

I replied in a tone that suggests she was being a complete idiot, ‘Outside?? Er… No mum, don’t be ridiculous’. I walked off in a huff and continued looking for my dearly beloved communication device. I searched every place possible. The panic now unbearable. Breathing was becoming erratic. Arms were flying around in a sort of ‘I don’t know what to do’ fashion, and I was huffing. (Ok, I admit, at times I’m a little dramatic).

And then she said it again. ‘Meg, do you think it could be outside?’

I paused… and thought ‘Well I HAD walked up the road four hours ago, my phone WAS in my pocket then, but surely not…’ Without really realising what I was doing, I ran. Out the door and up the road. It was dark and rainy, I kept running, searching every inch of  pavement.

And then, I saw it, lying helplessly on a grassy bank. I knelt down and lovingly cradled it in my arms, wiping off the rain and the mud, or at least I hope it was mud.

I turned around and there was my mum, getting absolutely soaked, looking everywhere too.

I shouted ‘Got it!’… and we walked home in silence. I found it because of her.

Something in me wanted to say ‘I’m sorry’, but I just couldn’t say it. Saying it would have admitted that I was wrong. So I muttered ‘Well done’ – what a cop out.

I got into the warm and felt awful, she’d been trying to help, even out in the rain and I’d treated her like an idiot. I knew deep down that I had to say sorry. When I said goodnight to her I pushed all my pride aside and apologised. It was hard, really hard, but I knew it was the right thing to do.

In fact, I think we all know deep down when we need to apologise – when we’ve hurt someone or said something we know we shouldn’t.

So, don’t let the moment pass if you need to say ‘I’m sorry’ – just say it and mean it, you know you should. They’re just two words, okay they might be two hard words, but they do the world of good.


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Being in the garden

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Holiday with the fam!
What a welcome rest!
See you soon girls,
I think you’re the best!
M xxxx

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Can and Will

Told she was too young to succeed, Ellie Simmonds’ drive has proven her doubters wrong.

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August is for…

augisforThe other day I was out for dinner with about 30 people I’d only just met when we started talking about musicals. I was split seconds from saying that my ultimate all-time favourite musical is The Lion King when the lady opposite me piped up with ‘My worst musical is The Lion King, I hate it.’

There was this moment.

A sort of slow motion conversation with myself that ran through my self-conscious brain. It went something like this…

 ‘Well you can’t say that you love The Lion King now can you!
…hang on, why can’t I?
Well because she’ll think you’re weird.
Yeah, but it’ll be awkward if you say anything, you’ve just met her, don’t cause a scene.
Wait. My opinion is just as valid as hers. I shouldn’t be quiet just to fit in.
Say it Meg!

And then two words settled in my mind that blew this whole conversation with myself away.

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And so I said it.

‘Oh really? I LOVE The Lion King, I think the whole production, the music, everything is just amazing.’
(Inside I was cheering myself, Woo! Go Meg! You said it!).

I’ve looked up the word ‘authentic’ and here’s what it means:

au·then·tic adjective
1. Definition: not false or copied; genuine; real.

Well I certainly know I’ve tried to copy people before (remember that blog about me copying my friend Sarah?) and I’ve mentioned before that I often worry what other people think of me. You know, whether I’m too loud or too dramatic, or not clever enough or whether what I’m saying is of any interest to anyone else.

I think I find it hard to be authentic; to be genuine and real because I worry that if I am, people won’t like it. I’m definitely getting there though, I’m trying hard to simply be me in all circumstances and situations.

I don’t know whether you’re the sort of person who doubts yourself, compares yourself or puts yourself down? Well here’s a challenge for you…

This month, try to be authentic. Be genuine and real.

What does being authentic look like? Well if it means being entirely, completely 100% you, then here’s a few ideas…

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out the planeSo during July we’ve started to look at the subject of justice.

What we’ve heard:

  • There are nearly 30million people are held as modern-day slaves.
  • 1 in 5 women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.
  • There are nearly 2 million children are being exploited in the commercial sex trade.

We’ve had a few guest blogs that have touched on ethical fashion and deciding to support those in need but the subject of justice is huge and we’ve barely scratched the surface. The more I find out about what’s happening in my community and around the world, the more I’m stirred, saddened but certain that there’s more we can do together.

So here’s a question for you…

What issues in your community are you passionate about?

Well, The Girls’ Brigade England and Wales would love to hear from you. They’ve created the ‘be the change’ survey which invites you to raise your voice and speak out about the things that you’re passionate about.

You can take the short survey here AND you could even be the winner of a brand new ipod – woop woop!


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valuable, precious, invaluable, prized, dear, rare, treasured, cherished,
incomparable, irreplaceable, incalculable, inestimable, beyond price.
Thanks Jade for sharing this with me!


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By Claire Rush

It’s summer – the season of sunshine, holidays, ice cream and lazy days with friends.


It’s also a great opportunity to refresh our wardrobes for all those picnics, parties and date nights. Any excuse for a shopping spree, eh?

I’m writing this on the plane as I head off on holiday. For me, a holiday is a great excuse to have a good old shop. You too? So last week, I hit Primark and some other high street shops…

Maxi dress for £10? Sure!

Floral top for £5? Yes please!

Funky necklace for £1? Why not!

I love coming home from town with new outfits and full bags – it gives me a post-shopping Cloud 9 feeling.

Well, I was quickly brought down to earth… by a hand-stitched label on a Primark floral dress.

‘Forced to work exhausting hours’, the label read.

Ok, it wasn’t on my dress but it was hand-stitched onto a dress that was purchased by 25 year old Rebecca Gallagher last week. You can read more about it here.

Nevertheless, this is actually a message for us all.

Someone in another part of the world carefully stitched this message hoping that we’d read it… and do something to help.

Being forced to work long hours isn’t fair. Being forced to accept very little money for that work is also not fair. It’s an injustice.

Unfortunately these working conditions are daily life for many people around the world in far-away places like India and Bangladesh. They’re forced to accept poor pay because they don’t have a choice. If they don’t accept these conditions, they don’t eat, they can’t afford a home or to pay for medicine for their family. Not much of a choice is it?

It’s a bit hard to swallow; the price other people pay for our fashion choices. How much did someone actually earn for the bright and colourful maxi dress that I paid a bargain £10 for? If you do the maths, probably not very much.

A long time ago, a very wise man called William Wilberforce said ‘You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.’ You and I know now the cost of some of our fashion choices; we’re not the real fashion victims.

One of my friends Charlotte is really passionate about ethical clothing. She says ‘Nobody should suffer to make my wardrobe. If people in the UK were forced to work in sweatshops for little or no pay for long hours and no bathroom breaks we’d be in uproar. So why should it be ok for that to happen in Vietnam, Cambodia or India, just because we can’t see those people?’

I asked Charlotte what can we do about it and here are some of her simple suggestions:

  1. Make a decision to care – we need to decide whether we actually truly care that people are hurt in the clothing industry. The reality is that most people don’t, as long as they get nice clothes for cheap prices they’re prepared to overlook everything else. The most important thing is that we’re willing to choose people over fashion
  2. Be informed – read the news, Google your favourite brand and look at the labels on your clothes to see where they’re made. You can check how well high street shops treat their workers and where your clothes are made on the Ethical Consumer website –
  3. Use your voice – join the #MakeFashionFree campaign at By using our collective voice we can push for change in the way our clothes are produced. Not everybody is called to be a full-time activist but this campaign allows us to do our bit in our own little corner of the world simply by tweeting the question on social media to our favourite shops: where do my clothes comes from?

Charlotte added a really good point… ‘This should be a positive campaign. It isn’t about boycotting Primark and Topshop. It’s about telling them we really want to shop with you and support our economy, but we want to know that we’re shopping wisely and you’re treating employees in a fair way.’

I don’t want anyone to be a victim of my fashion choices. I’m going to stop and think before I buy items. I’m going to research where my clothes are made. I’m going to show others that I care.

The question is, do you value people over fashion?

Let’s work together to stop people being fashion victims.
Read More…

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koko is 6 months old! woohoo!


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I’m dropping shopping!

lyds copyby Lydia Richards

In the final few weeks of my first year at uni I found myself praying a prayer which made me laugh out loud – ‘Lord Jesus, thank you for my overdraft.’ Dealing with the woes of rent, bills and buying my own food had taught me a hard lesson; I’m not the best manager of my own money. I also came to realise that I am, in fact, a great indulger in retail therapy. The combination of both of these had, unfortunately, left me with a wardrobe overflowing and a bank account… rather the opposite.

After having a conversation with a friend of mine I started to think about where my clothes were coming from. You hear so many stories about sweatshops; forced labour; slavery; but it’s so easy to ignore them or brush them off when you’re walking through a store filled with beautiful material, because it doesn’t seem real. But, having this past year as an eye opener to my own vices, I decided to challenge myself. I couldn’t shake the thought that, being a person so passionate about justice in my mind and in my heart, I needed to become passionate about it through my actions. Otherwise… what’s the point?

Sponsoring a child is something that I’ve always loved the idea of, but then said to myself ‘I don’t think I have enough money for that…’ or ‘I’m not sure I could keep that up…’. From September I’ve decided to stop making excuses. I’m going to give up clothes shopping for one year, and instead sponsor a child. This way I’m doing my little bit to aid the fight for justice and hopefully save a lot of money at the same time. It’s going to be challenging – I love clothes, I love shopping – but I can’t wait to see the results, not only in me, but in the child that I’m investing in!

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Colbie Caillat – Try

‘You don’t have to try so hard.
You don’t have to give it all away.
You don’t have to change a single thing.’

Thank you Colbie Caillat.

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fairtrade copyWise words from @timhughes77


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The story of the spilt milk…

A story about tears and taking deep breaths.

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‘I really wish I could just build my confidence up.’

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July is for…


I found this card on my desk the other day…


I picked it up and just held it for a while, staring at the two words before me ‘seek justice’. What did that mean? ‘Justice’ seems like such a massive word. So I looked them up in the dictionary and this is what it said…

Seek: An attempt to find, obtain or achieve, or  a desire.

Justice: The quality of being fair and reasonable. Just behaviour or treatment.

So it’s an attempt or desire to obtain and achieve fair and reasonable treatment.

Wow, what a challenge. Well if that’s what it means, why should I, and how do I, ‘seek’ it?

That card was given to me by International Justice Mission so I contacted them and asked them my whys and hows. This is what they told me:

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 15.06.40 Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 15.06.58 Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 15.07.11 Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 15.07.24When I read these statistics, my eyes welled up with tears, because these aren’t just statistics. Each one of these numbers is a person who has been sold, abused, beaten, raped, tricked, stolen, hurt, imprisoned and treated without the respect that they deserve as a human being.

This is Manna’s story from India…
When 14-year-old Manna ran away from her abusive home, she met a woman who offered her a job selling fabric. She accepted the position, and the woman provided her a place to sleep for the night. When Manna awoke in the morning, the woman was gone, and Manna discovered that she was in a brothel. For the next two years, she was held in the brothel and raped by customers for the profit of the brothel owners.

This is the world that we live in. Suddenly this warm, comfortable coffee shop I’m writing in is feeling quite uncomfortable and the coffee that cost me £2.45 is leaving a bit of a nasty taste in my mouth. I live in a safe place surrounded by people who love and care for me and, the truth is, I never give these people a thought, I feel really ashamed. If koko is a place to explore life together then it can’t just be you and I exploring our own lives. We need to have our eyes open, aware of what’s going on in the world and standing up to be part of the change. Why? Because, quite simply, life isn’t about only focusing on ourselves.

Ok, if that’s some of the injustice going on in the world, then how do we seek justice (remember that’s an attempt or a desire to achieve fair treatment).


To be honest, deep down my question is ‘‘Can I really make a difference?’

Mother Teresa said this: ‘I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.’

Woohoo! Go Mother Teresa! I love this. So I’ve chatted with Claire Rush (Remember her? She wrote ‘Because I am a girl…’ ) about injustice and she said this…

“Sometimes when I pause for a moment and look around me, I feel overwhelmed and paralysed – a bit like a rabbit in headlights. Injustice is all around us – on TV, on the web and in the newspapers. In fact, when I leave my house – injustices in my community like homelessness, poverty and bullying slap me around my face.

What can you and I really do?

A lot actually.

You and I are influencers. You influence people… and you probably don’t even know it. Do you have friends, family and followers on social media? This is your sphere of influence. You can choose to influence them in a positive (or a negative) way. Let’s go with positive – let’s be the change we want to see in the world.

Small changes that we make to our everyday life can have a massive impact on the world around us.

What small change are you going to make this week to make the world a fairer place?

–  Appreciate food – I love opening up my cupboard and munching on goodies whenever I want but millions of people inside and outside the UK aren’t blessed like me. People are struggling to feed themselves and their families. This isn’t fair. This week, why don’t you make sure that you eat everything off your plate? Maybe you could take the Live below the Line challenge and live on £1 a day –

Appreciate water – 90 million people on earth don’t have access to clean water. Many people have to walk for miles everyday in dangerous places just to get water to clean themselves. Let’s try and not waste water by leaving the tap running when you’re cleaning your teeth or boiling more water than you need for a cup of tea. Maybe you could spend a week walking to and from a supermarket a mile away and buying your water to experience what it’s like for many people around the world.

Love one another – one of the simplest things we can do is be nice to one another. Do we talk well of each other? Do we use social media to encourage each other? Do we look after the vulnerable people around us? Do we exclude people from our gatherings because they look different or talk differently?

So, what small change are you going to make to your life this week to make the world a fairer place? Remember, you’re an influencer.”

My hope is that in the months and years to come, each one of us will begin to cast our stones and that ripples will be felt around the world.




P.s My challenge for you this week is to tell 3 people that there are nearly 30 million slaves in the world today — more than any other time in history. Raise your voice and get people informed!

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‘I am a girl and that’s not something I should be ashamed of.’  Great work Always, this is such an awesome campaign! Thank you Grace and Holly for sharing it with me! xx

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Thanks for sending me this @KitKatzzz123, I totally agree! #saysomethingnice

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Making music.

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June is for…


I was on my way home from Oxford to Essex at about 10pm the other day.

I was driving down a dark country lane when I turned left and was faced with a big red sign saying ‘BLOCKED ROAD – follow diversion.’ I started to panic a little because it was really late, and I didn’t really know where I was going. So I began to follow the yellow diversion signs, left and left and right and then left until they disappeared.

I was all alone on this dark country road with no idea how to get home. So with a racing heart and, ok I admit it, tears rolling down my cheeks, I pulled over and called a friend.

The conversation went something like this…

‘I’m lost on my way home from Oxford! *sniff*’

‘Ok well where have you been? What have you seen as you’ve been driving along?’

‘I’ve seen a pub called The Fat Fox, a primary school and I’ve just crossed over a river on an old bridge’

‘Right and what can you see now?’

‘Erm, a field, lots of trees, the sky and two little roundabouts ahead’

‘Great, and where do you need to get to?’

‘I really want to get to the M25, once I’m there I’ll be ok’

‘I think I know roughly where you are! Put me on hands free and I’ll try to direct you.’

So I drove and constantly told him what I was seeing – a postbox, a row of old houses, a police station… and after about half an hour he guided me to the M25! Hooray! I was on my way home.

Is there somewhere in life that you want to get to? Something you want to achieve, but you’re not sure how to get there?

Well if your answer is yes then I think those questions that my friend asked me can be of some help to you too…

Where have you been?

e.g. done well at school; have been hurt and let down; part of a big family; suffered from depression; lonely; bullied.

Where are you now?

e.g. hopeful; exams coming up; negative; still lonely; fearful; ill.

Where do you think you’re meant to go?

e.g. become happier; go to uni; have a better group of friends; be more confident; kick depression.

Sometimes I think it’s really great to sit and chew over these questions. However cheesy it may sound, we’re all on a journey through life aren’t we? And there’s always things we can get better at and goals we can aim for.

Everyone is on a different journey. We’ve all been brought up differently, experienced different things and are heading in different directions.

I’m on a journey with God, spending time with Him and trying to become more of who He wants me to be. It’s an incredible journey, as I’m learning to be braver and more confident… but it’s not always been that way:           


It’s been a long old road but, when I look back, I can see that I’ve grown. All those things from ‘where I’ve been’ haven’t held me back. I’ve plodded onward, on the journey to become happier, more confident and more secure. I’m not there yet, but I’m definitely on my way.

Where are you heading? What can you see? Where are you really at, deep down? (only you know this)

Don’t let the fear of not knowing what’s next in life stop you. Keep seeking to become happier, keep moving forward towards your goal, but most of all, don’t let the things of the past stop you from growing and developing into who you were created to be.

 Keep on keeping on.

…and remember, don’t travel alone, include others in that journey of yours.

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This little light.

So how’s your ‘May is for making a difference’ going? If you need a bit of inspiration, have a look at this music video from LZ7. Remember, let your light shine.

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hs6 copyThanks @hannahstannard! It’s good to be reminded of this!

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Give a day.

So I spent the day helping out at a charity shop. It was so much fun! Can you make a difference by giving a day of your time to help others?

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May is for…


Two of my lovely friends, Grace and Hannah, have been away in Uganda and Thailand recently teaching English, working in a slum, and supporting refugees.

I think they’re totally amazing for being so brave and travelling so far to help other people. Deep down, even though I was so excited for their new adventures, it made me wonder whether I was really making a difference here in little old Essex… I told them ‘I could never be that brave, I could never do that.’

After they left, koko launched. I started writing blogs, and uploading some videos. Within a few weeks I received this message.

‘Your posts have really helped me.’

Such a simple sentence but one of the most encouraging messages I’ve received. These few words have made me realise that we can all make a difference where we are.

I’m no highly-qualified, super-educated blog extraordinaire, Hollywood film maker or counsellor. I’m not Grace, I’m not Hannah. I’m Meg. My adventure is not away in Uganda or Thailand, it’s here with you girls. I want this thing ‘koko’ to be a place where we’re encouraged, where we begin to see the good in ourselves and where we throw off the negativity we so often cling to. This is my adventure.

We’ve really got to stop comparing ourselves with each other. Not just comparing the way we look, but comparing who we are – our personalities and what we’re good at. I do it far too often. You have skills and talents (some of which you might not have even discovered yet!) that you can use to make a difference to the people around you.

I’m sure some of you are thinking ‘Me? I don’t know how to make a difference.’

Well here’s a few simple ideas… (you really don’t have to go to Uganda or Thailand, although you can if you want to. Tee hee!)

  • Look out for the person at school who’s being left out or looks lonely.
  • Be kind to your parents, they have feelings too!
  • Have a clear out of your wardrobe and take it to your local charity shop.
  • Offer to babysit for someone you know.
  • Encourage your favourite teacher by telling them how great they are.
  • Be kind(er) to your brother or sister.
  • Offer to help your elderly neighbour.

If this month we all decided to make more of a difference, can you IMAGINE what a happy month it would be?

So, #makeadifferenceinMay and never stop doing good.

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‘I am who I am’

I love stories. We’re all made of them aren’t we?… good ones and sad ones, funny ones and difficult ones. I always love hearing stories, especially if they can teach me something. So, I’m really pleased to be posting this today. I’d like to introduce you to Alex.

alex ballet 2Hello! My name is Alex Davis, and I’m currently in my final year at university training to be a ballet dancer.

The biggest thing I’ve battled with ever since I began training in London is my weight. I always knew I didn’t have the right look for ballet but I never let it stop me. However, especially in my second year, I’ve been told time and time again that my body isn’t right and I must lose weight.

I did everything I could, I went to the gym ’till I was exhausted, I changed my eating habits by cutting out dairy and gluten completely out of my diet and I even tried to stop eating but thankfully that didn’t last long because I love food too much. I felt imperfect and not worthy and I hated it.

Over time, I began to realise that I had a gift for dance and I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I am who I am, and I didn’t want to let them affect me mentally anymore, I didn’t want them to force me to be something I’m not. We’re perfect, especially in God’s eyes. We need to stand against what society tells us to be! We don’t need to change this or do that to make other people happy. We need to stand on our own two feet and declare our individuality. We’re beautiful, and wonderfully made.

Love Alex.alex

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It hurts that they left me out

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You Brought Me Home.

This is one of my favourite videos on youtube. Such a powerful message.

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May you blossom

mayyoublossomI’m sitting on a bench by the sea, and I just had to write to you. Above me is a beautiful blossom tree. As I write, little bits of blossom are falling off and surrounding me… by the time I finish writing this, I’m going to be covered.

The word ‘blossom’ has really been on my mind recently. Every time I see these trees, I’ve been thinking about us girls. Why? Because I see something that is absolutely beautiful and is growing each day. Each tree is a different shape and a different colour – with pinks, reds, yellows and creams. They remind me of us, each one completely unique in our own way.

All through the winter these trees have been bare, stripped back, lifeless with no colour. But today they line the streets, filling our towns with colour and beauty.

These trees remind me that seasons change, just like life. Some days you can feel colourless, almost lifeless like a tree in winter. But remember, this will pass. As I sit beneath this canopy of pink and look out towards the sea, I want to say this to you…

Like a tree, may you blossom.
May you discover and embrace your uniqueness.
May you bring colour and beauty to your town.
May your roots go down deep so that you can stand tall, unshaken.
And may this continue day after day,
Month after month,
Season after season
May you grow into more of who you’re meant to be.



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above all

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The story of the wrong name…

What have you been called in the past? Is there a name that you need to get rid of?

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‘Hello world, this is my birthmark!’

I love love love this Naomi! Thank you so much for sharing it with us all on koko. x


Hello world, this is my birthmark! Please get acquainted 😉
It’s been hiding away under a mass of hair for several years,
but post-chop, it’s time for it to get some sun!
No, it’s not a rash, your food hasn’t caused an allergic reaction…
yes, I know it’s there..
no, it’s not a love-bite, bruise, burn…
and yes, I’m very happy it being there 😀 
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Making new friends

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April is for…


Have you seen any of #thebestthingsinlife photos that I’ve posted?


Read More…

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A friend who’s changed

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To read more about my best things in life, check out my original post.
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‘How do I deal with people passing away?’

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Sleepy meerkat… teehee!

Haha! Girls I laughed SO much at this youtube video so I just had to share it with you!
Hope you find him as funny as I did. Bahahaa!!

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look for bestfin

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My amazing friend Hannah is coming home from Thailand! Hooray!
I just wanted to share with you her reflection on her time away. #countyourblessings

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‘The ripple is starting!’

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 15.42.40Abbie P! I just had to share this comment that you’ve posted on the latest vlog.
THANK YOU! It’s really made my day. I can’t tell you how happy I am that the ripple is starting.
Hope you have a fantastic weekend in the sun, lots of love, Meg x


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The story of the hairy bum…

So this is what happened on my way to Northumberland.

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‘People do things I know my parents wouldn’t want me doing’

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Because I am a girl…

by Claire Rush



I love being a girl. Guys are great… but I wouldn’t change being a girl and so would you. After koko posted a question earlier in the week, you told us all the AMAZING things that you love about being a girl. You love the incredible choices of clothes (and shoes), that you can paint your nails bright colours and you have the opportunity to give birth to a new life (deep stuff)!

But we know that there is some rubbish stuff too – in fact, some of you even struggled to think of anything ‘good’. Unfortunately in some parts of the world, it can be tough and even dangerous to be a girl.

I am more likely to not be able to read and write because I am a girl.

65 million girls are missing from classrooms across the world – yes, 65 million.

Because I am a girl, my wedding will probably not be the happiest day of my life.

Every three seconds, another girl is forced to marry someone she doesn’t want to.

I am more likely to be missing from the face of the earth because I am a girl.

Around 113 to 200 million girls and women are simply missing across the world due to violence, trafficking, neglect or because they have never even been given the chance to be born.

This is difficult stuff, but a reality. How does it make you feel?

It makes me sad. It upsets me. Then it makes me angry.

Most of all, these statistics make me passionate; passionate to remember that they’re not just numbers, they represent amazing individual girls. It motivates me to want to change the world I live in and help shape it to be a place that values boys and girls equally.

Today is International Women’s Day; a time to celebrate our own value and potential as girls! I’d love you to get involved too.

  1. Why don’t you learn more about what it’s like to be girl around the world? Plan’s Because I Am a Girl is a great website and you could download the inspiring Girl Rising movie on iTunes.
  2. Do you have some free time? You could get involved with some projects in your local community or globally. Remember that you have a voice – and it’s powerful. You could speak with a generation of hurt, silenced, forgotten and neglected women… and bring transformation.
  3. Let’s just celebrate being girls and enjoy it. Do you know that you are significant? There is no one on earth like you. You are unique. Imagine what would happen if you and I REALLY believed that. We would be dangerous (in a good way)!

Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day together. Let’s believe that being a girl is powerful, amazing and incredible… because the world needs to see that it really is.

Love Claire

I’m from ‘Norn Iron’ and I have a dog called
Benny Buster Benasti Bentley Rush – yes really!
I love travelling, books, movies, DVD box-sets,
swimming and shaping the culture which surrounds me.
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Being on a speeding train.

To read more about my best things in life, check out my original post.
Tweet me a photo that you’ve taken of your best things in life and I’ll upload my favourites!


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Lupita Nyong’o, you’re incredible.

I just HAD to share this with you. wow. Lupita’s words are so powerful and so very true.

‘Get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside’.

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March is for…

I found out recently that one of my friends from school has been in hospital for five years with anorexia. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her – what she’s going through and what she feels about herself.

As I’ve sat down today to write a little something for March, it’s not just my friend that is on my mind… it’s also you girls who have sent me questions about difficult things that you’re facing at the moment. Just as I’ve put pen to paper the two words that are filling my head are

march on.

It sounds kind of cheesy, but I mean it from the depths of my heart.

Whatever you’re going though, wherever you are, whatever has happened in the past, march on, keep going and never give up.

Know that you are enough, just as you are. You are talented even if you don’t know it. You are beautiful even if you don’t believe it. You are not alone even if you think you are.

There is so much out there in this world to see, do and understand – sometimes it’s overwhelming and we can end up feeling a bit lost.

Sometimes you can feel like you’re in a long dark tunnel where things are painful, confusing and you hurt. All you want to do is sit down and stay there because you’re tired of it all. It’s hard to see, because it’s dark where you are, but there are lots of people walking beside you experiencing similar feelings on their own journey.

Don’t stay still, stand up, lift your head and march forward towards the end of the tunnel, step by step.

You might not see the light yet, but I have and it’s worth running towards.



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Duct Tape Surfing

If you watch just one video on the internet this week, let it be this one. It’s utterly beautiful and incredibly moving all the way until the end. Thank you Natalie Clarkson for sending this to me, I love it.

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Bike rides.

To read more about my best things in life, check out my original post.
 Tweet me a photo that you’ve taken of your best things in life and I’ll upload my favourites.
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Smiling really is infectious.

rlatOk, I’m going to tell you a secret… I love to people watch. I know it’s odd but something I LOVE to do is go to a coffee shop, get a yummy iced latte and watch people wander past the coffee shop window. In fact, I’m doing it right now. As everyone walks past, I love playing this game where I work out what animals they’d be.

There are all sorts of people that pass my window; I see super posh people off to the office with their briefcases, I see yummy mummies, there’s always lots of joggers, people on their mobiles, I see grandparents and couples hand in hand. However, one thing I’ve noticed during my people watching days is just how miserable everyone looks.

So, it’s a lovely day in the heart of Essex but today, as I sipped my coffee, something unexpected happened…  I saw my favourite person to walk past the window for weeks…

It was an old lady who was clearly struggling to walk in her old age, as she hobbled along in the sunshine with all her bags, she lifted her head as she passed a girl of about 17. The old lady preceded to give the young girl a beaming smile (the sort where you can’t help but smile back). The girl gave a big smile in return but as she did I saw her catch the eye of a 50 something year old woman – who also caught this smile revolution!

All three women walked away smiling. I feel like giving them all a roaring standing ovation – but I can’t, I’m in a coffee shop.

I love that old lady.

I wish more people would smile… not only does it make people watching a happier experience for me, but it really is catching.

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love is

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The story of the ripped card…

Boyfriends, broken hearts and being patient.

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‘I am learning to love myself’

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Beinginthecountryside1Being in the countryside.

To read more about my best things in life, check out my original post.
 Tweet me a photo that you’ve taken of your best things in life and I’ll upload my favourites.


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Nasty texts

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Being a girl.

I had a great afternoon chatting with the lovely Emilie, Grace, Lydia and Elizabeth. Thank you girls! I love your thoughts about beauty, opinions on photoshop and ideas on how we can become happier with ourselves just as we are. x

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February is for…


This is me and my friend Sarah…


We became friends at church when we were 11. I thought she was SO cool – she had this long, glossy straight hair and mine was really curly. I decided I wanted straight hair like Sarah’s.

I didn’t own any straighteners, so I thought if I brushed it and brushed it, it would eventually go straight. It didn’t. I ended up looking like a poodle.

Sarah had glasses so I became determined to get them too. I convinced my mum to take me to the opticians and when I was told that my eyes were absolutely fine I was gutted.

Sarah also had a brace with these really cool pink-coloured bands. I was annoyed when the dentist told me that my teeth were straight and I didn’t need one. My next aim was to have writing like Sarah’s, it was all swirly and curly. I practised and practised but it never looked the same. I desperately wanted to be like Sarah but no matter how hard I tried, I had to admit it… I was nothing like her.

A few years ago, I told her all of this and I was surprised when she laughed her head off. She said ‘Did you not realise that I wanted curly hair? I hated my glasses! And I wished that I didn’t have to have a brace!’ We had a really long chat and talked about how insanely different we are.

Sarah has taught me a lot about friendship…

She’s helped to build my confidence over the years and made me appreciate what makes me me. She always shows an interest in what I’m doing, and it makes me feel loved and valued when she asks about how my week has been. She spends ages listening to me as I pour my heart out over coffee when I’ve had a rubbish day. She tells me that I encourage her to try things she’s never done before and take her on adventures.

What we’ve realised is that even though we’re completely different, we bring out the best in each other… and that, I think, is the sign of one great friendship. But what happens when friendships aren’t going great? Sarah and I have had our difficult times and I’ve actually heard that quite a few of you are finding it hard with some of your friends at the moment. So I’ve been having a bit of a think and have chatted to a few different people; if you really want your friendships to get stronger then here’s a few little suggestions that we think might help…



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arriving home

Arriving home.

To read more about my best things in life, check out my original post


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Mandisa – Overcomer

If things are tough or you’re feeling down right now, take a listen to this amazing song by Mandisa.
You’re an overcomer.

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The best things in life.

A little while ago I was chatting to a few of you girls about wanting ‘stuff’. I asked you what it is that everyone wants at the moment and here’s what you said…

An iPad, Louboutins, tickets to festivals, a car, expensive make-up and then one of you said this:

‘Girls want anything that will make them look rich’ 

and that comment has totally stuck with me.

I really think we live in a world that tells us to BUY MORE! WANT MORE! and HAVE MORE! I was reading The Guardian the other day and it said ‘In an entire day we’re likely to see 3,500 marketing messages’. Woah! 3,500! Each one bombarding us with suggestions and fueling our desire to ‘want’.

But I absolutely love this quote…


You know like, a beautiful sunset, cuddles with a baby, laughing till your sides hurt… none of these cost loads of money but I really do believe they’re the best things in life.

I’ve decided, I want to pay more attention to the world around me and to look out for the simpler things. So watch out once a week as I share my ‘best things in life’.

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The story of the suitcase…

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January is for…

‘A new year, a new you!’

That’s what I read every January in magazines. The pages are full of diet tips, resolutions, ideas about revamping your wardrobe and suggestions about how a new haircut can make you feel like a new person. It’s all about ‘out with the old and in with the new.’

But all these messages they’re giving me about needing to become someone new, someone more interesting and fashionable leaves me with this big question…

What’s wrong with me as I am?

So I Googled the word ‘resolution’ today and I found out it means ‘a firm determination’ and that’s really got me thinking. What am I determined about? That’s a really strong word.

So I’ve decided – I don’t want to start this new year going along with the trend of reinventing myself. Instead I want to be absolutely determined to just be me.

But, to be honest, that’s really hard because often I look at others and think ‘ooh I’d love to have her glossy hair’, ‘Oh I’d love to be able to play the piano like him’, ‘I’d love to be confident like her’ or ‘Ohh she’s got a degree, I’d like a degree.’ It’s really easy to compare yourself to others around you, I do it all the time, but I don’t want to spend the year trying to be someone I’m not.

I want to be the best me that I can. Trying my hardest to be a good sister, daughter and friend. Trying to put others before myself. Trying my best to patient and generous… no new diets or haircuts here!

Of course there’s always things we can get better at, but perhaps we need to stop being so hard on ourselves, remember… we’re all a work in progress.

In 2018 I’m determined to just be me – nothing more, nothing less. So will you join me and make a resolution to do the same?

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let the adventure begin

Oh my gosh – you’re here, on koko! I’ve been looking forward to this day for SO long.

If you’re wondering what koko is all about, then take a look at the let the adventure begin film, it tells you everything.

I didn’t mention it in the film but a little while ago I travelled around the UK and met with loads of you girls at festivals, youth groups and in coffee shops. I had such a laugh getting to know you all, and actually you made me realise that we all questions…

As we got chatting you asked me all sorts of things like:

My parents argue all the time and it upsets me, do you have any advice?
What do I do if my boyfriend is pressuring me to have sex?
My friend is being really horrible, what should I say?
I cry all the time and nothing makes me feel happy. What should I do?

Literally, we all have SO many questions. Me included!

And I just thought, wouldn’t it be amazing to have a place to talk about all this stuff? And from all this, koko was born – a place for us girls to stick together and find out more about things that matters to us.

So I hereby invite you to get involved! I’d love you to be a part of this… if there’s a video you’d like me to make, let me know! If you see something that you think should be on koko, send it to me! If you have a question, email me.

So follow koko on Twitter, like the Facebook page and please make sure you say hello!

I’m just so excited because this adventure is just beginning and I can’t wait to meet more of you girls along the way.

Lots of love,

Meg xx

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Let the adventure begin.

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Did you know?

Did you know your body is amazing? (I had so much fun filming this for you!)

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A friend in need

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