#GlobalSussexBabyShower, A Good Home

A Royal Surprise

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (aka Harry and Meghan) were caught by surprise last week when an online baby shower was mysteriously launched in their honour.

They hadn’t seen it coming, and no-one knew the identity of the people behind it.

Blog Photo - baby Shower - Sussexes

What the Duke and Duchess of Sussex knew was that money and good wishes were pouring in from across the world to support some of their favourite charities, as part of something called #GlobalSussexBabyShower. 

They sent their thanks via Instagram:

Blog Photo - Baby Shower thanks from DDoS

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Starting today, I’m sharing the story of the people behind the charitable drive, why they did it, and how I became involved.

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If The Sussex Squad were an organization, it would be a multi-national, spread across dozens of countries.

But there is no organizational flow-chart, no official leaders, no official address, and no official membership. Instead, there are thousands of devoted fans who share a common affection for Harry and Meghan, and a desire to protect them from media and online abuse.

Blog Photo - MM and PH in Morocco - Credit Kensington Palace

The #GlobalSussexBabyShower is the first project they’ve undertaken together, and the planning of it was sudden and … unusual.

Four women – 3 from the US, 1 from the Caribbean — found themselves thinking along similar lines in the last week of March.  All wanted to “do something” to show their admiration for the couple’s compassion and empathy, and to combat  “online bullying” of the couple.

“Mel” saw a tweet “from someone who said they hoped the Duke and Duchess know they are supported”.  She responded with an idea: Why not hold an online baby shower, and invite Sussex fans worldwide to donate to orphanages and children’s charities?

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Florida seniors - Credit - Sun-Sentinel
Credit: Lisa Sileo, Acts Retirement

“Mimi”, also American, saw an article about a group of Florida senior citizens who hosted a baby shower for Meghan and donated baby supplies. She thought: “ ‘What a pure and sweet idea’.”

“Luckily, my fellow Sussex Squad members had the same idea. I saw that Mel had tweeted about having an online baby shower and I added that we could also raise money for the charities that Harry and Meghan support. Freepeeper and I started DM-ing ideas.”

Blog Photo - Baby shower - Meghan Harry and Child
Credit: WellChild

The minute “Brenda”, a university lecturer from the Caribbean, read the idea on Twitter, she became enthusiastic about it, “not knowing it would be such a huge hit”.

That was Thursday, March 28.

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I, meanwhile, was also ‘Dm-ing’ with someone that night.

When the online shower idea first came up on Twitter, someone tweeted that perhaps I’d be interested in doing a story about it.

“Send me a news release,” I tweeted back.  I got no reply.

I contacted Tina, one of two women who run the “Sussex Squad Podcast” heard by followers from 71 countries. We’d communicated when I was researching an earlier story.

Blog Photo - Credit WellChild Awards

I soon discovered that no-one in the small group of planners knew how to write a news release. (Highly accomplished in their business and professional fields, yes, but not in dealing with the media.)

My husband and I drafted the release, telling the Sussex Squad members to fill in the gaps and send it out. It was a bit strange: I had never drafted a news release that would be sent back to myself!

My husband, a former newsroom editor and TV news anchor, said, “This idea could be really successful if done right. Why don’t you help them?”

Tina (of Sussex Squad Podcast) would later say that I lit a fire under them that Thursday night. An emergency conference call was held.

Before the night was out, I helped the group to draw up an initial media list, assign roles, choose the charities that would benefit, and create an overall strategy using Twitter and traditional media to get the larger group involved.

 The plan was made and set in motion.

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Freepeeper worked swiftly to design a video and text for Twitter. It was attractive and skillfully worded.

Blog Photo - Baby Shower

Known to be eloquent and level-headed, she agreed to be the group’s spokesperson.

“When Freepeeper actually ran with the idea,” Brenda says, “I felt a rush of satisfaction because we could finally do something for this beleaguered couple that would make us happy and shine a light on their work and positive contribution.”

Blog Photo - Baby shower Announcement

The Twitter announcement was launched the next day, Friday, March 29 and quickly retweeted by members of The Sussex Squad.  It announced the kick-off for that Sunday, which happened to be Mothering Sunday in Britain.

But excited fans couldn’t wait.  Charities started receiving donations from around the world almost right away.

Despite my husband’s prediction, I was shocked at how fast the campaign grew. I wasn’t the only one.

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Tomorrow: Part 2 – The Charities are inundated.

 

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Childhood, Children with disabilities, Courage, Inspirational, Joyful Moments, Kindness, The Gift of Mobility

Inspired to Act

What makes a person decide to step up and help someone far away?

Last week, I promised to tell you about my son-in-law’s recent experience.

Tim is based on the west coast and manages big projects in the corporate world. A year ago, Tim had a skiing accident that injured his knee and required major surgery. It left him struggling to get around.  Then something else happened.

The story and photos Tim shared with our family are so moving that I asked him to tell you the story – his story –  directly.

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A GIFT OF MOBILITY

by Tim McCarthy

Recovering from a broken knee and the installation of three pins was not fun. 

Then my uncle Jack McCarthy told me about CanUgan, a Canadian-based charity he supports. 

Blog Photo - CanUgan - Jack with Mayor & Dep Mayor of Kasese
Mayor
Kabbyanga Baluku Godfrey Kime, with   Jack McCarthy &
Deputy Mayor
Baluku Peter

Its mission is to provide medical assistance technologies to people with disabilities in the Kasese District of Uganda. 

When I learned about the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities there and CanUgan’s focus on building local capacity, I felt compelled to support through fundraising.  Months later, my uncle asked me to come with him to Uganda to see for myself.

Blog Photo - CanUgan - Women with crutches and cane

In Uganda, Robert, a local board member in the Kasese district, told us about a 12-year old girl we would meet: Katisume Florence.

Four years prior, when she was just 8 years-old, Florence contracted fistula and lost the ability to walk.  Her parents carried her short distances around the yard.  She would also drag herself on the ground, sometimes in the mud.

What would a 12 year old who had undergone such adversity be like?  Hardened?  Broken?  Sad?  I didn’t know what to expect.

We arrived at Florence’s home early in the morning.  Word quickly spread that “mzungus” (foreign visitors) had arrived with the deputy mayor, Peter.   A crowd formed around him as he introduced us to the community and Florence. 

Blog Photo - CanUgan - Florence 1

One of Peter’s fellow board members brought a wheelchair, donated by our local partner organization,  KADUPEDI, and presented it to Florence.

She was confused at first.  Apparently she had no expectation that she’d ever receive a wheelchair even when it was 20 feet away from her.  She approached the chair hesitantly.  Peter quickly instructed her on how to pull herself up.  She nodded, gave it a moment’s consideration then pulled herself up into the seat. 

She smiled.  Peter tapped the side-bars on the tires and reminded her to use them to propel the chair forward and backward.  Her smile grew and she started rolling, picking up some decent speed before stopping about 20 feet later.

She received some instruction on turning, and she turned herself around.  She sped back towards us and went 20 feet  in the other direction before turning around again.  As she made her way back to us is when I took the picture. 

Blog Photo - Florence
Katisume Florence

At the time, I was inspired by her courage, determination and sheer joy at being able to move independently. 

It was days later, when reviewing the picture, that I noticed the terrible sores on her knees.  It was only then that I really stopped to think about how painful and miserable the last four years’ struggle must have been for this child and her family.

I was inspired and humbled. 

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Tim has a strong social conscience, but as you can tell, his experience in Kasese was profound.  He has raised $3,000 in donations for CanUgan’s 2019 operating year.  Such donations help provide individuals with items from hearing aids to wheelchairs. 

Blog Photo - CanUgan Boy in Transport device

To donate: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/canugan-disability-support/

 

 

A Good Home, Expatriates in France, Family Stories, Famous Places, Home, Living in France

At Home With Nancy Ing-Duclos

Nancy Ing-Duclos is a TV news producer and online publisher of INSPIRELLE.

Blog Photo - Nancy INSPIRELLE COVER 3

France has been home for almost 30 years.

She loves it. “I can happily say:  ‘Je suis chez moi’ .  I’m at home.”

This spectacular rooftop view of Paris, by the way, is from her home.

Blog Photo - Nancy Rooftop Terrace - Photo Credit Alexis Duclos
Credit: Alexis Duclos

Long before Paris, however, Nancy spent her childhood in Windsor, Ontario.

“When my father bought the house (in Windsor), we were the first Chinese family on the street and the neighbors, I’ve been told, drew up a petition. We felt the need to blend in and soon, the fireworks display on our lawn every Canada Day on July 1st  and our elaborate Christmas lights made our home indistinguishable from other Canadian homes.”

Nancy went to university in Toronto and got her first big job in TV news in the 80’s “at a time when Canada’s multicultural communities were finding and defining their voices.” 

That’s how we met.  Nancy and I were both young journalists at CBC TV.

But a car accident changed her perspective on life.

“So when I met my French husband, Alexis, six months later at a G7 Economic Summit, I said to myself, ‘You never know when tomorrow will be your last day’ ”.

Blog Photo - Nancy at Work

She moved to Paris and worked at various news jobs for years.

“Paris is truly one of the most beautiful, cultural and dynamic cities in the world but once the honeymoon period wears off, the reality can be rude. Moving abroad is a very humbling experience. No one knows you or knows what you have achieved or are capable of.

“I had to start from scratch. I read loads of books, attended classes, explored each of the French neighborhoods in my quest to become a “Paris insider”. And what I learned is I will never feel totally ‘French’ but ‘je suis bien dans mes baskets’. I’m comfortable in my sneakers.”

Blog Photo - Nancy and Alexis

Did she ever imagine this kind of life?

“I always thought the person who married me would have to learn to accept the Chinese culture ingrained in me. In fact, I’ve done most of the work in the relationship by learning to speak French, reinventing my career, tackling bureaucracy and understanding all the nuances of my adopted home, France.”

A car accident had changed her attitude to life.  And it was a car accident that changed her career:

“Covering the death of Princess Diana in a Paris tunnel landed me the position I still hold today with a major American television network.

“I have been privileged to interview presidents and pop stars, produce major live shows from iconic locations. It’s also been sobering to witness the tragic aftermath of plane crashes and terrorist attacks on French soil.”

Alexis built them a small house on a hill, next to the woods.  They and their son Jordan moved to Sèvres 20 years ago.

Blog Photo - Nancy - Paris suburbs drawing

Blog Photo - Nancy Alexis Jorxdan

“Retreating to the suburbs was the only way we could own a house.  I left the city of lights reluctantly but Alexis promised me that if I was unhappy two years later, we could move back to Paris.

“On my first night in my new home, I slept soundly. No more waking up to every creak of my Parisian neighbors, conversations sneaking through walls and babies crying down the hallway.”

Her son Jordan could walk to school and play in the woods. It didn’t take Nancy long to realize that they lived only a short drive to the Seine River; Paris was only 20 minutes away by car.  She decided to learn to drive in France.

Blog Photo - NANCY TABLE SETTING CORSICA

“Last summer, my entire Canadian family and close friends, 25 in all, traveled to France and Corsica to help me celebrate with my husband’s French family.

Blog Photo - Nancy and Family and Friends

“It was pure joy for two weeks. Never have I felt so at home with the people I love the most.”

In 2015, Nancy and two expatriate friends launched INSPIRELLE.

Blog Photo - Nancy INSPIRELLE Team - Photo Credit Alexis Duclos
Credit: Alex Duclos

“We created INSPIRELLE to inspire, connect and empower international women in France. Having experienced the challenges of living abroad, raising a family in an unfamiliar setting with different sets of rules and values as well as reinventing myself at work, I wanted to share stories and resources to help women in their personal and professional lives.”

Blog Photo - Nancy - INSPIRELLE_cover

Sixty contributing writers share advice, expertise, and personal stories on how to navigate and celebrate life in Paris.

Nancy, Alexis and Jordan are now thinking about a bigger home to accommodate visiting relatives or friends.

It will have “a large kitchen with a long dining table to host dinners. We figure the only way to afford that is to move a bit further outside of Paris. We’ll build a beautiful house so everyone will want to come to visit us.

“For me, home is where I am surrounded by family and friends.”

~~

 

A Good Home

International Childrens Book Day

And here’s another wonderful thing I didn’t expect. Thank you, Jo Robinson! And for your commitment to Myrtle. I’ve been so busy with helping others, I have been ignoring my own books!

Jo Robinson

Today is International Children’s Book Day. It is also Hans Christian Anderson’s birthday. The annual event is sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People and has been celebrated since 1967. Each year a different national section gets to be the international sponsor of the day. An author from that country writes a message to the children of the world and a well-known illustrator designs a poster for that year. The 2019 sponsor is Lithuania, and both the message and this year’s poster are by author illustrator Kęstutis Kasparavičius, with the theme for the year being “Books Help Us Slow Down”.

The objective of the day is to share great children’s books, so of course, who but the fabulous Myrtle the Purple Turtle could I share on such a day?

Written by Cynthia Reyes for her daughter Lauren, the first Myrtle book shares the lesson that while…

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