Stop Online Abuse.

Being in the public eye for the past two years has subjected me to many forms of online abuse be it indirectly or directly. I have witnessed the “mob mentality” escalate appallingly fast when someone may have a different school of thought, or by simply being different. Take the time for example when I was attacked for choosing to speak instead of sign in my BBC interview. I naturally speak when I am with hearing people as I am more comfortable doing so yet my choice to speak was not respected by those who demanded that I signed just because I come from a deaf family. I was put between a rock and a hard place and I was damned if I did sign and damned if I didn’t. The sheer number of sheep flocking was astonishing – thank God I am not a sheep! These days, too many people take advantage of peer pressure to manipulate and dictate others what to do.

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” – Maya Angelou.

There will always be someone who can put forwards different perspectives on issues and situations due to their experiences in life and knowledge, making the impact for change greater – surely everyone deserves to be respected with kindness just as much as the next person regardless? It is extremely healthy to have variations of viewpoints so one can be educated and decide – especially for themselves.

When having a different opinion one tends to be singled out as a “Troll” yet to single that person out as a troll must be another form of abuse in itself.

The World Wide Web.

The World Wide Web.

However I have recently experienced a new form of online abuse and I have been left saddened by it. This experience has made me want to retreat, have nothing at all to do with the world wide web to distance myself from all the negativity and to restrain myself from reacting. Life is far too short.

To go onto social media and post potentially libellous material which names a person, persons and so on when they cannot defend themselves surely must be another form of online abuse? Especially when there is no evidence that the named party has attacked or done anything wrong yet people feel the urge to personally attack the named party? And what’s worse, people adopting the “mob mentality” by joining in and adding fuel to the fire. No one is born with hatred – it is instilled and mimicked. If only respect worked in the same sense.

Seeing that occur from a distance opened my eyes and I soon realised I had been in the very same position numerous times now. Unfortunately I know I am not alone in this experience for a friend of mine was personally attacked recently by someone posting a video onto social media publically naming him and criticising him. If only he had sorted his dispute out privately with the named person – he would not be now known as a bully within our circle of mutual friends.

I will not tolerate or condone any form of online abuse around me especially bullying. I made it clear that I would not stand for this within the Tree House in the form of personal attacks (or when we are named outside the safety perimeters of the Tree House which subsequently is inviting us to take action) or be associated with those seen to be contributing to the very public online form of abuse. Yet making it clear, I was inevitably set upon. My position as founder in trying to protect the Tree House from any potential damage was questioned, undermined. oppressed and criticised. Being unbiased and diplomatic sets myself apart from others and this helps me to look outside the box – as always I will do as I deem just, adapting to each situation based on my experience. Was my being criticised and slated another form of online abuse? Maybe not in their eyes but it certainly felt like it to me.

To have thick skin is very important and deaf people are extremely vulnerable to the various forms of abuse, be it online, within society, at school, at work and unfortunately at home. In all walks of life, there will always be that someone who will try to drag others down no matter who they may be, for being different. My scars have healed over many times now hence why my skin has grown thicker and if I can refuse to be manipulated, so can you. Positivity rules!

Do not encourage any form of online abuse because these emotions which are associated with being bullied will exhibit themselves within the victim(s).

◾Depression

◾Shame

◾Low self-esteem

◾Sadness

◾Difficulty trusting others

◾Anger

◾Anxiety

◾Frustration

◾Fear

The offenders’ hatred should not dictate your time and you would only be lowering yourself to their level if you join in or encourage it. Rise above it because people who show their true colours in this manner deserve to be reported to the police so keep a record of all the evidence and present it in order to take action. I have done this in the past being a victim and they have listened – they issued warnings to the offending parties. With actions comes consequences – if they can dish it out, they can certainly take it.

Please, don’t have one rule for yourself and another for others – put yourself in the victim’s shoes and walk hundreds of miles in it first, taking a look in the mirror before passing any judgement or criticism.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jnr.

It is about time online abuse in its various forms is stopped. Help by being a part of that change in stopping personal attacks, cyber bullying and all forms of online harassment. Fight back – especially for justice.

Thank you, for your time and patience.

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

Some useful links for your reference:

Internet Safety

Bully Online

Crown Prosecution Service

Taking action about Harassment.

Harassment Act 1997

and last but not least,

I would like to applaud Dr Taylor.

Update: Defamatory gossip is now being spread about The Tree House and myself which is once again another form of abuse – Please keep evidence of this as we have built up a case which we have taken action on with positive results.

Charity Begins At Home by Kim Lucas

I always remember being intrigued by charity shops and those that worked in them. I would often consider applying but would remember that it wasn’t considered cool and I didn’t have enough “street cred” to be different. So I would continue walking by.

It wasn’t until I was around 16/17 that I began to frequent the charity shops in the hope of finding a great bargain. I really did find some great stuff. My most memorable finds were the white earmuffs with the bendy plastic and some red ankle wellies that had laces and fur lining. I again began to contemplate giving up my time to work in the shops. I figure that working in retail would be good experience for any future employment prospects. Although, by then, I was drinking in the local pub and found my social life and boyfriend were more important.

Jumping forward ten years and a lot has happened in terms of life experiences and lessons. I returned to University at the lovely age of 25, I was able to pick a module for the second semester. Out of sixty students, a friend and myself chose to take Documentary Photography. By the amount of bitching and moaning that followed from those taking the other class, I knew quickly I had chosen correctly. I know some of them secretly resented watching me swan around campus with a camera whilst they were frantically making calls for locations and casting.

For my first assignment, I did a self-portrait, of my ears. I had only just started wearing my hearing aids again and wanted to get the viewer to feel as uncomfortable looking at the images as I felt wearing them. It worked. I didn’t even need to explain myself, as my lecturer perfectly understood. For my final assignment within this class, I had to chose a subject and present it within 7-12 images. It had to have a narrative. After a while of thinking of subjects, I decided to choose my sister. I wanted to present the various parts of her personality and her life. Despite never being particularly close with my sister, I’ve come to admire the person she has become, although I’d never tell her that!

When I suggested the idea to my lecturer, she was confused. I gave more information. “She’s not just my sister,” I said. “She’s a mother, a carpenter, a partner, a gardener, a wine maker, a volunteer, a motorcyclist.” With her approval and a date to pop back to Norfolk, I booked a camera and a train and went home.

My project was simple, take lots of shots of my sister doing all of her stuff and pick one of each. The one shoot I remember most was her volunteering. I knew she helped with the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) but had never really understood what she did. We went along on the Sunday morning for training for new recruits. It was amazing to see her in the full kit and training others.

After the weekend, I edited my project and presented it to the class. I got a first. This is the highest grade. I was so happy.

When I returned from studying abroad in Canada, one of our first classes was based on putting forward ideas for a documentary. After a quick brainstorm, I decided to pitch the RNLI. I figured my sister would be able to help with arrangements. I managed to get my project chosen and with a small team, we set upon creating it.

The whole process afterwards was chaotic and a nightmare and almost certainly contributed to one of my lowest points and a very consuming depression. The team broke down into two groups. I spent an entire day editing (as in sat at a computer for 23hours) before deciding it was enough and going home to sleep and cry. That happened twice. It was the worst and hardest project I had dealt with, made much harder by the fact that I was Director. It’s not a role I am comfortable with and despite being a little bit bossy at times, I prefer to hide behind the computer.

I eventually crawled through it. As we presented it to our class, it made the 4am lip-syncing worth it. Especially when other groups had audio and video horrendously out of sync as times, I was cringing. I felt I had done myself proud and mostly, the RNLI justice.

I didn’t want to end up with something that looked like high schoolers had made it, to embarrass my sister and never be allowed to go along to see them training on a Sunday morning again. I learned so much about the charity during a ridiculous amount of research that I wanted to sign up. Immediately. Unfortunately, to be able to participate, there are certain health checks and good hearing is one of them. I fully understand that and completely agree, as I wouldn’t want someone’s life at risk due to my frequencies not working that day.

Inspired by my sister and her selfless effort to run to the boathouse at anytime day or night to save those at sea, I wanted to find a way that I could work towards making a difference. This is why I began volunteering at AOHL. I may just be on reception but it’s great experience for me to be in such an environment. I get to socialise and meet all kinds of people. It’s helped my confidence in so many ways. It’s also a great feeling when someone comes in looking for advice or help and that I am able to do so. Whether it’s just a chat or spending time with someone who is struggling, it’s helping them.

So although I was never brave enough to offer my time when I was younger, my sister and witnessing the RNLI has encouraged me to do it now. And it’s so completely worth it. I made my final edits recently and also added captions so that even more people can enjoy it.

I hope others are able to find something to inspire them to give back to the community or help someone else as much as I did.

Here is a link to my documentary, don’t forget you can load the subtitles! :

Giving & Gratitude

When it comes to kindness, there is absolutely no need to discriminate against any identifiable means because it is about humanity in general and acts of giving without any expectations of receiving in return.

For so long there has been a frustration of sorts building within me seeing the simplest things in life being taken for granted. Be it the roof over your heads, certain (branded) clothes being worn, the hot meals and comfy mattresses you lay upon, the NHS and free medicine being provided for us – the list is endless. The extremely close shave I experienced a couple of years ago taught me to take nothing for granted, now cherishing every little thing and being all around me.

“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle” – Plato

For this reason, I am now trying my very best to spare a moment to remember those who may have been left outdoors, especially during those cold winter nights. Recently I, via the Tree House, have been able to appease that frustration of helplessness. In true spirit of the Tree House, this has meant this is now starting to catch on with other dwellers through their acts of kindness. So far, we have saved numerous left over meals and received donations of various kinds of cakes with which we approached homeless people and gave.

“Thank you” they gratefully say. And if they have a pet with them, they are more than happy to share with their “best friend” – Without a question.

Nigel and his best friend who enjoyed the leftovers from our Chinese meal.

There are those who had everything and lost it all and there are those who dedicate every minute of their remaining lives to make sure the homeless has a hot drink at least. They are among the unsung heroes of today’s societies. They are trying their very best in being the change they wish to see in the world.

So let us organise café meet ups with CAKE(!) donating to a charity of your choice, perhaps asking cafés to participate in “Suspended Coffee” schemes too. When you have a meal, please save your leftovers and seek out the homeless in order to make their day. Maybe even nominate/challenge your friends to pay it forwards too. Please?

One can only hope this act of compassion and kindness will help to keep them going, to keep the faith and to have hope. That not everyone has a stone cold heart, that they are not oblivious to everyday people. They are still someone’s child who were brought into this world for a reason.

A drop of kindness goes a very long way, much more than you realise.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ― Leo Buscaglia

 Carpe Diem – every day by being true to yourselves. x

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

Hungry? By Paul Leonard

Take a look at this picture, do you know where it was taken? What are they waiting for?  Was the photo taken at a bus stop?

IMG_2449

No, this photo was taken outside Covent Garden at around 6pm on Thursday just gone, the day before the newest iPhone from Apple came out.  Speaking with man in the checked shirt, he told me the new phone was due out at 8am the following day and so presumably the line would only get longer … and longer!  (I would of gone back the following day to take a look again, but I wasn’t well enough.)

At this time, there were around 6-8 tents that people had erected to sleep in over night and this queue which stretched the width (and longer) of the front of the Covent Garden Apple Store.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a huge geek and love all things technological but the site frankly sickened me!  Scores of people waiting to spend at least £600 of their money on a phone.

The very same evening, some of the Admin Team from Tree House met up for a Chinese meal.  Food was great, company was even better, just the staff were the problem (which we may save for a future post.)  The food was very tasty as I say and for 7 of us, the cost was just over £78.  We were all well fed at just over £11 a head, a bargain.  We had left over food and decided to pay for some boxes to take the food out with us.  The purpose, for midnight munchies?  No, to try and find a homeless person and give the food to them.

Just outside Leicester Square tube, we met Nigel, along with his dog.  Here he is with Sarah, Paul and Sara:

IMG_2489

Anyway, Nigel had left over spare ribs, lemon chicken, some rice and noodles and even some prawn crackers.  (He must of thought all his Christmases had come at once!)  We gave him the food and we made him and his dog very very happy!

This got me thinking about the messed up world we live in.  People prepared to spend a fortune on “fluff and stuff”, stuff that will pass away in time and break and yet there are people like Nigel, who in one day, would be lucky to make even 1% of the cost of the phone (£6) and still have to buy food from their begged for money!  Personally, I don’t agree with giving money to homeless people in case it fuels a habit that perhaps shouldn’t be fuelled but giving food and drink, this is the way to do it.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Nigel, this post is dedicated to you and certainly not the guys in Cupertino, California.  As I said to you that night, “Go well – whatever you do, do it well!”

 

~PAL

 

Lost Souls by Angel Sign

From the minute we are born, we begin to search for our destiny, our purpose in life, to find the path that will lead us on our journey to self- satisfaction, a sense of achievement and recognition. Some of us are lucky to realise our goals and dreams early on, finding the path to follow, taking us towards our goal, whilst we strive with every ounce of strength and determination to get there.

For the rest of us there is a longer path to follow which usually then forks off two ways. For some that ‘EUREKA’ moment arrives and the light at the end of the tunnel appears, guiding them to their newfound place.

Those that remain tend to stroll down the other path, dipping their toes here and there, pondering in other areas, and never quite finding their resting place, searching high and low for a reason to be amongst the population of success stories, the missionaries and those that know their purpose in life.

These are the ones I refer to as the ‘LOST SOULS’, the ones who feel they don’t belong, can’t find the shoes to fit or the hat to wear.

Yet these are the people who quietly make the biggest difference of all. For every path they travel and every person they meet, they leave behind a bit of their wisdom, their kindness, their innocence and their soul.

For on their journey searching for what they believe is their destiny, they are already serving their purpose in life. They encourage, they listen, they advise and they support, guiding others along their way.

The ‘LOST SOULS’; the strongest yet the weakest; the loudest yet the shyest; the popular yet the loneliest; often the misunderstood.

I write this article as a generalisation to humanity. This applies to all as one and not just any individual race, religion, gender, disability, age or society, for there are lost souls amongst us everywhere, questioning themselves, searching for their destiny, unaware of the good they are doing each and every day through their journey.

~ Angel Sign.

 

 

A Show of Gratitude.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift; that’s why they call it the present.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt.

gift

On this exceptionally memorable date, I would like to extend my annual show of gratitude to the doctors and nurses of Charing Cross Hospital who several years ago gave me the best birthday present one could ever ask for. 

A second chance to cherish life and being able to watch my beautiful children grow up of which I intend to make the most of.

I never ask for much but I would very much appreciate it if you too could show your gratitude to our NHS services, especially the Doctors and Nurses who devote and dedicate so much of their time and passion to ensure we get the best care around the clock – please could you join forces against any NHS closures and get involved?

For if Charing Cross Hospital had closed down then, I would not be around today.

And last but not least, to our beloved Tree House and its dwellers for creating such a unique place without any barriers.

It is what we all make it.

Please accept this dedicated post as a token of my gratitude for being true to yourselves.

Thank YOU, to each and every single one of you, my family and my friends – for putting up with me 😉

Carpe Diem – Everyday x

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

Between A Rock And A Hard Place.

In just one day, I had never experienced so much irony.

First things first, a BBC researcher contacted the Tree House because they were alerted to a trend “Nomination Drench” of which they wanted to learn more about. It surprised them that said trend was stemming from within the deaf community, a couple of us were invited to the BBC’s New Broadcasting House to be interviewed by camera but we had to try and keep our answers to ten seconds limit each. I think we (the deaf visitors) felt a tad miffed by this method because we tend to need at least an hour or so (it seems!) to discuss something in depth with passion and detail not to forget the effort that goes into our facial expressions, body language, sign language and lip-reading. It was then explained to us that there would be a separate more in-depth interview for the radio.

My first thought was “Hmmmm?!” This was an interview about what was trending from within the deaf community to be broadcasted over the radio. That felt a lot like putting an advert over the radio for the deaf and an advert in the papers for the blind. This point was kindly and politely made by myself and they understood it from our point of view, thinking it was a very good point. We all learn something new every day and I could see they gained insight, experience and deaf awareness from just our presence and the interpreter (Andrew Green) who helped to bridge the communication barriers. Many thanks to Communication ID for being there for us.

Andrew and Dexy inside BBC's Radio Studio.

Andrew and Dexy inside BBC’s Radio Studio.

We all very much enjoyed being at the BBC, seeing how they worked and being interviewed by them. Delighting at going inside on what seemed like a mini tour. It felt very open plan and communal compared to their old BBC building. To the presenter I asked if the videos on their blog would be subtitled for the deaf community to access on an equal and united basis and he reassured me they would be.

Something else was trying to eat away at the back of my mind, keeping an eye on the time (not literally!) because I knew there was going to be a protest taking place right outside the very same building and that a few of my friends also may be in the vicinity taking part. This did not help my nerves any as well as being extremely camera shy. In order to help raise awareness for the deaf community and for the BBC to achieve their objective I had to push myself to see it through while the other two seemed so confident and enjoyed being in the frame.

The other two people who were also being interviewed, Dexy Wallace and James Clarke, I felt relief knowing there would be an interpreter for them. If there had not been one, I have no idea how they would have all coped and it would not have been without any great difficulty. I decided I would try my best to respond verbally to the questions asked of me during the interview because at the back of my mind, I predicted there would be a percentage asking “Only signers once again, what about lip-readers? They are always forgotten” Don’t forget, both of my parents are deaf and being surrounded by sign language, I am at “home”.

Soon my nerves eased over time and my head was nodding in agreement now and again to what the other two people responded with. It became a moment that was cherished by myself because there we sat, a BSL user and another who was deaf blind, myself (who can adapt to present company) brought together by the BBC who had no idea just how much this trend “Nomination Drench” had brought the deaf community together both in person and in spirit. But most of all that another deaf community was defined and strengthened once again via the use of social media.

To read BBC Trending’s article on “Nomination Drench” trend read “here” or watch here:

Even Water Aid is adopting the trend to say thank you 🙂

With every beginning there is always an end, our Interviews ended which sadly meant our experience was over but another one was about to start as my thoughts turned once again to the protest – This was a protest at the BBC due to their supposed bias towards Israel and lack of coverage on Palestinian issues. The noise was absolutely deafening, chants of “Shame on you!”, “We want change – NOW!” and “Palestine!” seemed to alternate amongst the rallying crowd. I admired how peaceful people tried their best to keep it because that is what Islam is about – “Peace”. All they were requesting is justice and awareness just as every human being deserves, as equals.

A woman who braved her pain just to be a part of the protest. Photo by SJ.

A woman who braved her pain just to be a part of the protest. (Photo by SJ)

Once again I felt this wave of self –confliction – not long before then I had been inside the BBC being interviewed (in which I did try to point out Gaza, Palestine and 3rd world countries having access to no clean water if any) yet here I was, absorbing the atmosphere that was directed at the BBC. I felt as though I was between a rock and a hard place when all one could do was go with the flow and take one step at a time. Life tests us to see how we deal with what fate decrees for us and that subsequently defines who we are and who we will become.

While the past few weeks of “Nomination Drench” has been fun as it encouraged people to overcome being camera shy, seizing the day in order to be a part of a refreshing trend that once again brought a sense of community together – My heart tells me it is now time to try and remind you of those who are suffering and on that note, I am going to tackle perhaps one of the most complicated issues known to mankind.

Another being between a rock and a hard place on “Waging A Dirty War

– SJ.