Word of Advice: Unleash the Power of Presence

Advocate for social change, Maya Mehta in 2015

Advocate for social change, Maya Mehta in 2015

When you hear Londoner and lawyer MAYA MEHTA speak, you listen.   We Are Daytrippers recently attended an event called Putting the Soul Back into Business which was hosted by Harvard Club of the United Kingdom and co-hosted by Ms. Mehta.  Not only did Maya project the presence of a strong woman who genuinely cares about social change, but she also seemed to make sure it was going to happen; there was something extra-special about her.  We reached out and found out how she continues to intend to move mountains for the greater good.  Maya has founded Microfinance Groups at her current and past employers with law and investment firms.  In 2004, she established an advice surgery for Asian victims of domestic violence and forced marriages in East London.  Maya studied law at Oxford and in 2013 she co-founded the Harvard-Oxford Alumni Social Business Group, a forum dedicated to bringing “social intrapreneurs” together to use business as a force for positive social change.  Her message encourages all of us not just to sit there and tsk-tsk about social issues we notice or feel passionate about: but to do something:

THE POWER OF PRESENCE

Feeling Powerless?

When I hear about the schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram and dragged into the forests of Nigeria, or rather when I don’t hear about them anymore because the world forgets so quickly and moves on to the next popular hashtag or the next ice bucket challenge, I feel powerless.
But then I remember how I felt back in 2004, when I kept reading stories about young Asian girls who were forced into marriage, or even worse, subjected to honour killings by their own families for choosing to be with the person they loved, or who committed suicide because they did not want to marry a complete stranger.  I couldn’t just turn the page of the paper and turn a blind eye.  But then I couldn’t exactly fly to Pakistan, India or Bangladesh and catch the perpetrators.  However, I could change things here at home in London.   

I would travel on the DLR to my law firm in Canary Wharf, watching children playing on the estates of Shadwell, their mothers hanging laundry out of the windows of the surrounding tower blocks.  The juxtaposition of the gleaming glass towers of Canary Wharf and the relative poverty of the surrounding areas was striking.

Mobilising Resources Around Us

Having met with a local charity, the Newham Asian Women’s Project, it became clear that the abuse of Asian girls was happening not just a million miles away, but right here on my doorstep.  I knew I had a wealth of resource at my fingertips– professionals such as lawyers, IT experts, secretaries, all of whom were passionate about helping others and were willing to give up their lunchbreaks to do so.  We weren’t experts in the field of domestic violence, far from it, but we had a basic skill to offer – the skill of listening, of being present.

Having asked the charity what they needed and having enlisted support from my law firm and my peers, the “Newham Asian Women’s Project Advice Surgery” was born.   Each week my colleagues would travel two stops on the Jubilee line to lend their ears to and give basic advice to the women of Newham.

Before we knew it, word spread like wildfire around the local community and women, often with their children, were lining up for advice on all sorts of issues.  It was often so simple.   One young girl ran in and told me she had been beaten up by her boyfriend.  She just wanted to enlist on a journalism course so that she could learn how to write well and tell her story.  We heard her aspirations and pointed her in the right direction.

Another lady was living in fear of her stalker ex-husband who was subject to an injunction but she still did not even dare to take her child to the local playground in case he showed up.  When we suggested she go further afield and take a trip on the Jubilee line to London Zoo she looked at us as if we had suggested going to the Moon.  She didn’t know how to use the tube.  But when we showed her a tube map and explained how to get there, her face lit up with an empowered sense of liberation – a whole new world of possibilities outside Newham had been presented to her.

Just by being present and engaged for one lunchtime a week (often less of a commitment because we had devised a weekly rota), we were able to instil a sense of self-worth into victims of abuse and remind them that they do have a voice, they do have a choice and that no-one could tell them otherwise.

The more complex issues were referred back to the charity but even in those instances we were able to use our basic professional skills to interview the women, elicit information, identify red flags, make phone calls to specialist services and point them in the right direction.  This saved the charity valuable time.

10 years later, now with clients of the firm involved and thanks to the dedication of colleagues who kept it going when I left the firm in 2011, the advice surgery is still going strong.

Call to Action

What I have learnt is that if there is a social issue that disturbs us, we don’t have to wait for government to take action, for students to take to the streets or for celebrities to tweet.  And we certainly don’t have to feel like our only option is turn a blind eye.  If I hear about something awful and find myself constantly thinking about it as I try to proceed with my day, that is my call to action.

This happened recently when I saw on the news a beautiful Eritrean girl who was languishing in the notorious refugee camp of Calais, “The Jungle”, having been trafficked for thousands of miles across Africa.  She had so much hope, promise and defiance in her eyes, I couldn’t forget her.  The obvious next step was to brainstorm with my peers about the issues faced by victims of trafficking and to partner with a charity who might welcome some different skillsets and a few extra pairs of hands.

Unleashing the Power of Presence

There is so much we can do just by asking a charity or other expert on the ground what they might need (to ensure we are a bonus, not a burden) and offering to spend precious face-to-face time listening to and engaging with victims of poverty, trafficking, domestic violence, the elderly or disabled, whatever the issue may be.  This is how we can unleash the power of presence, a weapon too often forgotten in an age of smartphones and social media.   This is the offline revolution.  This is the power of that is within each of us to drive forward social change.

The Daytrippers Team:  Thank you Maya for your contribution and we wish you the very best.

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5 Minutes With … Daytrippers Celebrity Ambassador Kurt Yaeger

We got lucky!  Daytrippers Celebrity Ambassador KURT YAEGER  recently devoted an afternoon to answer a few questions for We Are Daytrippers in the midst of his very busy schedule.  Thanks so much Kurt.  We love what you said in this video as it was inspirational, encouraging and gives us insight into what makes you, you!  Don’t miss these five minutes with Kurt Yaeger:

Connect with Kurt Yaeger:  @kurtyaeger

http://kurtyaeger.com/

*Many thanks also to Brian Ging and Stacy Kesten – a dynamic film duo out of Los Angeles who took the time to interview Kurt.

 

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When I was a kid: Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

 

NOAM CHOMSKY, the eighty-five year old Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, finally took the bait.  After writing a love letter to him in September he responded that he appreciated it and also wrote that Daytrippers Children’s Charity was “a wonderful mission and when asked his favourite thing to do as a child; he said:

 

“I guess my favorite thing to do as a young child was to play all day at the beach in the summer, and when I was a little older, to curl up in a corner with a pile of books.”

Noam Chomsky as a child

Noam Chomsky as a child

Noam Chomsky was born in 1928 in Philadelphia, a point in time that seems distant to most of us; yet childhood enjoyments remain the same in any era.  We love the thought of a young Noam tucked in a small space reading countless books, questioning everything he read and unaware of the man he would eventually become – it aligns with his remarkably insatiable quest for knowledge, transformation, excellence and philosophy of the mind.

Daytrippers receives many applications to fund group days out to the seaside.  For some kids, it might be the first or only time they will ever experience the beach.  In Chomsky’s quote for We Are Daytrippers about his favourite thing to do as a child, Mr. Chomsky reminds us that a day at the beach and having the time to read a good book is full of rewards.

Thank you to Noam Chomsky for your contribution!

Love,

The Daytrippers Team

Does Mr. Chomsky like books or what?

Does Mr. Chomsky like books or what?

Connect with Mr. Chomsky:  http://www.chomsky.info/

 

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Word of Advice: Let’s Try Being Kind to Each Other!

Writer, performer and comedian Bernadette Russell.  Photograph by Gerald Kydd.

Photograph of Bernadette Russell by Gerald Kydd

Comedian, writer, performer and kindness crusader BERNADETTE RUSSELL is devoted to spreading happiness.  She recently wrote an activity book for kids based on ideas of kindness called Do Nice, Be Kind, Spread Happy.  This book resonates with Daytrippers ethos of spreading happiness to disabled and terminally-ill children.  Brook from The Daytrippers Team found out about the book while browsing Waterstones and immediately got in touch with Russell to see if she might contribute to We Are Daytrippers.  Guess what?  She said yes (yahoo!) and made us very happy because we think of her as a true expert in how to be a most excellent person.

Here is Bernadette Russell’s word of advice:

The news is really depressing and horrible. Sometimes for ghoulish fun I string together all the headlines into one long sentence like this: “scientistwarnglobalwarmingresultsinkillerbeesandimmigrantsandbenefitscheatsstealingpensionsandcausingcancer. “

It’s unbearable sometimes, to face it all, and to be left wondering “What Can I do about all that?” and those stories, on a loop, delivered 24/7 with loads of splashy headlines full of terrifying exclamation marks and dramatic bold fonts, make us think how bad the world is, how awful we are, us human beings.

I like to remind myself, of course, there is loads of bad stuff in the world, but it is always outweighed by the good. Maybe you don’t believe me. Maybe you sigh and say something like, “that’s a nice thought, but she’s living in cloud cuckoo land” (I love this expression actually, I do wonder what it would look like, and if cuckoos rule it or not? Is it actually IN THE CLOUDS? That would be great. Unlikely, but great).

I actually live in Deptford, South East London, my formerly scruffy, recently gentrified little patch of home. It’s still pretty poor, although now you can buy a soya flat white and buy organic quinoa, plus there’s a picture of Jamie Oliver visiting Deptford, on one of those luxury flat hoardings, and I like him, so I don’t mind seeing him.

Bernadette Russell, the kindness crusader

Bernadette Russell, the kindness crusader. Photograph by Graeme Braidwood.

So, a while ago, August 18th 2011, post-riots and with a head spinning with images of buildings on fire and the bigoted foamy rantings of various people in the media, I paid for a boy’s stamp in the local post office. Since then, I have promised to be kind to a stranger every day for a year. I initially committed to a year, but the experience was so life changing that I kept it up, and you can read the whole story here should you wish www.366daysofkindness.com

Pretty much for the last three hundred years we have accepted as fact the belief of various respected and powerful thinkers (Sigmund Freud etc.) that humankind is innately selfish. Often when we hear stories about someone mugging some one else in the park, we also hear “oh, that’s human nature” as if this is the natural order of things and to be expected, suggesting perhaps that kindness is the unusual thing.

I’d like to suggest that it’s not. We’ve somehow been persuaded to believe that other people are bad, to be feared, avoided, be suspicious of. But I offer you this challenge: just notice tomorrow how often people are kind to you (opening doors, helping with a heavy case, saying thanks, smiling, letting you go first, all those every day courtesies that keep society functioning and ensure that we muddle along together). Ok, so once or twice during your day someone might be rude or grumpy but I bet that’s outweighed by the good things. Every day. You might get home and say: “this man swore at me to get out of the way of the bus” On a day filled with many many small acts of kindness we report on and remember the bad ones. I try to do the reverse. I try to remember all the good things that happened in the day. I try to be kind at every opportunity. I try to forgive people for their grumpiness or rudeness (I don’t have the slightest idea what sort of day/week/life they’ve had after all). The person who is rude to me may have just found out they didn’t get a job they were after. They might have had an argument with their mum. They might be worried about money. Or just stubbed their toe.

Doing this has made me happier and less fearful. I have got to know my neighbours. I’m no saint of course. Being kind every day, remembering the good things, and being forgiving are still a challenge now, even after all this time. Sometimes I am that grumpy person on the bus. But I forgive myself that too, and shrug it off. I try to also be kind to myself in this way.

Of course I am by no means the only person who thinks this: lots of people are thinking about kindness, empathy and happiness, and how we can evolve as a species. (That whole “eye for an eye” thing not having worked out so well for us). There are loads of organisations promoting kindness and happiness, promoting ideas of hope instead of fear, having faith in human beings. There are conversations happening globally in cafes and round kitchen tables, on Facebook and twitter about these ideas: that the relentless pursuit of money and power, the acquisition of possessions, the narrow view of success that these pursuits imposes upon us has not made the world a better place and has definitely not made us happier. That there is another way.

A while ago I was at the rally to save the NHS in Trafalgar, a subject close to my heart. To me the NHS embodies compassion, empathy and a collective optimism that must be defended. Billy Bragg came on stage to sing to us all as the sun went down. He spoke about “our enemy being cynicism” and he’s right. Don’ t be cynical, and you will already be helping to make the world better. If you have to moan then ask yourself what can I do to help? There may well be something. (not moaning is a start – I often tell myself this!)

Bernadette Russell and musician Billy Bragg

Bernadette Russell and musician Billy Bragg. Photograph by Sian Williams.

But above everything else: be kind. Kindness is the same as love. In the end it is all that matters. There’s a revolution coming. It’s all going to be alright.

Bernadette Russell

Twitter @betterussell

www.366daysofkindness.com

www.thewhiterabbit.org.uk

These are some of the organisations that have helped me:

Action For Happiness

Sunday Assembly

People United

The Daytrippers Team:  Thank you so much for your contribution Bernadette Russell.  x

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5 Minutes With … Coldplay’s Will Champion

English musician, Will Champion

Will Champion, English musician

We Are Daytrippers proudly features the Rock Star drummer and dad, Will Champion. The 5 Minutes With section is about highlighting proper role models, mentors and creatives. We believe Will fits each category. He happens to also be a neighbour of Brook Morrison from the Daytrippers Team. The last time Brook had a brief conversation with Will, she was at a party hosted by Superman Brian Eno. Will was telling her about the types of people who pop into Brian’s regularly organised singing group (to which his lovely wife belongs): “Yeah, you never know who will show up. Paul McCartney was there once.” Brook thought it was humble and cool of him to be part of this incredibly well-known band, yet still show enthusiasm about other rock stars and seem so human. This year Brian and Will worked together on an album with Karl Hyde called Someday World, and he spent the summer on the world tour with Coldplay. Sure, he is a busy and talented musician, but we get the sense his real love is time spent with family.

The Daytrippers Team:  Who was your role model as a child?

Will Champion:  My role model as a child was probably my Dad.  An obvious choice but together with my Mum they made me feel as though anything I wished to know, they could help me to find out. We were surrounded by books and music in our house and it was a fantastic environment to grow up in.

The Daytrippers Team:  Do you have a role model or mentor today?

Will Champion:  We have been so lucky to work with some of our heroes and people from whom we have so much to learn.  Working with Brian Eno was a fantastic experience as he has produced some of the most wonderful music in my lifetime.  As a mentor, he inspired us to not be afraid of experimenting and expressing ourselves in new and unexpected ways.

The Daytrippers Team:  What is your creative talent and how do you cultivate it?

Will Champion:  I play music for a living which for me is a dream come true.  I grew up playing instruments in a house filled with music.  I was lucky enough to meet a group of like-minded people at university and have not done anything else since!

The Daytrippers Team: Do you have any experience working with disabled people?

Will Champion:  I have seen the benefits that music and creativity can have on everyone, not least those with disabilities.  It is an outlet that everyone can use, you don’t need training or proficiency for it to be fun and ultimately, music brings people together.

The Daytrippers Team: What motivates or inspires you to be creative?

Will Champion:  Working in music allows me to say and do things that wouldn’t be able to do in any other way.  It helped me find a ‘voice’ through which I could understand and communicate things and now it allows me to help other people, make people happy (or sad!!) and to create something that will be around long after I have gone.  I owe my whole life to music.

The Daytrippers Team:  Thank you so much Will.

Stay updated:

http://www.coldplay.com

http://www.enohyde.com

Oh yeah, and check this out:  He sings too – we found this footage:

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MY STORY: Daytrippers Celebrity Ambassador BRANDON MENDENHALL

The Mendenhall Experiment

The Mendenhall Experiment

Rock star guitarist based in Los Angeles and advocate for disabled young people, BRANDON MENDENHALL, joins the growing list of celebrity ambassadors for Daytrippers Children’s Charity.  Mendenhall fought hard and worked hard to become a musician in his earlier years despite physical challenges due to having cerebral palsy and constant bullying.  Brandon’s determination and dedication are awe-inspiring.  His dream was to form his own band, The Mendenhall Experiment.  He not only managed to start the band, but they went on to win several awards and perform professionally.  TMX also recently signed a record deal in Southern California with Lucent Records.  Not bad for a boy from Illinois who was once told he could not make it as a musician.

Brandon Mendenhall, founding member of The Mendenhall Experiment.

Brandon Mendenhall, founding member of The Mendenhall Experiment.

Here is Brandon’s story:

My name is Brandon Mendenhall and I am the founding member of my band The Mendenhall Experiment. I was born in 1983 , 2 months premature with complications during my birth.  A life with Cerebral Palsy is all I’ve ever known.

I knew from an early age it would be difficult for me to reach my dreams as a musician. I couldn’t just join any band.  Not just anyone would have the patience and understanding to work with my unique playing style based on my physical parameters  due to my disability.

On August 16, 2014  I reached a personal and professional milestone, signing a record deal 6 years to the day of The Mendenhall Experiment’s first show in my hometown of Kankakee, IL at a dive bar called Paul’s Place.  If anyone  had told me that day 6 years from right now I would be signing a record deal in Southern California, I would’ve told you, you’re crazy. In order to understand the profound impact of that moment in my life I must go back to the beginning.

Young Brandon Mendenhall

Young Brandon Mendenhall

I was born in a very conservative part of North America and raised by my Grandparents. My Cerebral Palsy left the entire left side of my body damaged. I didn’t walk until I was four years old. Throughout my life  I endured ten corrective surgeries on my leg and ankle. My left hand had nearly zero mobility and strength.

I started out my school life in a Special Education Cooperative and then went onto a more mainstream elementary and high school. School, for me, was a constant struggle as I was bullied, teased and harassed because of my disability. As a teenager I had surgery on my left eye.

Fortunately, I fell in love with music at a young age, listening to bands like Korn, Pantera and Nine Inch Nails that allowed me to escape the uninviting world.  Inspired by these musical heroes I was determined to get a guitar in my hands. When I was growing up there were tons of people who doubted me including my own Grandfather. When I was 19 my Grandmother secretly loaned me $1000 to buy my first guitar. Of which I had to pay her back over the course an entire year making french fries and washing dishes at a local McDonalds. I had to hide the guitar from my Grandfather, but after just 2 months of playing, he found out. One day I was playing in my bedroom. I had no clue what I was doing just figuring things out. My Grandfather went to go to the bathroom which was adjacent to my bedroom. He stood in my doorway looking at  me. After a moment he said, “ No grandson of mine will ever be a musician.” That comment was very hurtful and damaging but it also lit a fire in my soul. Despite my Grandfather’s words I persisted in my guitar playing. Not only did I learn how to play guitar but in doing so I rehabilitated my left hand bringing  mobility and strength to it for the first time in my life.

I moved to Florida to attend Full Sail University. Going to Full Sail and subsequently moving to LA was more of my own personal choice to escape family life and all of the small town antics of people saying I’ll never make it. I wasn’t going to gain any recognition there. I wanted to be surrounded by people who inspired me to aim higher and  musically that pushed me to raise the bar. In my mind going to Full Sail solidified the thought in my head that said you either need to move to New York , Los Angeles or Nashville and for me it was always Los Angeles.

Full Sail, where I received my Associate Of Science Degree in The Recording Arts Program and my Pro Tools Music Operator Certification , was a great opportunity for me. I learned the ropes of music production and the proper techniques and the studio etiquette it takes to make an “on the level” professional record.  My Full Sail education provided the foundation for which I stand upon today. I remember sitting in my apartment with a couple of good friends on down time between classes asking them their thoughts on me starting my own me band called The Mendenhall Experiment. At that time it seemed like a crazy dream, but as I thought about it more and more I knew deep down that it could become something more. After I graduated Full Sail I went home to IL. for a few months to regroup and then went to visit a friend in Los Angeles.  I got there and never went home.

In my early days in L.A I secured an internship at Westlake Recording Studios, while also working at Target to pay the bills. After a while I realized that my foot wasn’t going to hold up. While at the same time struggling to keep my internship because I couldn’t get a driver’s license. Since I had to walk everywhere and take public transportation, it took a toll on my body. I came to a point where I needed more surgeries. This was when I had my first set of foot and ankle surgeries at UCLA. After that I fell into a deep depression. I felt like the limitations on my body had won. I fell in with the wrong crowd and was headed down a dark  path.

In early 2006, still on my private downward spiral, I had a chance encounter with my guitar hero, James “Munky” Shaffer of Korn. It was during that encounter that Shaffer and I had a moment to talk and connect over our mutual love for guitar. Our conversation inspired me to climb out of my hole and give music and my life another chance.

Over the next year and a half I would rebuild my life from the ground up. Relocating  to the valley with a better job, a better place to live and healthier friends. It was a new beginning. However, that new beginning soon became clouded with elements of the past. It was in the spring of 2007 when I realized that yet again, I would have to go undergo another series of foot and ankle surgeries at UCLA. In July of 2007 recovering from surgery, I began writing for The Mendenhall Experiment. In August of 2008 with five songs completed it was time to test The Mendenhall Experiment in a live environment. During a months long vacation visiting my family I decided to reunite with my high school jam buddies and book a couple of shows for fun playing the material that I wrote for The Mendenhall Experiment. After two successful shows in the span two weeks with 100 plus crowd each night The Mendenhall Experiment had proven to be something of value. So at the end of my vacation it was time to return to southern California and find permanent members for my band.

From 2008 to 2014 the line-up for my band was a revolving door of musicians.

Every band goes through the process of finding the right combination of musicians who believe in what the band stands for.  During this period I had the fortune of working with some very talented musicians. With these former line – ups The Mendenhall Experiment opened for bands like Korn, Megadeth, POD, Alien Ant Farm and many more. Playing shows like Monster Energy’s Aftershock Festival and playing famous venues such as the Whiskey A Go – Go. , Roxy, The Viper Room and The Glass House.  However I didn’t find the combination of musicians right until beginning of 2014…

At the start of 2014 with my dream team of band mates finally in place a filmmaker approached me about filming a documentary about the story of my life and journey through the music industry living with Cerebral Palsy.  The man who wanted to tell my story  is my long time friend and lead videographer and photographer for Korn.  Sebastien Paquet The band that had first sparked my passion for music at the age of 11 was now, in a way, connected to me on a professional level.

From that point on things have been moving rapidly. My band went from playing our first gig as a group at a dive bar in Santa Ana in March of 2014 to being signed artists with worldwide distribution an EP on it’s way and the documentary release not far behind. All of this happened  in less than a year.  In that year we have played venues such as The Citizen’s Bank Arena , The Viper Room, The NAMM show  and Whiskey A Go – Go several times.

My band and I  were honored to win the August Artist Of The Month for Guitar Center on July 11th 2014. An honor that was especially important to me because I grew up a loyal Guitar Center customer. Just before that win my band and I also got to play the Anaheim House of Blues,  where we won 2nd place for the Battle of the Bands for Warped Tour.  We were discovered by an A&R representative for Lucent Records where we signed a deal on August 16, 2014.

The moment I realized the coincidence with the dates was the moment I realized I was on my way to making it… August 16th 2008 (first TMX show ever) August 16th 2014 (TMX signs with Lucent Records in Southren Ca.)

The Mendenhall Experiment

The Mendenhall Experiment

While some people are enticed by money and fame that’s not me; I really do everything that I do for the kids. For people growing up like I did with disabilities or challenges that make dreams like mine seem impossible. The other stuff is just an added bonus.

Over the past year I have met so many wonderful people whose lives have been touched by my message and my music. That’s a pretty surreal feeling after being doubted and disregarded my whole life. I don’t really care about the people who doubted me back then.  I care about the kids I might inspire in the present and years to come.

I am  looking forward to helping create a future that will bring happiness, success and ability to those formally considered disabled.

– Brandon Mendenhall – Founder/Guitarist of The Mendenhall Experiment

Connect and support Brandon:  http://www.themendenhallexperiment.com/

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Daytrippers New Year Baby: Elliott Preston

Daytrippers New Year Baby - 6 Month Old Elliott Preston

Daytrippers New Year Baby – 6 Month Old Elliott Preston

Nurse and mother-of-three MELANIE PRESTON from Knoxville, Tennessee writes about life with Daytrippers New Year Baby; ELLIOTT PRESTON.  Melanie has agreed to regularly update We Are Daytrippers (THANK YOU!) to share with readers about her experience caring for a child with down syndrome.  (Don’t miss the beautiful photos of Elliott’s previous five months at the end of this post).

Melanie’s update:

“Last year this same week we found out Elliott would have an extra chromosome and while I wasn’t shocked, it certainly wasn’t what I “wanted” … fast forward to the beginning of 2015 and he is everything we wanted, needed and more!

I suppose it’s fair to say he makes us appreciate the little things in life more.  Things that I’ve never even considered with my other children … like reaching for toys, propping up on elbows and then hands, et cetera.  Sure, I remember Elliotts siblings milestones (mostly because one was super late and the other was super freakishly early); but did I celebrate them?  Not like we do (and will) with Elliott.

There is just so much work involved for something so simple like reaching his hands above his shoulder height (that was a huge one!).  Low muscle tone is also a subject of concern.  It is real and fascinating.  One of the neatest things to see is his older sister (by 17 months) is his biggest cheerleader.  She claps and jumps up and down for him – it’s adorable and I hope she remains his biggest advocate throughout his entire life.

The Preston Family

The Preston Family

Overall, Elliott is doing well developmentally for a child with down syndrome. We are working with physical therapists to help him sit and he is making huge strides.  The occupational therapist discharged him because he had met current goals and will re-evaluate when he is around 10 months.  He is about to start some puréed foods so we have an evaluation with speech therapy just so they can see how he does.  Speaking of appointments … can you say more than we can count?  Seriously!  It’s been busy in the Preston household. That’s really the only “change” to our lives in the past year and to be fair – a lot of those appointments are not only Elliott’s but his siblings as well, so it could also be very much part of having three kids?!

We have a cardiology appointment coming up in a few weeks to see how the two holes in his heart are healing so that’s our next big “thing.”  We have been so thankful this year to have had a positive experience through diagnosis, delivery, and beyond.  It’s very helpful to be surrounded by so many supportive family, friends and medical professionals but sadly I am incredibly aware that is not the norm.  Sure Elliott is different but so what!  (Aren’t we all?).   Difference is what makes us unique and he is certainly no less unique than I am!  So Happy New Year 2015 and cheers to being maybe not so different after all?”

Past articles with Melanie and Elliott:

  • Read about when Melanie found out she was having a baby with down syndrome: http://wp.me/p4FQqM-11
  • Read about when Melanie delivered Elliott herself in the car (a shock to all!): http://wp.me/p4FQqM-2v
  • Read about Elliott’s first month of life:  http://wp.me/p4FQqM-3R

We cannot get enough of these adorable pictures of Elliott’s first five months:

Elliott Preston in the NICU

Elliott Preston in the NICU

 

 

Elliott Preston - 1 Month Old

Elliott – 1 Month Old

 

Elliott - 2 Months Old

Elliott – 2 Months Old

 

Elliott - 3 Months Old

Elliott – 3 Months Old

 

Elliott - 4 Months Old

Elliott – 4 Months Old

 

 

 

Elliott - 5 Month Old

Elliott – 5 Month Old

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Word of Advice: Gratitude will set you Free!

The Filmmaker Brian Ging in Berlin

The Filmmaker Brian Ging in Berlin

One thing you notice when you meet film writer, editor and producer BRIAN GING is that you are likely to be looking UP.  At 200 centimetres tall and beaming a bright smile, you immediately feel there is something truly special about this guy.  We Are Daytrippers was lucky to catch the busy filmmaker for a few minutes. Ging  hails from Los Angeles, California together with his talented wife (they met many years ago on a movie set) and their cat Simba.  Brian encourages us to follow our dreams one step at a time.  Here are his words of advice:

I write, direct, and edit movies in California and other locations in the USA. I also make my living editing tv shows and commercials. This had been my dream job since I was a kid in high school, but its been a long journey to get here. I grew up a regular middle-class kid living in Phoenix, Arizona. This felt like a million miles from Hollywood (where I now live). I also had no idea what the journey would look like for me to make it here. I didn’t have any movie studio connections, knew nobody named Spielberg, and often barely made enough money to pay my rent and car payments while getting work where I could… I’m not by any means making the big budget films like you see at your local cinemaplex, but I am making lower budget films and projects that I care about. And I’m still for the most part just paying my rent and car payments. But without question, I’m doing what I love.

Brian behind the scenes.

Brian Ging perfecting his craft.

 

I’m often asked how I got here. How did I end up with a life where I am paid to be creative for a living? Most people are looking for the magic bullet answer, the secret backdoor shortcut to reach their goal. I know in the beginning I certainly was, and I was pretty irritated that I couldn’t find it. I read books about film directors who’s first movie was discovered and they were swept into the Hollywood machine as “golden children” and granted fame and riches. I thought that sounded pretty good and I’d try that. After making my first film, that didn’t happen… The reality is that it doesn’t matter whether you are trying to build a career in a highly competitive industry like Hollywood, or working through a physical disability to strengthen your muscles with your physical therapist: There are no shortcuts. You just put one foot in front of the other (you screw up most of the time) but you grow and get better! I have always tried to simply look for the next bar on the ladder, the next step in the staircase. Whether it was working hard for free, or helping people who almost always organically helped me – I tried to make every film or commercial or project I worked on better than the last, growing and increasing my skill set.

 

The hardest thing for me about having such big dreams was constantly measuring how far I was away from my dream. Look how many stairs I still have to go! So many I can’t even count them! Which can be quite disheartening. To always be talking about “someday I’ll be great”, or “someday I’ll have the life I want” makes it incredibly hard to be happy in this moment… now. And that’s the secret really. To be happy in this moment, with where we are; with the step on the ladder we are currently standing on. Its like they say, gratitude will set you free.

 

So no matter what your dream, or your goal, realize that the only way you will reach it is to just take the next step in front of you. That’s all you are responsible for right now. I’ve learned to appreciate where I am, and where I was at in the journey towards my dreams.

One day I looked up and realized that… wow I’m doing something that would have made that teenage Brian pretty proud.  It snuck up on me really. A fifteen year overnight success and I still have a long way to go; one step at a time. Often the scariest steps I’ve taken have led to the most growth.

 

Brian Ging as a kid channelling Groucho Marx

Brian Ging as a kid channelling Groucho Marx

Good luck with whatever your passion is, or your dream. And know that the struggles and challenges you face … we all face them. The best thing you can do is be grateful for where you are at right now, and just take things one step at a time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you so much Brian Ging for your contribution.

Connect with Brian Ging on Twitter:  @briangging

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5 Minutes With … Freestyle Footballer Colin Nell

Professional Football Freestyler Colin Nell

Professional Football Freestyler Colin Nell

Media Entertainer and Football Freestyler, COLIN NELL recently performed at the Daytrippers Pan-Disability Football Tournament where he wowed the kids and adults alike.  He is undoubtedly an incredible talent; but what sets him apart from other expert freestylers is his desire to also help others and his innate ability to make people and children feel at ease.  The Londoner began his career in 2000 after being spotted by Nike Executives and the rest is history.   A quick google search brings you to his countless advertisements, videos, performances and promotions.  He is a resounding success and headed for more.  Do check out a few performances from Mr. Nell HERE and prepare to be impressed.

We Are Daytrippers are very happy to have his contribution in the 5 Minutes With section!

The Daytrippers Team:  Did you have a role model or mentor as a child?  

Colin Nell:  Growing up I used to really look up to sporting heroes. My first hero mentor was my father as he always played sports and encouraged me to do my best.  I always wanted to show him how good I was, however, the older I got I found many others to look up to. Firstly, Zinadine Zidane who I met in 2013, there were others such as Prince Naseem Hamed (boxer), Linford Christie (athlete), and also Muhammad Ali. However, even up to date I draw inspiration from so many influential people who I like to model myself on.DANCING WITH FIREFLIES_preview (2)

The Daytrippers Team:  What is your creative talent?

Colin Nell:   I would like to think I have many talents however most obvious is my freestyle football skills. The best way to cultivate it is to work hard and perfect this craft in as many ways as possible. This can be done through eating well and training to stay in shape, mentally staying focused and having a goal I would like to achieve with it – and finally having a lifestyle balance that allows this be worked into my daily routine and life. One must always have a goal or target to aim for or his work is never fully reached or obtained!

The Daytrippers Team:  What motivates or inspires you to be creative?

Colin Nell:  I have to say that I draw inspiration from so many people such as speakers, leaders, sportsmen and also my family. I have a desire to achieve so many things and often look towards those who have done something that has never been done before them such as putting the man on the moon, the tall sky-scrapers we see everyday and also the advances mankind has made.  Seeing my family and friends enjoy my success and the fruits it brings spurs me on the achieve higher everyday.

The Daytrippers Team:  Have you had experience with disabled or terminally-ill people?

Colin Nell:  Yes I have worked many times with the disabled; mainly in a sporting environment in London, Jersey and all over the UK. I have also run freestyle football sessions for terminally-ill children at UCLH hospital in London which was very rewarding for me and the patients.

Colin Nell working with Daytrippers kids in 2014

Colin Nell working with Daytrippers kids in 2014

The Daytrippers Team:  Do you have any advice for children who are currently facing difficulties?

Colin Nell:  I would say that we should all keep the faith always. We constantly get tested and face many difficulties however we must also think of those who are less fortunate then us. Showing patience and gratitude for what we have also helps massively. Many times in life we find it so hard to make sense of the world we live in however after every hardship always comes ease. Life is far too short and we must make the most of every second we have as we have one life and must live it well!

The Daytrippers Team:  Would you share a challenge in your life?

Colin Nell:  Back in 2004 I went to play football in Barcelona on trial for Columbus Crew FC an American MLS team. Whilst I was there, an unfortunate fall out with the management where some disagreed that I should have been invited to play. Whilst I was there I also became sick from Hepatitis A through seafood which wasn’t cleaned properly. I ended up leaving early to come home due to sickness which took 2 weeks in hospital as well as no football team to play for. This also effected me with freestyle football as Vodafone UK wanted me to shoot a commercial for them which I also lost out on because I was ill. I was very down and of course ill at the time however I quickly learnt in life that I had to be patient and also mentally stronger as I believe everything happens for a reason. My faith as a Muslim and support from my family and friends helped me so much and I will never forget this. I had to come back stronger and later on I am pleased to say that I ended up bettering myself and had bigger and better opportunities!

The Daytrippers Team:  Who is currently your role model?

Colin Nell:   My current role model is the Prophet Muhammad. As a Muslim I use his example in many ways to help improve my lifestyle – however ones that are still living; Sir Jackie Stewart (motor racing) who has become a very good friend, Muhammad Ali (boxer) who has had an amazing career and been through so many hardships. That would be great to meet him one day.

The Daytrippers Team:  Thank you so much Colin.

Colin Nell freestyling in front of Tower Bridge

Colin Nell freestyling in front of Tower Bridge

Connect with Colin Nell: http://www.colinnell.co.uk

 

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MY STORY: Jayant Mistry “So, What’s Stopping you?”

International Wheelchair Tennis professional Jayant Mistry.

International Wheelchair Tennis professional Jayant Mistry.

JAYANT MISTRY, winner of the Wheelchair Men’s Doubles Championship at Wimbledon in 2005 who spent 20 years as an international tennis professional, retired in 2007 winning a total of 68 international career titles.  He passes the time now by preparing to help run the European Karate Championship held in November 2014 and juggling the Leicester Cobras wheelchair basketball season, coaching wheelchair tennis and basketball while also working part time in sports development for the English Federation of Disability Sport.  Did you follow that?  Ok, so maybe he is not retired. We certainly are not sure someone can be more active. Born with spina bifida, Mistry played sport all his life (and we do not expect him to stop any time soon).  We Are Daytrippers is honoured to feature the sportsman Mr. Mistry who ran the London 2012 Olympic tennis event and competed in the 4 Paralympic Games.

The Daytrippers Team:  Did you have a role model as a child and now as an adult?

Jayant Mistry:  My father was (and still is) my biggest role model. He came to work from India in the 50’s leaving his family behind in order to make a better life for us in the UK. He always put his family first and has kept us all close throughout his life.

At school my teacher (Mr Moore) was also a great role model. He would join in with us at sport and actively encourage us to push ourselves out of our comfort zone by doing new and challenging things.

Jayant Mistry

Jayant Mistry

The Daytrippers Team:  Do you have a creative talent apart from sport? 

Jayant Mistry:  Not really! But being sporty has taught me about goal setting, making commitments and sticking to them, being open and honest, working hard, continuously learning and developing both on and off the field of play.

The Daytrippers Team:  Would you share an experience where you had to overcome a challenge?

Jayant Mistry:  Having my foot amputated at the age of 12. I was born with Spina Bifida and have one leg longer than the other. I was developing complications with walking with leg braces but this was twisting both legs to the extent that that Dr’s recommended removing my healthy right foot to fit a prosthetic one, they convinced us that it would be better for me in the long term. It meant having 3 months off school and it took a while to adjust to but it has been worth it – both legs are much straighter now.

The Daytrippers Team:  What is a typical day-in-the-life of Jayant like?

Jayant Mistry:  Rather than a day I’ll look at a week instead – I currently work part time (3 days a week) which allows me time to get involved with voluntary roles including managing / coaching / playing for my local wheelchair basketball team (Leicester Cobras), helping the development officer for Karate in organising the European Karate championships (as well as teaching him how to play tennis!) and developing a disability sports  project in India. However I love spending time with family and friends.

Mistry  is a mentor and tutor to children.

Mistry is a mentor and tutor to children.

The Daytrippers Team:  What would you say makes you happiest?

Jayant Mistry:  Being with people I care about.

The Daytrippers Team:  You have accomplished so much and become an inspiration for many, what sports accomplishment are you most proud of?

Jayant Mistry:  In wheelchair tennis winning the inaugural Wimbledon doubles title in 2005 is the moment I look back on with most fondness. I was very fortunate to have been part of the Great Britain squad for 20 years including 4 Paralympic Games.

 

Mistry celebrates his wheelchair doubles championship at Wimbledon.  Photo courtesy of the BBC

Mistry celebrates his wheelchair doubles championship at Wimbledon. Photo courtesy of the BBC

The Daytrippers Team:  What is your next goal?

Jayant Mistry:  I’m still waiting for that to materialise but in the meantime, to be the best that I can be in whatever I do.

The Daytrippers Team:  What advice would you give a child who is facing difficulties?

Jayant Mistry:  A friend of mine once sent me a birthday card with a dog in a rubber ring on the front of it and the words – ‘he knows not where he’s going, for it’s the ocean that decides. It’s not the destination, it’s the glory of the ride’.

Whenever I’ve faced difficult times or decisions I’ve always asked myself ‘So, what’s stopping you?’ We can always find reasons (or should that be excuses?) not to do things but mainly it’s our own fear of the unknown that stops us from believing that we can do more.

The Daytrippers Team:  Thank you so much Jayant for your contribution.

Connect with Jayant Mistry:

Dame Kelly Holmes Trust:  http://www.damekellyholmestrust.org/athletes/jayant-mistry/

 

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Spotlight: Frozen Light Multi-Sensory Theatre

Last year Charlotte from The Daytrippers Team mentioned reading about an innovative special needs theatre production team called FROZEN LIGHT that focuses on performing shows for audiences with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD).  The more we poked around the website, the more we realised it was, indeed; very cool and a perfect match for Daytrippers.  As if by fate, one day we received an e-mail from Amber Onat Gregory, one of the co-founders of Frozen Light and an expert in multi-sensory theatre performance.  We look forward to collaborating with her in the future, but first, she agreed to an interview with We Are Daytrippers.

Smiles all around from Frozen Light's audience at The Arts Centre.

Smiles all around from Frozen Light’s audience at The Arts Centre.

The Daytrippers Team: Who are Frozen Light and how did you come about?

Amber Onat Gregory: Lucy Garland and I met at The University of Kent where we did a Masters in Applied Drama which involved working very practically with community groups.  One of our projects was working in a special school developing a theatre production for a class of teenagers with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD).  Inspired by the sensory work of Oily Cart and the storytelling techniques of Louise Coigley (Lis’n Tell) we began fashioning our own form of multi-sensory storytelling for audiences with PMLD.  After going our separate ways after university, where we both continued to create small scale sensory storytelling shows that toured special schools, we decided to come together six years later to heighten the quality of our work and take it into theatres.

We received a grant from the Arts Council England in 2012 to create a show for teenage audiences with PMLD which resulted in the creation of Tunnels.  Through the success of Tunnels we decided to create Frozen Light- a theatre company dedicated to creating theatre for audiences with PMLD to tour mainstream theatre venues.  By putting the work into theatres we wanted to raise the quality of the theatre that we were creating through the use of larger sets and theatrical lighting.  As theatre lovers ourselves we were also keen to look at how venues could become more accessible for people with PMLD.

From January- June 2014 Tunnels toured to 18 venues across the UK and reached over 400 people with PMLD plus an additional 500 carers, friends and family. Out of those 400 audience members with PMLD we discovered that 41% had never accessed the theatre before.  This was something that we had suspected but seeing the actual figures, collected from carers and families filling out feedback forms, we were quite shocked.  This really cemented for us the need to continue to create accessible multi-sensory theatre for audiences with PMLD and to work with theatres to programme more accessible shows.

The Daytrippers Team: Why is the multi-sensory aspect so integral to the production?

Amber Onat Gregory: By having multi-sensory elements throughout the show we have been able to create an accessible and theatrical environment that responds to the needs of our audiences.  Most of the multi-sensory elements are performed as an individual interaction between audience member and performer.  As a performer we step into the world of the person with PMLD rather than making them come into ours.  This one to one interaction gives us the opportunity to experience unique moments with our audience and give them the chance to explore the story using their senses.

Smiles all around from the audience at Frozen Light.

Smiles all around from the audience at Frozen Light.

The Daytrippers Team: What interested you in creating theatre for such a specific audience?

Amber Onat Gregory:  We have been working with people with learning disabilities for many years- both as performers and also in the care sector.  As well as performing, I used to work supply as a Teaching Assistant in special schools around London and Lucy worked as a support worker in a day centre for adults with learning disabilities.  As people who work in the theatre industry we have seen how theatres across the UK are trying to improve their accessibility and the post of an Access Manager is becoming more common. Theatres are making their venues more accessible with ramps, toilets, hearing loops, sign interpretation, and even programming relaxed performances for audiences with autism.  All of this is absolutely fantastic but there is still minimal work being programmed specifically for audiences with PMLD.  People with PMLD often find it difficult to access mainstream theatre shows for many reasons: the stage is too far away; the text is complicated; the only senses that are really used are sight and sound (very difficult for people with sensory impairments) and you are expected to sit in one spot and stay silent.  All of this on top of large audiences and mobility needs makes mainstream theatre almost unapproachable.  It is exciting to be making work for an audience who may be seeing theatre for the very first time.  Creating work for an audience who are not your average theatre goers is extremely liberating as so many of the usual theatre traditions are taken away which gives you a lot of artistic freedom when creating the work.  Due to the interactive nature of the production no two performances are the same which is also refreshing as a performer.

The Daytrippers Team: Is your show only for people with PMLD?

Amber Onat Gregory: When we created Tunnels we always had our specific audience in mind and all artistic decisions are created thinking about the responses of our audience.  We are also aware however that we all like to go to the theatre with our friends and family.  In our tour we did shows for both school groups and the general public.  It was our general public shows that got some of the best responses- audiences who had come together as a family.  When we created the show we made sure the production was an enchanting and mystical story that can be enjoyed by the whole family.  Even though there are a lot of one-to-one moments there are also many collective moments that the audience can enjoy together.

The Daytrippers Team:  What kind responses do you get from your audience?

Amber Onat Gregory:  We received really positive responses from all of our audiences- this includes companions, siblings, parents, grandparents, and of course- our teenage audience.  We were told many times that this was the first time that someone had ever been to the theatre and that there needed to be more accessible opportunities like this. One family who saw the show at The New Wolsey in Ipswich said:

A surprise visit from family including 2 teenagers with PMLD gave me the ideal excuse to experience this wonderful show. I loved it! The performers were so committed to involving everyone, even a 6yr old with an obsessive need to understand how everything works!  Our group included people from age 6 to 87, some with learning disabilities of varying levels, some without. We all enjoyed it equally which says it all for me, totally inclusive and completely enthralling. Thank you!’

Another mother who brought her daughter spoke about how relaxing it was to come and see a show without feeling judged by others,

In our world there is the constant frustration of “where can we go where there is no one staring, where not only Lauren is having a great time but as a parent we can relax and just revel in her enjoyment, where she is the majority not a minority ” well in just under an hour TUNNELS achieved all of this and more!

These comments from our audiences really demonstrate everything that we are trying to achieve through setting up Frozen Light.

The Daytrippers Team: What’s next for Frozen Light?

Amber Onat Gregory: We have just started to develop our next show The Forest. We have been fortunate enough to once again to receive funding from the Arts Council England for the development of the show as well as developing our audiences.  This project will take place over the length of a year and we plan to tour our new show in Autumn 2015.  We have also received a grant of £2500 from the Bruce Wake Trust (who also organise accessible boating holidays for people with disabilities) and £5000 from the Stanley Thomas Johnson Foundation.  We are incredibly grateful for the support we receive from trusts and foundations as without it our work would not be possible.

Our new show will be for teenage and adult audiences with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD).  We created Tunnels for teenagers but had many adults with PMLD access the show with their families and carers.  There is very limited accessible arts opportunities for adults with PMLD therefore this is an audience that we really hope to develop.

We will be booking the tour this October so please do get in touch if you know of a theatre venue near you that you would like us to visit.

Connect with Frozen Light’s Amber Onat Gregory:

@Frozentheatre

info@frozenlighttheatrecom

http://www.frozenlighttheatre.com

 

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Spotlight: Treehouse at Number Nine

Come on over the No. 9 !

Come on over to No. 9 !

Psst!  We Are Daytrippers recently found out about an incredible group of kids on a continuous adventure … The Genies Gang who meet at The Treehouse at Number Nine.  This brand new app for ipad will soon become available in other mobile formats, but for the lucky few who have the opportunity to check it out now; you will not be disappointed.

Meet The Genies Gang

Meet The Genies Gang

From a Daytrippers Children’s Charity perspective; the stories about The Genies Gang seem to mirror many of our supporters, kids, families and carers lives that we want to be one of the first charities to promote this app with special music dynamics and lots of FUN included!1743440_803765823020510_7625435839778357228_n

Get to know Angel, Ted, Macro, Jow, Oscar, Cee-Cee and more who all have special genes that make them the fantastic characters they are.  This is just the beginning of The Treehouse at Number Nine so do stay updated, like their Facebook page, follow the gang on Twitter @TreehouseGenies but most importantly download the app first:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/treehouse-at-number-nine/id941368980?mt=8

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