Nov 102016

Scottish Licensed Trade Benevolent Society launches Glass Half Full campaign to encourage current and former industry workers in Aberdeen to sign up for support. With thanks to Duncan Fisher, Senior Account Manager, The BIG Partnership.


Senior figures from the Scottish Licensed Trade at the launch of The BEN’s Glass Half Full campaign, at Blair Athol Distillery in Pitlochry, which aims to help former and current industry workers across Scotland who have fallen on hard times.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Benevolent Society, known as The BEN, has launched a new campaign to increase the number of people it supports and is calling on potential beneficiaries from Aberdeen to get in touch.

The Glass Half Full campaign, which was launched with the help of leading industry figures at Blair Athol Distillery in Pitlochry, is targeting current and former members of the licensed trade who have fallen on hard times through illness, unemployment or other factors, and would benefit from financial aid.

As well as being backed by the national trade, the campaign is being rolled out regionally with the help of The BEN’s network of volunteers, known as ‘Visitors’, who will take on ambassadorial roles within their respective areas.

Established in 1864, The BEN has been providing social, financial and emotional support to members of the licensed trade for over 150 years. Financially, the charity offers regular discretionary payments as well as one-off grants for emergency situations such as housing repairs or transport costs.

To be eligible for support, applicants must have worked in the licensed trade (incorporating bars, pubs, restaurants, hotels, wholesalers plus packaging, production and distribution firms) for at least three years on a full-time basis. The three years do not need to be concurrent.

Commenting on the campaign, Alex Carnie, The BEN’s Visitor in Aberdeen said:

“The BEN works very hard to get its message out there and the Glass Half Full campaign gives us a platform to let potential beneficiaries know we are actively seeking more people to support.

“A lot of former and current workers of the licensed trade won’t know they’re eligible for support so the campaign is great for raising awareness of how the charity can help and hopefully it will encourage as many people as possible to contact us.”

As part of the Glass Half Full campaign, the charity conducted a survey of current licensed trade workers to gain an understanding of potential challenges faced by those in the industry. The survey found that 27% of respondents knew someone who would benefit from financial aid due to life difficulties.

The feedback also showed 25% of male workers had been unemployed during their time in the industry (up to 32% for males aged 26-40) while 14% of their female colleagues had received external financial support (excluding banks or student loans) at some point in their career (up to 20% for females aged 26-40).

The younger generation of workers was also found to be at risk of facing difficulties, with 21% of respondents aged 16-25 stating they had already been in a situation which required financial assistance from an external body. Although older workers, aged 41 and over, have needed less financial aid (5%) than their younger counterparts, 17% still confirmed that they have been unemployed at some point during their career.

Demonstrating that both current and former members of the industry have been in a challenging financial position, the figures highlight the relevance of The BEN in today’s society and the continuing demand for its services.

As well as encouraging potential beneficiaries to get in touch, the Glass Half Full campaign aims to engage members of the licensed trade, and general public, to help spread the word and Chris Gardner, chief executive of The BEN, hopes it will enable the charity to support more people than ever before.

She said:

“Since it was established, The BEN has supported thousands of people across Scotland and we continue to strive to help as many as we can today. As a smaller charity this can sometimes prove challenging, largely due to a lack of awareness, but we hope the ‘Glass Half Full’ campaign will inspire people to either recommend our services or get in touch.

“We know there are hundreds of Scots out there who are eligible for support, but just don’t know it, so the campaign is a way for us to engage with them and let them know we are here to help. However, we understand the apprehension, and embarrassment, which can be caused by seeking financial support but would assure anyone considering contacting us that the application process is completely confidential and any arrangements are managed with the utmost discretion.

“The BEN will continue to support former and current members of the licensed trade for many years to come but we want to build our support network as much as possible. We believe the Glass Half Full campaign will help us expand our reach across Scotland and allow us to widen our impact on the lives of those who need it most.”

Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), and BEN director, is backing the campaign and calling on the industry to show its support:

“The BEN has been the licensed trade’s national trade charity for over 150 years and we are immensely proud of the services it provides. From bar workers to draymen from sales people to restaurant and hotel staff it’s our job to provide assistance when needed. The BEN is well known within the industry, but many people are still unaware of how it helps people and who is eligible for support.

“Therefore we’re asking audiences from both the licensed trade and beyond to help raise awareness of the campaign and encourage anyone that may benefit from support to get in touch.”

About The BEN:

  • The Scottish Licensed Trade Benevolent Society, known as The BEN, offers social, financial and emotional support to former and current members of the licensed trade facing difficulties in life.
  • The BEN supports people of all ages who have worked full-time in the sector for at least three years.
  • The charity can provide beneficiaries with discretionary financial support or one-off grants for emergency situations. Examples include support in covering utility and household bills, the provision of furnishings and injury rehabilitation equipment as well as supplying mobility and transport solutions among many others.
  • The BEN owns the BEN Pitlochry Estate, consisting of 18 bungalows, where it provides accommodation for current and retired members of the industry as well as ‘Respitality’ breaks for carers.

To find out more about The BEN or to enquire about support, please visit or call 0141 353 3596.


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Apr 012016

Keiran BoothWith thanks to Kieran Booth.

In October last year Barthol Chapel resident Kieran Booth (pictured), was selected by the charity, First Aid Africa, to join their 2016 international expedition team of volunteers. From June 1st, the third-year Robert Gordon University student will be travelling to Kenya to teach life-saving First Aid to schools and communities in remote Sub-Saharan Africa.

First Aid Africa works to provide and encourage access to sustainable First Aid equipment and education, delivering emergency healthcare solutions to benefit the public.

Each year, the charity sends teams of volunteers to rural areas of Uganda, Malawi, Kenya and Tanzania to train communities in First Aid skills which they would otherwise not receive. It is a little known fact that injuries kill more people each year in Africa than HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis combined.

Having recently completed his Overseas First Aid training course, Kieran (20) is looking forward to the challenges that he will face during his expedition.

“It’s going to be a fairly tiring and demanding experience out in Kenya but I have no doubt it will be equally rewarding. I applied to get involved as I knew it would be something totally different and out of my comfort zone but it feels great knowing that I’ll be helping to provide support and make a real difference in areas where First Aid knowledge and resources are practically nil.”

The international First Aid training has provided the volunteers with knowledge of how to deal with casualties both within the UK and out in Africa.

“It’s been really interesting learning about the ways to treat various injuries but we have had to realise the importance of how administering First Aid overseas can differ from across here in the UK. Many of the materials that would be used to treat injuries in this country simply aren’t available in the parts that we are travelling to and so it’s all about being resourceful and using what little equipment you have in the most effective way. One simple triangular bandage has more uses than I ever thought!”

Kieran will be making the 4500-mile journey to Kenya from the beginning of June to begin a full month of teaching before the next group of overseas volunteers arrive to relieve them.

Ahead of the expedition Kieran is required to raise money for the charity to cover the costs of the various resources and materials required during the trip and beyond.

“There are a lot of worthy charities out there seeking donations and I appreciate it’s difficult for people to support as many as they would like to. I’ve organised fundraisers that I hope people will be keen to participate in – the aim is for people to enjoy themselves, be in with a chance of winning some super prizes and all while helping a good cause.”

‘The BIG North East Quiz Night’ will take place on Saturday 23rd April in the Melvin Hall in Tarves from 7pm – suitable for all ages.

Tickets for ‘The BIG North East Raffle’ are also on sale, which features an array of prizes from businesses across Aberdeenshire and beyond.

Tickets can be reserved for both fundraisers by emailing

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Sep 072015

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryApologies for the late running of this service. One or two little non-Aberdeen Voice responsibilities have kept me tied up. I’ve got about 12 days left to get artwork ready for a group show at Under The Hammer, and there’s much to do. If anyone has experience making talking Donald Trump and Friends dolls, I could use a pointer or two.

This will be as respectful and tasteful a collection of art as befits our presidential candidate; the man who ‘is the evidence’ against windfarms, and who is, as he puts it liked by ‘the blacks… the Latinos… and the educated blacks…’ We women of course love ‘em. But I digress.

I had a little visit to BrewDog’s Ellon factory bar, and enjoyed a nice chat with Stephen, one of the brewers. He’s even given me one of his own home brew ciders which is ageing nicely in my beer/brew library. Thanks Stephen.

Could things get any more vibrant and dynamic we wonder; I don’t think I’ve written since the astonishing development on Belmont Street. Fashionable Café Culture has Belmont Street! Result! Even if only until 6pm.

This development has made us the envy of Europe, not least for the festive warning signs we’ve put up to let motorists know that there are tables and chairs out in force. Not even some Inspired bunting could add further festive cheer. Do our city safety officers know something about chairs the rest of us don’t? Chairs – specifically those dangerous plastic ones – were on the list of forbidden items back when the Commonwealth Games torch festivities overwhelmed us all.

We’ll look back on the people barriers, list of banned items (pets, chairs, food, drink), the hordes of security forces outnumbering the punters, and happily tell our children’s children what a safe event it was.

While we were all clamboring to get into the gardens, for some reason people are clamouring to leave their own countries to come to seek new lives in Europe. What’s going on? What are we to call them? What’s caused this? Perhaps some definitions may help

Migrants: (English plural noun) – Human beings; men, women, boys, girls infants trying to find a place to live.

A nice little collective noun, useful for dehumanising humans – just a group of faceless individuals on the move.

Refugees: (English plural noun) – Human beings; men, women, boys, girls infants trying to find a place to live.

Another nice little collective noun; avoids any collective responsibility we have for how they got there.

Cockroaches: (English plural noun) – vermin insects

Now we’re talking – large groups of the hungry? Cockroaches it is then. Dehumanising people into something less than human is a great propaganda tactic.

It’s been used by the greats: Hitler, and the folks that brought you genocide in Rwanda used this word – so did our dearly beloved Katie Hopkins. (Ah Rwanda – genocide, famine, aids, other epidemics, lack of schools. And our very own Ian Wood is holding onto some £50,000,000 to this day, until he figures out how to help the existing Rwanda landowners grow more tea. That’s what I’d do if I had a few spare millions).

We’ve even seen the word vermin used here in Aberdeen by our fearless office Peter Leonard when describing the Tullos deer he wanted shot of so he pushed to have them shot. He called these herbivores vermin so often that even the SNH had to tell him to cut it out.

Propaganda is just a useful way to tell people what they should be thinking. Have a look at old columns, Old Susannah #72 – Propaganda Special and Old Susannah No 172 – Propaganda 101 Part 2 for a helpful guide to the dark arts of persuasion.

Katie Hopkins: (Improper English Noun) – Scholar, Renaissance Woman, empath, philosopher, writer

Hooray for people who tell it like it is. People who aren’t afraid to stick to their misanthropic, far right wing ideas are just what this world needs. At least someone had the guts to call these migrants cockroaches.

It’s a courageous thing to stand up for what’s right. Katie famously wrote this some time back:

“No, I don’t care. Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad. I still don’t care.

 “Make no mistake, these migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit ‘Bob Geldof’s Ethiopia circa 1984’, but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb. They are survivors.” (newspapers ad nauseum – literally)

However, not all the migrants/cockroaches got the memo, because 800 of them drowned within days of her penning this great, well thought out column. Untold thousands died since. Maybe they could have withstood a nuclear bomb, but thousands aren’t making it past the people traffickers, the waves, and the squalor of the refugee/cockroach camps. (I am just jealous you see; after all, she’s blonde, she’s been on TV, and she gets paid to write her column).

I think she’s on to something there though – nuclear bombs. I wonder if Iain Duncan Smith isn’t thinking along those lines? I know he is doing his best to keep these things out of the UK. Here’s how:

Detention Centres: (English compound plural noun) – holiday resorts for migrants, refugees, cockroaches

Anyone who gets this far ought to be grateful if they make it to a detention centre. There are lots of activities to participate in. The centres even have nice names, like Yarls Wood.

Channel 4 did a bit of filiming inside: this was very, very wrong. No one – not even the UN’s expert on violence against women – is allowed to film. I think this must just be a case of respecting the refugee/cockroache’s privacy, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Channel 4 is pretty left wing anyway, and their slant on this would have you believe that detainees (a kind of refugee, don’t worry about it) don’t get good medical care, are abused, and wind up with psychological problems evidenced by self-harming. Probably just some kind of cultural phenomenon thingy, I wouldn’t worry. The kids, instead of being grateful for the lack of schooling, are said to be at serious psychological risks.

Anyway, if you can be bothered, here’s a link to some Channel 4 propaganda – I’m sure it’s much more fun than it might look

Those that make it through get to live a life of luxury inside detention centres. The kids don’t have to worry about school much – then when they turn 18, they get a free one-way ticket back to where their parents tried to leave behind in the first place.

Some of the people being returned object to having to leave the luxury camps, and make wild claims like they will be tortured if sent back to countries where torture takes place.

Now, how I wonder would third world dictators get the equipment to subdue, kill, torture, gas and otherwise deal with their civilians?

British Arms Export Sector: (Modern English compound noun) – Area of enterprise responsible for selling UK produced arms, ammunition, chemical weapons, restraints, chains, etc. to countries outwith the UK.

The UK sold £12 billion pounds’ worth of weaponry and restraints abroad last year. You’d get quite a few granite webs for that kind of money, I can tell you. It seems completely ungrateful that with all that lovely hardware floating around the third world, people aren’t staying put and enjoying how much safer we’ve made things for them.

Where have we sold the goods?

“Britain has supplied £12bn of arms to some of the world’s most brutal dictatorships and human rights abusers, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, China and Belarus, a report by MPs has revealed.

“Almost half of all exports were sent to Israel.

“The UK also sent arms to countries who have tense relations with Britain, including Russia, which still supplies weapons to Syria’s President Assad, and Argentina, despite its threats over the Falklands.

“Sales to Sri Lanka raise “very serious questions”, the report by MPs says. Three licences still remain valid for Syria.

“The UK sold arms to almost all of the countries which the Foreign Office blacklisted as human rights abusers.”

It’s not as if this were some self-interested British cartel enriching itself off of human suffering and making countries uninhabitable for the citizenry. We don’t sell to North Korea, so I think we can be proud of what we’re doing.

But somehow, I can’t occasionally wonder if there might be a link between selling guns, shackles, tear gas and weapons to despots, and people trying to get to the UK.

I even once wondered if sending all this hardware abroad instead of sending teachers, books, farmers and seeds and medicine, etc. might be a better way to get a secure world than torturing people into submission. And if you can believe it, there was this time I wondered if resentment in the third world for the UK could somehow be connected with our arming the despots that keep things in order.

Happily these thoughts faded as soon as I started being a devout reader of Hopkins.

One thing I don’t get, is why don’t these people just stay where they are? Palestine has some nice scenic areas. ISIS keeps law and order maintained (as long as you do exactly what you’re told and believe as they do, and aren’t Christian, gay, or heaven forbid Jewish or a woman with ideas of independence). Then there’s Syria. Why are these migrants/cockroaches migrating out of Syria?

Climate Change: (Modern English pseudo-science) – Idea that we are somehow changing our planet’s climate

As far-fetched ideas go, this climate change is quite a piece of propaganda. There’s no evidence for it, and no evidence that it’s got anything to do with Syria. Sure, a bit of land known historically as ‘The Fertile Crescent’ is drying out, laying waste to thousands of Syrian farms. Sure, there’s famine. But that’s no real reason for migrants to migrate away like cockroaches in to the cities, is it?

It’s all nonsense, but I thought I’d bring it up anyway, just to show you that for every reasonable columnist like Katie H, there are a few crackpots out there. Here’s a quote that might entertain you:

“Syria sits in a band of relatively moist and productive land in the Middle East, known as the Fertile Crescent. But between 2006 and 2010, the region was hit by the worst multiyear drought since 1940

“Syria gets almost all of its rain during its six-month winter, from November to April. In 2007-08, winter rainfall across Syria fell by a third, with some areas receiving no rain at all….,

“As the drought continued, farmers and their families abandoned their land and headed to urban areas for work. Around 1.5 million people migrated to Syrian cities during the drought, adding to the high population growth and recent arrival of 1.2 to 1.5 million Iraqi refugees…

“The growing urban populations resulted in overcrowding, unemployment and crime, but the worsening situation was neglected by the Syrian government, the study says. This growing unrest, the researchers say, was the trigger for the uprising…. “

“Dr Peter Gleick, an expert on water and conflict at the Pacific Institute, says the evidence for the impact of climate change on security is mounting:

“The war in Syria has many causes, from ancient enmities, religious and ideological disputes, economic and social pressures, and political tensions. But there is growing evidence that pressures on water resources associated with poor management, increasing populations, and human-caused climate changes are now influencing regional security in new and disturbing ways.”

I wouldn’t put much store in this ‘Dr Peter Gleick’s’ opinions anyway – that’s a pretty foreign-sounding name he’s got there, don’t you think?

Pretty much, these people brought their problems on themselves, just like the Oklahoma farmers did in the 1930s. In true American style, most of the displaced farmers had a jolly time of it seeking work and lives elsewhere. A guy named Steinbeck has a little comedy booklet on this happy episode called The Grapes of Wrath, if you’ve got enough time after reading your daily serving of Hopkins to want to read any further.

Just remember back to World War II, when England decided to send its children to live abroad. We did the world a favour by sharing our English youth. Let’s not let anyone use the evacuations as an excuse to let these migrant/refugee/cockroaches in here. Some things just don’t cut both ways.

So there you have it. As an aside, some well-intentioned I’m sure Aberdeen folk have been collecting clothes and goods to send to the migrants. Many of the migrants are off on holiday in France in a place called Calais.

The people behind this campaign are really too numerous to mention – but a few include Iain Richardson and Pat Ballantyne (both musicians, so probably left-wing types), The Café 52 Bothwell clan (trouble makers with form), a lady named Shelley Milne, ACT Aberdeen, The drama school and its students (obviously left wing). Clearly Katie Hopkins still has her work cut out for her.

If you want to give, there is still time – just of course to get on the band wagon and not because you actually care about these migrants, mind. Details of remaining collections here and here.

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Feb 202015
Oxfam Area Manager Peter Roy, who is leading the initiative, is pictured with Dons players Scott Brown, Adam Rooney, Jamie Langfield and Russell Anderson 2

Oxfam Area Manager Peter Roy with Scott Brown, Adam Rooney, Jamie Langfield and Russell Anderson.

With thanks to Dave Macdermid.

Aberdeen Football Club is supporting Oxfam in this Saturday prior to the SPFL Premiership match against St. Mirren at Pittodrie.

The charity will have a collection point outside the Richard Donald Stand between noon and 3 pm.

Dons skipper Russell Anderson said.

“We would like to ask the Red Army to help support Oxfam by donating CD’s , LP’s  & records, DVD’s and sheet music that you no longer use.

“Your donations can help people around the world fight their way out of poverty and change lives for good.  Oxfam desperately need music donations as these can make up to a quarter of the money raised in some shops.

“Please bring along any CD’s, LP’s, records ,DVD’s or sheet music that you can spare – their sales will make such a difference to those people who have so little.”

The sale of just 4 CD’s could provide safe water for 10 People in Sierra Leone, ensure School supplies for pupils in Ethiopia or help families fight food poverty here in the UK.

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Jan 162015
  • Aberdeen Voice wishes to alert readers that the following article contains strong language. It is the considered opinion of the editorial team that the writer’s experiential account and the style in which his views and thoughts are expressed are best served by presenting his contribution as intact and true to the original text as possible.

By Greg Chaos.

Greg (3)When I first visited Uganda in January 2011 it was to do charity work. I was to be looking after children in an orphanage and teaching English and Mathematics at a primary school.
I’d recently split from a long term partner. My job prospects seemed to be disappearing down the toilet quicker than my latest bowel movement; causing perpetual skintness.

I was constantly inebriated because it was only thing I actually enjoyed doing… I needed an escape and I needed to do something with my life. At the time; this was the answer.

I knew about Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill before I left. To me it came across as typical right-wing, nonsense legislation, passed by some idiot in power; which eventually would be quashed. I’d thrown myself into learning everything I could about the country in the 7 weeks between me deciding I was going and getting on the plane.

Despite the Bill, I’d decided to go anyway. Half way through my stay a friend sent me a video which had just aired in the UK, on BBC3. In Uganda my connection was poor and it would have taken me several days to download so I decided against it and watched it when I got home. I was shocked that the nation I’d just been to (and couldn’t wait to go back to) was the source of this homophobic hate. Naturally I thought; “well, they’ve clearly picked the biggest nutters they can find to put into this”.

I’m talking, of course, about BBC3’s ‘World’s Worst Place to be Gay?’ presented by Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills; a gay man himself.

Throughout the next 12 months I would strategically plan to set up my own charity which was to help orphanages and community based projects in Uganda. I had fallen in love with the country. I was going back. I watched ‘The Last King of Scotland’ countless times so I could feel as close as possible to the place again.

But I was going to address the homophobia and I would not be caught dead supporting any cause that was homophobic in any way.

I dedicated all my time to finding out about LGBT in Uganda. All I could find were the troubles. There was nothing online based around meeting anyone and helping any causes. When the penalty is potentially death, it’s understandable that most people don’t have the rainbow flying high.

In January 2012 I returned and immediately noticed a spectacular difference in the place. Perhaps it was because my eyes had been opened and I was seeing past the bullshit, who knows.

One of my first experiences of homophobia was the hostel I was staying at. I had become acquainted with one of the women who worked there. We’d hooked up and I asked her if she fancied going to dinner the next night. Despite her trying to take me to the most expensive restaurant in Kampala, (a fact I found out later on that night), we went to an Irish Bar called Bubbles for some pub grub and a piss up.

GregEquator featIt was my first real chance, so I asked what she thought about the anti-homosexuality bill. She did everything she could not to answer the question. By the sounds of things the staff at the hostel had heard the foreigners complaining enough about the bill to not mention it… or at least to avoid confrontation about it.

She wouldn’t give me an answer. All I got out of her was ‘Jesus this and Jesus that’. The usual sentiments you’d expect from someone who lacks the ability to think for themselves. So I told her straight; “I’m Bisexual, does that bother you?”

After explaining what bisexual meant, she responded with the strangest question I’ve ever been asked about my sexuality.

To this day it still stops me in my tracks when I think about it. She grabbed my hand and said “Well why don’t you change? You can change.”

It took me a few seconds to register. The mixed feelings of outrage, complete shock and then the all-important guilt; which was quickly shaken off and replaced by sheer pride. I asked why I should change and witnessed the bigotry flow like blood from a stab wound. After half an hour of the usual God Nonsense and her ignoring my Atheism, I gave up and told her we should part.

I went to the bar to sink some quick vodkas and smoke a few fags, still trying to shake off the residual shock and rage.

Apparently insulting me wasn’t enough and she came in to find me. Apparently “this date is over, I suggest you go home or do whatever, but leave me alone, I don’t want to see you” wasn’t clear enough. She asked me for money for her taxi home and I’ll let you guess what my final words of the evening were.

After a few days I travelled to the city of Masaka; about 80 miles South West of Kampala.

I had been based here the previous year and was quite familiar with the surroundings. It’s a smaller city with a population of around 75,000, A lot calmer than the some 2 million of Kampala. I met with a friend who had offered me accommodation for a few weeks whilst I set up my charity. His community based projects included libraries and a small local bank for loans to help build local infrastructure. He had even come up with units to harness the natural gases from farmyard dung to be used for cooking stoves.

This man is (and to this today remains), in my mind; a Saint. He rose early every day to teach classes and stayed late every night to run his projects. His pay is meagre and he lives a simple life. The only remaining child of ELEVEN brothers and sisters, his determination is unparalleled. So it greatly pleased me to find out he had absolutely no quarrels with sexual orientation. (In fact he was curious and asked questions on the matter. I actually suspect he may be queer himself). He would come to be the only shoulder close by at one point.

Over the next few weeks my social interactions with the people around me diminished. I would always try and approach the question of the bill and refused to shy away from it as I felt I had done the year previously. Something I felt ashamed about. As the weeks continued I could see I was being taken less seriously because of what I had confessed.

Ugandans do this thing where they laugh and smile profusely when they’re having a serious conversation with someone and believe themselves to be right, even when they’re not.

Greg (5)Whilst doing this the other person in the conversation is usually visually distressed or down hearted. It is, to say the least, infuriating.

I feel that I was probably seeing the better side of it all. These conversations were with men and women who both worked for this man’s charity, so they have probably heard this all before from the foreigners who’ve come across to work for the charity and spoke against the bill in conversation.

I would later turn out to be correct.

After a few weeks I finally relocated to the programme I had worked with the previous year in a village just outside of Masaka. In a room full of cockroaches and with rats running on the rafters above you while you try to sleep; it’s not the nicest in the world, but it’s a bed for the night or 3 weeks… as it turned out.

The owner of this particular orphanage is (as has now been proven) a money grabbing useless bastard. He is out of the closet in every country around the world it would seem, except Uganda; which is why I haven’t mentioned the dickhead’s name. He arrived a few days after I did, returning from America where he had been touring for almost a year.

This former Pastor had been giving sermons at churches and Universities around the States for literally thousands of dollars per session. Sometimes up to five or six times a week, for 11 months. In case you’re not aware, the exchange rate in Uganda is incredibly low. You could live for a year pretty comfortably on a budget of £3-4,000. Easy. That’s nights out, 3 meals a day and rent if you find the right place and strike up a deal.

The children he ‘looks after’ drink dirty water, wear rags and sometimes don’t go to school because he doesn’t pay the bills (despite owning a fucking school as well). They sleep on piss stained mattresses despite the fact I had replaced these a year before. Turns out they were carted off to his school as he could make more money having a boarding section.

In the end I confronted him about all of this and we parted ways. Before doing so I did get the chance to chat with him about the LGBT Rights in Uganda.

Even after divulging my own orientation he wasn’t keen to let anything go, despite his sexuality and the fact that his sermons condoning same sex relationships are plastered all over the internet. He should be commended slightly for his work within LGBT, although he is not known for it in his home country (and would probably be shunned if he was).

The man commands a lot of respect within the community around him because of his work; the orphanage and the school. However these are a complete joke compared to the luxury houses he owns, the cars he drives and the meals he eats. He’s the classic example of the rich not wanting to sacrifice an inch so that those under him can have a better life.

Greg (2)Whilst in the local bar one evening, drinking away my blues with my pal George (the local raging alcoholic with a gammy arm who delivers dirty water for a living, who just happens to not be a homophobe as well) I was confronted by a local man who I already knew had a distaste for mzungus (white people).

He had overheard me talking to George, I assume on the issue of the bill, and had begun to shout at me. But this time it was different. There was no mention of the bible in this man’s rant.

This time it was pure hatred. We tossed words back and forth before the bar owner threw the man out for being too drunk. Roberta (the lady whose house was actually the bar) spoke little English but recognized that the man was on one of his Anti-Mzungu tirades and chucked him out.

His friends weren’t impressed with me either, however on that particular night the choice between drinking and homophobic hate was in the end determined by their thirst and they sat quietly and glared at me. Having had a few drinks (I wasn’t hammered; just tipsy), I was prescribing to the “fuck ‘em” philosophy. It wasn’t until I sobered up that I realized that the quarter mile long walk home in the pitch black would have made me easy pickings.

You have to remember we were only a year removed from the murder of David Kato (the gay rights campaigner and Uganda’s first openly gay man) who was beaten to death with a hammer in his bed. At the very least I would have got my head kicked in and, to be honest; looking back on the situation, the only thing that probably stopped that from happening was that I wasn’t a local.

Had I been, I think it would have only been a matter of time before I was attacked. This all might sound overly dramatic, but I saw the look in those men’s eyes, I don’t think they even knew I was queer, but they did hear my support against the bill and that was enough to get them angry.

After parting ways with the village I had a week to kill before I returned home. I visited a few different projects and did some good work in the time I had left, but by this point my spirit was well and truly broken. It was becoming clear that throwing money into these causes wasn’t going to be the answer because the same problems would arise and the cycle of poverty would simply continue instead of changing for the better.

I was drinking with a guy I’d met the previous year, he knew and had no issues, however this could be linked to me paying for most of his drinks. At £1 a bottle I didn’t really care.

He was a street worker. Basically he’d wait outside the shopping centres and people would come to him looking for a particular fabric or dress or whatever. Instead of them looking for themselves, he’d go and buy items from several different shops. Sometimes travelling as far as Kampala for them. A strange profession but one that fed him.

Greg (6)I met him on the street with two other lads; his friends/co-workers or whatever; and one had said something along the lines of “here’s your boyfriend” in a sarcastic tone.

These two lads must have been about 19 or 20. I shot them a glare to let them know I’d heard them and that the next words from his mouth would hurt.

They shot a glare right back before my friend took me away and it settled on its own. It seemed that throughout all age groups there was hatred.

Before retiring on my last night I spoke just generally about my time in Uganda with the owners of the Hotel I was staying in in Kampala. A German couple, of Indian origins. They’d lived there for a good few years. Every now and again, when you’d walk past their room, the door would be ajar and you’d see their clothes hung up all over the room and one of them lying in bed. They were at that age where they didn’t seem to give a shit anymore.

They’d been together for some 40 years, if I recall. So why they chose to live in Uganda, I will never know. I really should have asked. Every now and again you’d see them in the reception area sitting side by side watching TV; one with a hand on the knee of the other, both with walking sticks. It was a stark contrast to everything I had seen going on around me because after all, these were enemies of the state. They were a Gay Couple.

Footnote:  I have picked out a few of my negative experiences and pieced it together as best as I can. Please understand that every situation I put myself into, excluding the verbal attack in the bar in which I defended myself, I did so as calmly and carefully as possible.

The goal was never to create enemies, it was to create friends and try and show that LGBT is a natural way of life because we are seen as some sort of evil in Uganda. My only aim was to help, not to incite more hatred, and I did it for as long as I could humanly take it.
Please also note that all names and some places have been omitted or changed in order to protect the identities of those in Uganda from their Government.

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Dec 192014

Eilidh WhitefordBy Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP.

Last Friday the House of Commons passed an historic piece of legislation, to enshrine in law the promise made over forty years ago to commit 0.7% of our Gross National Income to international development.

I know this is an issue close to the hearts of many constituents, who make their own generous contributions to charities working overseas, and want to see the UK government play its part by meeting its responsibilities as part of the global community.

Although development assistance is a tiny proportion of our budget, it has a big impact on the lives of people affected by natural disasters and wars, and can have a transformative effect on those living in poor countries.

Overseas aid from this country has provided clean water and sanitation for over 43 million people.

10 million children have gone to school who otherwise would not have had an education, and 3.6 million women have given birth safely, supported by a qualified midwife or other medical professional. UK aid has also been instrumental in promoting economic development in poorer countries – indeed, some which have grown to such an extent they have become important new trading partners for us.

Although the introduction of the Bill was a manifesto commitment of all the major parties in 2010, it was introduced as a Private Member’s Bill by former Scottish Secretary Michael Moore. I was disappointed that a few MPs, who opposed the Bill (despite standing on a manifesto supporting it), tried to kill the Bill using some of Westminster’s more arcane parliamentary procedures to scupper it.

It’s enormously frustrating that our democracy is open to such shenanigans. Luckily, the Bill survived and was carried by an overwhelming majority of those present, but the outcome could have been very different.

Our aid money also supports developing countries to build open, transparent and accountable democratic systems of government. Maybe it’s time we paid a bit more attention to our own advice.

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Dec 052014

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionarySeason’s Greetings! Tally Ho! Sale now on! 25% off! I’m sure we all love this time of year – a time to reflect… on how that new lowcost dress looks on us in the changing room mirror. It’s a time to take stock – and have a sale to make room for seasonal merchandise. A time for sharing – if you have a 2 for 1 coupon that is.

All this fuss and greeting about what’s going wrong in the Third World is unseemly at this time of year. I’m sure we’d all like to help the less fortunate around the globe. They want the same as absolutely everyone wants in Aberdeen: jobs creations.

Remember, no patch of ground, seashore or Site of Specific Scientific Interest is so important it shouldn’t be swept aside for jobs creation.

We can help create jobs abroad too. This might help keep those pesky foreigners out of the UK as well – bonus!

All we have to do is keep buying cheap goods from multinational stores that are sewn by people working in foreign sweatshops – sorry – meant to say foreign factories, and they’ll happily work day and night (literally) to meet our demands (unless the factory falls to bits, as happens). Such places are equal opportunity employers – no one is too old, too young or too weak to work.

From our mobile phones (no doubt bought on cyber Monday) to our our new Primark outfit, to the cheap designer knock-off we buy on the street corner – we are engaging in jobs creation. Well done us!

Then again, you could consider buying handmade goods from craftsmen in the UK, but these guys are always expensive, and more often than not are layabout subversive types. Even worse, if you get something from a craftsperson, it will be unique. How will you fit in then? No, it’s best to make sure you find out what the right colours are to be seen in this week, and make sure you have the right words sewn on your shirt. Check with your friends; no sense in standing out from the herd.

And with that it’s time for some December definitions.

Acts of Charity: (Compound English noun) to actively perform work to help others.

But this is a time for giving as well. Some people take it just that bit too far, and dabble with charitable acts, a rather unseemly kind of exhibitionist practice. Take for instance a man in Florida, who at the age of 90 should know better. Arnold Abbot has been feeding Ft Lauderdale’s homeless and poor for ten years – and he knows about this new law that says he can’t. He was already told by the police not to do it – but he’s not respecting their authority.

Jail’s the best place for people like him.

Two pastors were with him as well – what’s the world coming two when two churchmen are using funds to feed the poor? Who did they even get such a zany idea from? Church money is best tied up in real estate, paintings and gold.

So here’s to Florida’s new law against feeding the poor. Perhaps they’ll get round to prohibiting helping the sick as well. By the way, in the land of the free, it’s also now illegal to feed the hungry in a few other places too, which is fine, as there can’t be many hungry people in Seattle, LA, Dallas and Philadelphia (Philadelphia’s the place with the ‘Liberty Bell’ – ‘let freedom ring’ is the American cry. I’m sure there’s no symbolic value to be found in the fact the bell is cracked).

The bravery of the American policeman is often overlooked. Often faced with unarmed men, or 12 year olds with guns, they selflessly put their lives on the line to make the world a safe place. Of course this often means the kind of safety where you’re liable to be shot dead for no just cause at the hand of an untouchable force, but I guess you can’t have everything.

Well done Ft Lauderdale police – good to know that of all the laws you could be enforcing, you’ve gone for the rogue 90 year old. The Independent’s article has a fetching photo featuring three police officers sent to get this guy. One gendarme is a woman, you might wonder if she is perhaps there to show the sharing caring side of stopping people feeding the poor in public, but surely the police aren’t into patronising, sexism, or attempts at PR coups.

Not one of these three officers questioned the importance of this law, and happily went about the business of upholding the law. The future will need more such brave police I’ve no doubt.

The Independent article advises:

“Mr Abbott set up Love Thy Neighbour in memory of his late wife Maureen in order to continue the humanitarian work they both did by regularly making and sharing food at Holiday Park and Fort Lauderdale Beach.

To comply with the law, all they’d need to do is to rent premises (no more than one per city block, mind) and spend their overheads on rent, insurance, etc. instead of food. It’s all a bit unseemly, seeing poor people eating; this sort of thing is best done behind closed doors (if done at all). Or so it goes in Ft Lauderdale. Let’s hope no irreverent types access this Love Thy Neighbour charity’s site and donate funds.

On this side of the pond Sir Bob Geldof is resurrecting his Feed the World / Do they know it’s Christmas thing, this time Ebola is the cause celebre.

Love or loathe the man, he’s doing something. Cynical marketing and PR exercise? Saintly means for feeding/saving/vaccinating the world? I leave that with you.

However, since the original Live Aid single raised £8 million, and the Live Aid concerts raised some £65 million, I do have a suggestion that should save time, money and effort. Let’s get Sir Bob to do a concert for Sir Ian. If Wood stumps up some of the £53.9 million languishing in the Wood Family Foundation’s vaults, then that would nearly cover it. Result!

That’s food for thought – which is more nourishment that the people who could use this money are getting. I’m afraid the Boomtown Rats don’t do much for me, but I do prefer them to other kinds of rats.

Season’s Greetings: (English compound noun) A warm form of address usually associated with the Christmas period.

Since you’ve taken time out from your important shopping activities, here’s a heartwarming image to remind you about the people who have suffered, worked and fought so hard to get things right in the world.

Yes, I mean Tony and Cheree Blair. Tony’s very proud of his faith and the work he’s doing to bring peace to the Middle East (let’s overlook pride being a sin for the moment and all that nonsense). This photo brought a tear to my eye. ‘Season’s Greetings’ it proclaims – and greeting is just what you’ll be doing when you look back on the ways in which Tone has helped to make the world what it is today.

Old Susannah quite likes this photo; it does seem to capture the essence of the couple. However some unkind people have made comments on it which include

“Why is this year’s card so secular? For a man who decided to go to war inspired by his faith, this card is particularly non-descript. It doesn’t even say Christmas.”

“Why is Tony looking at us like we’ve just spilled his pint?

“Is this is all part of an evil plan to make us unable to sleep forever?

“Of course, it is possible that this is just the card he’s sending to all of his enemies.”

But do have a look at the lovely card and see what you make of it yourself.

Recycle: (English verb) to re-use or reclaim something which would otherwise be discarded.

Christmas is coming earlier and earlier these days; we’ve had Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and sales since Halloween. I thought I’d get in on this trend, and if you don’t mind, here’s something I wrote once before. Have yourself a merry little Christmas, or whatever you choose to celebrate.

Right, well it’s Christmas again.

I think by now we’ve established that not everyone looks like a supermodel, can afford hundreds of pounds of food and presents, and not everyone will be having dozens of close, equally-beautiful friends dashing to their homes in open sleighs to sing around 12’ tall, perfectly decked trees.

Don’t buy into a picture that doesn’t exist. But do, if you’re feeling stressed or unhappy about anything at all at this time of year, talk to a friend.

If you can’t talk to a friend or a family member, talk to one of the many services out there that will listen to you without judging you. Stress is particularly bad for people at this time of year, and it’s important to remember that worrying about things outside of your control will never solve anything, but will make you anxious or ill.

If there are things you can change and want to change about your work, life, home, then stop, figure out what you need to do, and start to make a plan for change. Don’t let your problems grow out of all proportion.

If you need a little bit of perspective, do some volunteering, fund-raising, join a group – do something new. You’ll be glad you did. There are people out there far worse off than you or I; be glad for what you’ve got, and don’t be tricked into thinking you need more material things to keep up with some imaginary Jones.

Sorry if this all sounds a bit obvious/preachy/oversimplified – but at the end of the day, it is definitely within your power to take stock, realise what you do have to be thankful for, and to fix what needs fixing. Please be happy, be safe, and have a Happy Christmas or whatever you might be celebrating. – OS

Stop press: on Saturday 6th December the Rucksack Project will be meeting at 2pm at 62 Summer Street in Aberdeen to give rucksacks of essential goods to our city’s rough sleepers. Please see – hope to see you there.

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Mar 292012

Curriculum for Excellence has afforded Harlaw Academy pupils the opportunity to embrace Citizenship in more diverse contexts that ever before, and a Staff Working Group on Citizenship was set up almost 3 years ago.  For the last year the group has included pupils, who have played a major role in the running of the group and decision-making procedures. Depute Head teacher Aileen Hunter tells Voice readers.

Pupils in the group were very interested in forging a link with pupils in a school abroad, and unanimously favoured the work of  RSVP Charity which has as its Trustees several representatives in Aberdeen. This charity supports children in the Bugarama region of Rwanda by providing a daily meal at primary school, and sponsors older children to receive a secondary education at boarding school – “Education today for Zero Aid Tomorrow.”

Harlaw Academy has agreed to sponsor 5 children to attend boarding school for 6 years and the Citizenship Group’s responsibility is to ensure that adequate funds are raised to cover the costs of sponsorship.

Harlaw pupils are allocated to one of 5 Houses – Albyn, Carden, Holburn, Victoria, Waverley – and, as from January 2012, each house sponsors a child – Jeremy, Jean-Pierre, Giselle, Emmanuel, Esther. The initial cost per sponsored pupil was £20 for their starter pack at boarding school, followed by £10 per month for fees for 6 years.

The launch of the partnership with RSVP Charity reached its climax on 19th March 2012 when the entire school population celebrated AFRICA DAY.  In the lead-up to the event fund-raising event were organised, for example “Harlaw Spring (and Summer) Clean”, Forest Walk, end-of-term Talent Show, Rowing Challenge, “small change” collections at House Assemblies.

Each of the 5 House Captains selected an African country for their house to represent – Madagascar, Kenya, Morocco, Egypt, South Africa.  The Head Boy and Girl, and the Senior Management Team represented Rwanda.  On Africa Day pupils were encouraged to dress in the colours of their country’s flag and contribute £1 to RSVP Charity.  One pupil dressed as a “mummy” and collected £25 from staff and pupils in the canteen.

Staff from all curricular areas devised class-work to articulate with the Africa Day theme in preparation for an exhibition of material in the school hall which was open to all staff and pupils throughout the day.  Each house was responsible for a display of material.

Pupils worked in house groups in class on activities such as population pyramids, investigation of an issue of concern and how it is being resolved (animal extinction, poverty etc), African singing, African literature, mining, African masks, African dancing, African Flags, water-carrying race, letter to Pittodrie Football Club requesting used football boots which will be taken to Rwanda.

  The Harlaw PTA expressed great interest in the project.

Canteen staff baked cup-cakes and a large cake iced in the colours of the Rwanda flag.  The school technician filmed and photographed pupil presentations, fund raising events, assemblies and displays.

Africa Day was preceded by a series of Assemblies led by the House Captains who introduced their sponsored child and gave a brief profile of their chosen country.  The Head Boy and Girl led 3 Assemblies that gave pupils and staff information on Rwanda and the RSVP Charity, and highlighted the background to why the children need our support.

We were thrilled that Jean Main (a trustee of RSVP Charity ), Simon Mbarushimana (also a trustee, formerly a  sponsored Rwandan child and now a doctor at A&E in Aberdeen) and our school chaplains attended one of the assemblies.

The events and projects detailed above are all  documented in photographs, video footage and a display in the school’s Meeting Room.

The launch of the project, including Africa Day, was reviewed by Senior Management of the school who commented on the scope of awareness-raising among the entire school community.  The Harlaw PTA expressed great interest in the project.

The Citizenship group will review the launch at their next meeting in April, and continue to plan for the next stages in the project – direct communication with the sponsored pupils, the prospect of a visit to Rwanda by staff and pupils, and strengthening the links with the school community and RSVP Charity through Jean and Simon.

Oct 212011

An event to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the International Brigades who fought in the Spanish Civil War against Fascism and Tyranny in support of Freedom and Democracy, took place in Aberdeen on Friday 14 October 2011 in the ATUC Club, Adelphi, Aberdeen.  Brian Carroll was in attendance and shares the occasion with Voice readers.

The event was well attended and kicked off with a talk by Neil Cooney on the Aberdeen Boys’ contribution to the fight for freedom and democracy in Spain to which 19 of them committed. It was no mean feat in those days to get from Aberdeen to Barcelona, traveling through France to be smuggled into Spain over the Pyrenees; and then to endure the depravity and inhumanity of war for the three long years it took the overwhelming forces of Franco’s men and machines to defeat the Republicans.

The Spanish Civil War raged from 1936-39

Nineteen of Aberdeen’s finest committed to this fight and five made the ultimate sacrifice to the cause, dying on the battlefields of Spain at Gandesa and Ebro.

The nephew and son of two of those who undertook this remarkable journey and adventure attended the celebration, They were Neil Cooney and Ian Dewar, nephew and son of Bob Cooney and Archie Dewar respectively. Neil Cooney gave a talk about the contribution of those from Aberdeen.

Bob Cooney survived the War and returned to Aberdeen to then fight in the Second World War, but Archie gave the ultimate sacrifice and died in action at the Ebro.

There was some poetry, music and a general discussion on the war, the events leading up to it and the policy of non-intervention by Britain and France, a policy which resulted in a Fascist/Franco victory. But the Spanish Civil War did sow the seeds of the beginning of the end for Hitler and Mussolini.

The flag you see in the photos is hanging proudly in the ATUC Social Club. It was the then Spanish Flag of the Republic of Spain, and the bodies of Archie Dewar and Tom Davidson were wrapped in this flag on their deaths. The flag was then sent back to Aberdeen by Bob Cooney.

Aberdeen Women’s Aid Committee sewed on the legend “From the Aberdeen Boys Fighting in Spain”.

An ATUC booklet produced for the war’s 60th anniversary, Remembering the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939, was available to those attending the celebration. I requested both Neil Cooney and Ian Dewar to sign my copy, which was a very proud and emotive moment indeed, after hearing of the courage, bravery, commitment and endurance of those who volunteered to fight in Spain.

Bob Cooney was the Political Commissar to the British Battalion of the International Brigade, and he penned the poem ” Hasta La Vista Madrid” no doubt somewhat inspired by the words he wrote when he was requested to leave Spain by Prime Minister Negrin, when the defeat of the Republicans and their Democratically elected Government was inevitable:

“We went to Spain
Because of that great yesterday
We are part of that great tomorrow
Hasta LaVista- Madrid”
(Until we see Madrid again)