All Posts in Awareness

December 19, 2022 - No Comments!

Living Consciously at Christmas

Have you found yourself racing frantically through the shops just before Christmas? Trying to find something (or... anything) to give a family member, or friend? 

Has your hurried quest ended in a poorly-made decision, just to be able to check that person off your list?

I know I have! And quite possibly, those hasty purchases go on to become an unwanted Christmas gift - adding to the 18,000,000 other unwanted gifts like the ones given to more than half the country’s population last year. (In 2021, Gumtree estimated $574 million worth of unwanted Christmas gifts

In the rush of the moment, it’s hard to look at Christmas time spending and decision-making objectively. We are influenced by sales, deadlines, price, emotions and fears of not finding, or giving, just the ‘right’ thing. Sneaky expenses like decorations, gift packaging, food and presents all blur into one. And living consciously at Christmas feels hard! But, it’s not impossible!

You can check out last year’s post with 5 ideas about how to have a more conscious Christmas here. 

One way to live more consciously at Christmas is by ‘gifting consciously’. 

Gifting consciously involves moving away from just ‘giving for the sake of giving’ and towards taking the time to consider what you’re buying and the impact the item has on the people who made it, the environment and the person you’re giving it to. 

It’s about thinking of a gift in terms of how it was made, where it was made, what it’s made from, and finally… where is it going to end up? For our team at ZOE, the driver to gift consciously is linked to preventing and ending child labour in industries like fashion, makeup, agriculture (food, coffee), homewares and electrical goods. But we also feel that environmental and health factors are huge drivers for living more consciously too.  

So, how do we consciously gift this Christmas in light of what we know about child labour, the waste factor, our budgets, and the expectations of our families and friends?  And how do we give a gift that will be treasured rather than wasted? It feels like a lot to juggle all those things!

Thankfully, there are tools available to assist us, like ethical shopping apps such as ‘Good on You,’ ‘End Poverty,’ ‘Sweat and Toil’ and ‘Shop Ethical’ which are all available for download. 

But there are other creative alternatives around Christmas spending such as buying less, buying second-hand, reusing existing Christmas decorations rather than buying new ones, and considering what the people we’re giving to, already have.

Last year we asked ZOE supporters to contribute some of their creative ideas on being more conscious in the lead-up to Christmas. And this year we’re sharing some more ideas about how to ‘live consciously at Christmas’ from within our team. 

This year our sweet office manager Sharon has turned to ‘green gifting‘ an alternative to using traditional shiny and glittery wrapping paper (which cannot be recycled and is nothing else but microplastics).  She shared, “I have made my own gift sacks, bought some Christmas-themed material and got the sewing machine out. I made three, one for each of the grandsons, and then I can use them again next year. I made them super big to fit even the biggest present!” In the past, Christmas paper would’ve been ripped apart and thrown into the bin, but now Sharon has found an alternative that shows a grandma’s love for her grandchildren and a simple solution to preventing excess waste.

Hudson recently moved into a new home, but that doesn’t mean she’s buying new decorations. Most decorations contain plastics and can last from 450 to 1,000 years in landfill, so she recommends making your own Christmas decorations! Hudson said, “This year, I asked my nine-year-old niece if she would make a few Christmas decorations for us, as she is very resourceful and creative. She made us some cute gnomes from some wool and leftover felt, and in exchange, she wants me to bake her some sourdough - win, win!” 

After having lived overseas for many years, Andrea was excited to finally have a “real” Christmas tree again but was concerned that the tree might end up becoming landfill, and ultimately not being good for the environment. Not wanting to buy a plastic tree, but also not wanting to create excess ‘waste’ was a dilemma. So, this year she decided to buy a real tree in a pot. She hopes that by caring for it throughout the year, the family can reuse it at Christmas time for many more years to come. 

Gift wrapping has also been a topic of conversation for Jyselle. Instead of buying commercially produced wrapping paper whose supply chains we really don’t know much about, she said, “this Christmas give your gift wrapping a conscious-consuming twist. Swap out the wrapping paper for old newspapers, used magazines, preloved tea towels or preowned scarfs. Neatly tie it together with some second-hand yarn, ribbon or twine from your local op shop and you’ll have yourself the best wrapped presents under the tree.”

Rachael loves being intentional with her gift-giving. She shared her tip, saying, “I try to purchase meaningful gifts using local and small businesses as much as I can.” 

With not much to show under the tree yet, David admits to opting for vouchers, gift cards and homemade coupons this year. “We like to enjoy experiences together, including travel. Our children will be getting lots of coupons to claim on experiences  while we’re away on holidays - instead of ‘physical’ gifts this year.” 

With her extended family, Mesh said they decided to do Kris Kringle instead of buying individual gifts for everyone. She explained, “That way, everyone can suggest a few things that they really want, and we can select something we know our KK will actually be excited about.”

We believe that Christmas is all about celebrating the greatest gift of all - Jesus! And the gifts He gives are peace, joy and love! We hope that you can experience His peace through the busyness, share His joy in being generous, and demonstrate His love for the people placed in your life. 

Merry (conscious) Christmas, from ZOE Australia!

September 20, 2022 - No Comments!

Trauma-Informed Care

 

Being in Thailand helped me to understand a little bit more about trauma and the importance of trauma-informed care. I’m not a social worker or trained in any of that, but I think I understood for the first time, what trauma really is.

According to Peter Levine, “Trauma is in the nervous system, not in the event.”.

In his work “the body keeps the score”, Bessel van der kolk writes that “being traumatised means continuing to organise your life as if the trauma were still going on–unchanged and immutable–as every new encounter or event is contaminated by the past.”

I was really struck by this when I was in Thailand. Previously I had understood trauma as an event, but rather, it is the imprint of that event living inside the individual, carried within their nervous system.

Brandon, who oversees our vocational training in Thailand shared with me his heart for the young people coming through ZOE. I was moved by the intent behind the training. It provides young people with skills that they can take with them, but there is always this therapeutic aspect underlying the training that really speaks to their trauma.

For many of the kids who come to ZOE, their only experience of business and working is being exploited for someone else’s profit.

Vocational training flips this on its head. Vocational training is all about agency and self-determination… it's built on the knowledge that every child is unique and has different needs, dreams, goals and passions! The aim at the moment is to expose children who come to ZOE to as many skills and opportunities as possible. We run many courses including agricultural studies - so, running our pig farm, woodworking and construction, sewing and fashion design, nail painting, hairdressing, hospitality, cooking and baking, computer skills, multimedia and photography, art, design and even a little bit of electrical and mechanical engineering!

When kids come to ZOE and take part in our vocational training program, our team will ask them all about what they’re interested in and what they want to learn and see what we can offer them. Brandon told me about one girl who came to ZOE recently and discovered that she had an amazing passion and skill for woodworking! She wasn’t going to be staying at ZOE long and was preparing to go back to her family, but she really wanted to make something that she could take home with her. So she made this beautiful high table with stools and she was able to take it back to her family. And this is what many young people want - they want to make something that’s theirs, that they can take back with them, a new skill, or something tangible - something that reminds them of what they’ve learnt and the skills that they have. It reminds them that they’re not a victim of their past, but a survivor, who can go forward to make, create and flourish.

-Hudson

September 2, 2022 - No Comments!

fair go

National Child Protection Week, 2022

“Every Child in Every Community Needs a Fair Go”

National Child Protection Week (4-10 September) is an annual event. This year’s theme ‘Every child, in every community, needs a fair go’ aims to spread the message that to treat all of Australia’s children fairly, we need to make sure every family and community has what kids need to grow up safe and supported. (www.napcan.org.au)

At ZOE we have come up with 8 ways that you can help keep children in your community safe. 

1. Educate yourself about the signs of child abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Ask yourself, would you know the signs of a child experiencing violence, neglect or abuse? Could you recognise behaviours associated with child sexual abuse such as grooming - whether it be online or in person? For anyone who has contact with children, it is important to be able to know the signs in order to recognise any one of these issues, if you see it.

It’s common to think that child abuse or exploitation is only perpetrated by a weird or scary stranger. However, research shows that children are mostly abused by someone they know (a relative, family friend, teacher, coach or community member) and it is often someone they trust. 

Child sexual abuse does not discriminate. It happens in all cultures and in all sorts of families. Both girls and boys, of any age, are at risk.

2. (Parents) Talk with your children. 

Not once. Not twice. All the time! Make it a natural and normal occurrence to chat about staying safe. Just like you are continually reinforcing to them how to stay on the road, near a fire, around water, and on the internet; make ‘staying safe’ from sexual abuse and exploitation just as much a part of your everyday conversations. 

Sadly, these issues are more common than you may think. The ACCCE received more than 36,000 reports of child sexual exploitation in the 2021-22 financial year.  (https://www.accce.gov.au/resources/research-and-statistics

And these are just the ones that were reported!

3. Raise awareness in your community.

We all have a responsibility to look out for the children in our community and speak up when we see behaviour that suggests a child could be unsafe. We must not ignore our concerns or red flags. There are many types of child abuse and neglect, but the six main subtypes are:

  1. physical child abuse
  2. emotional child abuse
  3. neglect
  4. child sexual abuse
  5. exposure to family violence
  6. grooming

Some instances of child abuse will fall across multiple categories. For instance, family violence may involve physical, sexual, and/or emotional child abuse (www.education.vic.gov.au/)

4. Support organisations that help.

There are many Australian organisations that are working towards keeping children safe. By supporting them, you are helping to strengthen their efforts. Support might look like sharing their resources, promoting them on your social media, engaging a speaker to come and share at your school, workplace or sports club, talking to others about the services they provide, or giving to them financially to enable them to continue their services.

5. Monitor your children's internet usage. 

Internet safety is a whole topic in and of itself, but again, just like you make it your job to get to know your children’s friends and community in real life, so too is it essential to know who your children are interacting with online. By being engaged and interested in what they’re doing on social media, in their games and chats, you are in a much better position to notice if something rings an alarm bell. Keep the line of communication open and let them know that nothing is too bad or serious to talk about and that they will not be in trouble by reporting to you if something doesn’t feel right.

6. Recognise the complexities faced by vulnerable children.

One group of children who are considered vulnerable are those in foster care. During 2020–21, more than 178,800 Australian children received child protection services. In June 2021, more than 46,200 children were in out-of-home care. (https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/child-protection/child-protection-australia-2020-21/contents/about)

Children in out-of-home care are already considered a “vulnerable population” who face additional medical, psychological, and social risks. A safe community is necessary to protect them from further harm and support them according to their immediate and future needs. Maybe you don’t feel cut out to be a foster carer yourself but what about offering other support to a family who is already helping a child in care? Sometimes just cooking a meal, delivering groceries, assisting with homework or helping tidy up their yard makes the world of difference! 

7. Share what you learn with others.

We can never raise too much awareness or overly discuss these issues. Do the people in your circle of influence know what you know about the signs of child abuse, neglect and exploitation? If not, how can you start having conversations with them? What about your mother’s group, book club, church friends, sports club or relatives? The more people who are informed, the more our communities can become supportive and safe environments for children to live in.   

8. Report any concerning behaviour to authorities.

“If physical or behavioural indicators lead you to suspect that a child has or is being abused, or is at risk of abuse, regardless of the type of abuse, you must respond as soon as practicable” (www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/health/childprotection)

“There is no information too small or insignificant. Something that may appear small or insignificant could prove vital to a police investigation.”  www.accce.gov.au/report

If you’re a parent seeking to know and understand more about the topics covered in this blog, please reach out to us so that we can help direct you to more resources or plan for a parenting/ community information session to help facilitate questions/concerns as well as further training on these topics. info@gozoe.org.au