Help Eriopaguita rebuild herself with a hand-up.

I would like to introduce you to Eriopaguita.

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She’s 40 years old. A mother of 4 – Josselin 13, twins Luis David 11 & Luis Moises 11 and Escarleth 5yrs.

They live in Perdanales, a small beach resort that sits on Ecuador’s long Pacific coast…one of the cities closest to the epicenter of the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit on April 16th 2016.

I first visited Pedernales 3 months after the quake hit to assess the progress of recovery. It still looks like you are entering a warzone. The quake lasted less than a minute but nearly every single house came down.

People are scared and struggle to know what the future holds.

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Can you even begin to imagine what it must be like to lose everything and 6 months on still living in such a desperate way?

‘Once-private spaces are open for everyone to see. Shower rooms with no walls. An empty pink high chair teetering on the edge of a room that is at an angle. A set of medals pinned to the wall of a family home’.

Eriopaguitas’ home was also destroyed during the quake, they are now living in a makeshift tent, some plastic thrown over bamboo. Their living condition is poor, their water comes from the river and they still have, 6 months on, neither light nor electricity.

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They are obviously traumatized, her children look sad, picking up on the anxiousness of their mothers daily struggle to find, borrow or beg for their food.

She doesn’t want to live like this. She wants to work!

Her neighbor told me, “She cries a lot every day but tries to be strong in front of her children”

Eriopaguitas’ small business, her pots, pans and food stock was also destroyed during the earthquake.

She used to sell ‘salchipapa’ (thinly sliced beef sausages and potatoes) to the local community; its a favorite street food snack of the local people.

She is a good cook, wants to start her business again and she knows this popular snack food has a good solid long term market. She would love to expand her business and make her profits even higher.

“The addition of a small push cart would enable me to sell to an even wider community.”

>> CAN YOU HELP? CLICK HERE <<

 

Her greatest fear is that someone in her family will become ill, and they won’t have enough money to pay for the doctor and medicine.

Her greatest dream is that her children can study and have a future – something she could never have.

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At 8 years old Eriopaguita, her father dead and mother sick, was already working. Married at 18 years old and after 4 children she finally ran away as she could no longer tolerate the beatings from her husband.

Can you help her to help herself?

‘A hand up not a hand out’

 

>> YES? CLICK HERE TO DONATE NOW! <<

 

To set her family back on the road to recovery, to save a little each week to build a small home and have money ready for medical emergencies as well as keep her children fed and in school her needs are:

  1. A ‘Salchipapa’ push cart
  2. A gas cylinder, an aluminum tray
  3. An aluminum sieve
  4. 5 sacks of potatoes
  5. 1 gallon of oil
  6. 5 kilos of sausages
  7. 100 bowls and 100 small forks.

Total cost $500

Per month she estimates her income will be $350.
Each month she spends a minimum of $150 per month on her family. It’s a good sustainable business.

$500 will change her families life generationally – so little can do so much.

Can you help her to help herself?

 

>> CLICK HERE TO DONATE <<

 

Please click on the donate button and put in the amount you can help – or chose an item you would like to give?

Every dollar counts

Media defines disaster and when the cameras move on thousands and thousands of displaced, traumatized families who have survived the disaster are then … forgotten. They have survived but have no means of re-building their lives again. No social security, no financial security.

Can you help and give her back hope for her children’s future?

 

Thank you so very much. Love Linda from on the Frontline x

The nepalese happy bachelor and his goats!

Do you really know the impact that your daily routine has on you? Do you commute hours to work each day, leaving home early, arriving home late? Do you know some of the people in your street or apartment block? Do you know any of their names? Do you feel part of your community or can home feel a lonely place?

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the deep sense of community in all of the developing countries I have lived and worked in. A respectful, compassionate interdependence. It doesn’t need to be taught. Its just there.

In the village of Devpur, where we are currently working post the two big Nepal earthquakes of 2015, it’s just the same. I spotted an elderly man, blind, hunched over, his spine crumbled, carefully edging himself down a steep mountain path, the constant tapping of his white stick guiding him safely over the pot holes and around the boulders. The sight of him made me anxious.

‘How does he manage?’ I asked, ‘and how can we help?’ One of our local leaders Rupak answered quickly, ‘No need to worry Linda, we all take care of him, he has breakfast with Raja, lunch with Humica and supper with Manu. Week by week we swap around and others invite him for food. He has his own tiny dwelling to sleep in but he knows that he is always welcome in anyone’s home. We are all family’.

‘Nice’ I thought as I watched him crouch down to take a rest. There was nothing we needed to do for him. The community had it all under control.

In fact, I thought, any interference from us could negatively impact the effective group support system the villagers had in place. Best left well alone.

We have a set process of selecting the most vulnerable families to prioritize with a ’hand up’ and as we do this, group empathy and compassion is always evident. However bad their own situation is the people are eager to introduce others that they feel are even more in need.

This was how we got to meet Bawanath Sanker Godasaini, fondly known by the locals as the ‘The Happy Bachelor’.
‘Please visit him Linda’ I was asked by an elderly lady, ‘he has no family, he lost his home and his livelihood. He is living in a goat shed – with the goats!’

Bawanath, a slight, bony man, who stands no more than 4’11” wore a traditional wrap around skirt (tied like an oversized cotton nappy) the white cloth had seen better days, now grey and threadbare with raggedy edges. He leant on his crooked walking stick, his head tilted to one side, unable to hide his curiosity. A traditional peaked Newari cap he had placed on his head at a jaunty angle. Our eyes met momentarily and he gave me a broad smile revealing perfect brilliant white teeth.

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In the Nepali culture it’s unusual for a man not to marry so I had to ask why. ‘What happened?’ I said teasingly,’ Why did you never marry, there are lots of beautiful women in the mountains?’

‘No wife, no headache,’ he replied his broad grin getting broader. ‘I was born and raised in these mountains. My Mum died when I was two years old. Its just my sister and me, I get to see her every month. I have a good simple life here with good friends’.

‘So what happened to you the day of the earthquake?’ I asked. Post traumatic stress is very much present in the village, across all generations, most severely with the children and the elderly. With constant reminders of how fragile their lives are, aftershocks as big as 5.2 on the Richter scale are still happening.

‘I was nearly buried alive,’ he said his smile disappearing, ‘I was cooking inside my house when there was a loud rumbling noise, then lots of screaming. Bricks were falling down all around me. I tried to run outside but I was hit by a sharp heavy stone right in the middle of my back. The pain was excruciating. I must have passed out because the next thing I knew my neighbours were shouting and clawing at the rubble to get me out.’

‘We were stunned, petrified, the aftershocks kept coming every few minutes for the first 24 hours. We huddled together outside our destroyed homes. I was badly injured, but had no means or money to go to hospital. We did what we could for food. So many animals crushed to death including mine. We didn’t see a soul for four days. No one came’.
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Bawanath tells his story to Be The Change Ambassadors

‘What job did you do before the earthquake?’ I asked seeing very little evidence of food in his dwelling. It was as his friends told me he lived in a goat shed. With his own home gone he had moved into a friend’s goat shed to sleep and earn a little money by caring for the goats.

‘Before the earthquake I had five goats and that plus occasional daily laboring for 400 rupees, enabled me to eat and live with no problem – but during the huge landslides that were triggered by the earthquake, all were badly injured but one. I had to sell them for meat. I just have one left.’ he replied.

‘What was your daily life like before the earthquake?’ I was curious to understand the rhythm of his life.

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‘Very simple, I get up at 5.30am, make a fire, clean the house and make tea. I walk into the jungle to get food for the goats. At 10am I cook chapati and dahl baht and spend time talking to my friends. The afternoon is spent tending my vegetable patch, helping others or doing maintenance on the goat shed. I have never owned a TV or a radio, I just sit and chat with my friends. I love to cook and whatever we have we share. By 10pm I am asleep. A simple, happy life’, he said as he gazed at the majestic Langtang Himalayan range across the valley.

‘How can we help you to regain this peace and happiness and for you to be again self sufficient?’ I asked.

‘Three goats’ he said, his signature twinkle radiating all over his face. ‘They have multiple births, easy to feed, I can sell for meat at festival times when the price of goat meat is high and they are actually great company’.

‘Just three goats’ I said

‘Yes, one pregnant and two kid goats would be a perfect mix’.

Through the kindness and compassion of two great ladies Belinda and Vicki, Be The Change Ambassadors, who came with me to the frontline in February, this is just what we did. Through a three day process of getting to know Bawanath, understanding his way of life, taking into consideration his physical capabilities, ensuring that replacing his goats was a viable sustainable income generating business for him and that we were honouring his dream, this is what we did.

The smiles on the photos say it all.

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Be the Change Ambassadors delivering the goats to Bawanath

Rupak, a fellow villager and member of our Be The Change Community volunteered and was delighted to pay it forward and help Bawanath build his own goat shed.

Community at it’s best.

Bawanath’s smile will stay with me forever as he sits in front of his home gazing at the Himalayas, a cup of chai in his hand and a friend by his side.

Every individual, family, community I work with on the frontline teaches me and reminds me of what is really important.

In nearly all of the developing countries in which I have lived and worked, one thing that never ceases to amaze me is the deep rooted sense of community. A respectful interdependence. It’s not taught or encouraged. It’s just there. Part of the DNA.

How does your daily routine impact on your quality of life?

Do you feel part of your community or can home feel a lonely place?

I urge you to shake your routine up, challenge yourself, get off the hamster wheel. Help to build a strong community. Hold a coffee morning and invite people from your street. Look out for the single parent or elderly widow and make a point of reaching out to them. Our lives seem to become increasingly complicated each year – carve out time for the simple pleasures – the best things in life are free.

And as my nursing matron always used to say to me as a junior nurse, ‘ It’s not about you.’ Contribution is the greatest human need. The more we give the more we receive.

Thank you so much for tuning in.

Much love

Linda x

‘a hand up’ project that is bringing her family out of darkness.

‘I will do anything to educate my children,’ Niru Kumasi Bisunke said during the first minute of our conversation high up in the mountain village of Deupur, Nepal. Her eyes tired, anxiety etched all over her face.

This is the story of Niru and how “a hand up” from us (not a hand out!) has changed her prospects.

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What is our raison d’etre?

A hand up not a hand out’, giving back self – esteem, dignity and independence through livelihood recovery and income generating projects.

Recovery takes time and each vulnerable family we help is carefully selected and taken through a careful process to identify the type of livelihood that is most suitable for them, taking into consideration their education level, skill set, physical strength as well as the market opportunity and possibility of a long term sustainable income.

Like many of the people we have assisted with livelihood recovery in the past 6 weeks we were encouraged to meet this lady by one of the trusted leaders in the community, the Vice Principal of Deb Bal Bad Ra Primary School, Mr Chiran-Jivi.

Who is Niru and what happened to her?

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Niru is a tall, slender 26 year old, her husband Sajan 27yrs old works ad hoc as a daily labourer repairing homes and assisting in road construction whenever the opportunity arises. They have a 6yr old boy Simon and a 5 yr old girl Sandhya. They are from the Sarki caste.
The day the first big earthquake hit Niru was with her two children in Bhaktapur, an ancient medieval town 90 minutes by bus from her home in Deuper. She had gone just for the day to look for work.
But Bhaktapur was not the place to be on April 25 th 2015 – situated at only 30 miles from the epicenter of 7.9 magnitude earthquake – it was badly hit.

‘My children and I were inside the house when the walls started to sway, shelves and cupboards came crashing down around us. Screaming we ran outside into the heavy rain and really strong winds, the tall trees were moving as easily as blades of grass being blown backwards and forwards. It was chaos, people screaming and crying, buildings crumpled like matchboxes burying people alive’, Niru face held a haunted stare.
That fateful night Niru slept outside in the freezing cold, too scared to take shelter anywhere. The aftershocks kept coming. For 4 days she remained like this, with no communication, no way to find out if her husband was dead or alive, the only food for her children, a handful of biscuits.

After 4 days she was able to return to Deupur. She found her village destroyed, 95% of the homes had completely collapsed, including hers. Her husband had survived he had been outside on the road working when the quake hit, not all had been so lucky, 25 residents of Deupur died, trapped in their homes and 50 were seriously injured.

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Using whatever they could find Niru and her husband constructed a temporary shelter in front of their damaged home, – some wood, bamboo, zinc sheets, plastic and tarpaulin. ‘We only built the house seven years ago. We lived in a two-storey house,” explained Niru, “but shared on the ground floor with our cattle, so when the building fell down in the earthquake they were buried alive. Just one of our young goats and one buffalo survived’.

It was here that we met this brave resilient woman and started the process of finding out how best we could give her and her family have a sustainable ‘hand up’.

A day in the life of Niru

Niru has very busy days. She gets up at 5am and cleans the house. She makes breakfast, which consists of a simple cup of chai (tea with boiled milk and sugar). She then goes to the jungle to collect food for the buffalo. Twice a day, morning and evening she milks the buffalo and sells the milk at the collecting point in the village. By 9am she takes the children to school. Her next task is off to wash the families’ clothes at the spring, then takes care of her vegetable patch and rice paddy before she prepares the lunch, the countries staple, dal bhat (rice and lentil soup).

Niru then seeks work as either a porter carrying bricks or stones using a strap, or namlo, placed over the front of her head. Her income depends on the weight she carries, for a weight of 30 kg she could earn up to 400 rupees per day or as a labourer in the fields approx 350 rupees a day for 6 hours.

Her husband also seeks work each day in construction – he can earn 600 rupees if he is lucky enough to get work.

For Niru to be able to cover all of her monthly costs – basic daily food, rice, oil, school fees and to save some money for the doctor in case of sickness – the total she requires is 10,000 rupees the equivalent of $94.

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So what was her new business idea and is there a long term market?

Yes. A chronic problem in Nepal is power cuts, for almost 16 hours a day there is no electricity. This problem was there 16 years ago when I first visited Nepal in the year 2000 and it is still the same. The government hopes that in 5 years time or so the situation will be different – but no-one is holding their breath.

Niru’s shrewd and brilliant new business idea was to make candles – a secure, in demand product. She had done her research and identified the most popular size to make and the profit she could turnover.

Could she fit this activity into her already packed day?

Candle-making only needed her attention for a few hours at the beginning and end of each day. A simple process of boiling the wax, putting into moulds with the wick then leaving it to cool.

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What is the investment, how much would the equipment cost?

We helped Niru to do the calculations. The total cost of the equipment, moulds, wick and wax was only $114 and she could collect the firewood to boil the wax for free from the jungle.
The return on investment was good Niru could make a 10” candle for 6 rupees and sell to the local town for 10 rupees. A 4 rupee profit per candle.

‘A hand up’ project that is bringing her family out of darkness.

Our local Nepali team went straight to the nearby town to buy all of the necessary equipment and Niru’s candle-making business was started. Within 10 days Niru had made 450 candles.

When I asked her if she liked her new business the answer was reflected in her broad smile. ‘What will you do with the profit?’, I asked. ‘Plough it back into the business’, she said, ‘and pay for the school fees’.

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‘And what is your dream for your family?’, I asked, ‘That my son will become a doctor and my daughter a nurse’ she said with a mothers look that said it all, that dreams do come true.

Recovery takes time and your donations are carefully allocated into livelihood recovery projects to the most vulnerable families that gives independence through a sustainable return.

‘A hand up not a hand out’.

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(Thanks to Adam Gerrard of the Mirror for this picture!)

Linda Cruse.

“After weeks on the road listening to a language you don’t understand using a currency whose value you don’t comprehend, walking down streets you have never walked down before, your old ‘I’, your old story, your old habits – along with everything you ever learned is absolutely no use at all in face of these new challenges and you begin to realise that buried deep in your unconscious mind there is someone more interesting and adventurous and more open to the world and new experiences.”

excerpt from Aleph by Paulo Coelho

Do the above words resonate with you?

Have you ever found yourself returning from a holiday or an overseas business trip with a fresh take on life…?

Perhaps also a feeling of being more invigorated, more grateful, pleased that you discovered something new about yourself…?

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discover-something-new-blog2When familiarity is stripped away from us, our habits and routines along with our expectations get shaken up and can deliver fresh insights and new perspectives.

Very often I am in communities where I don’t understand a single word that is being said. And I have grown to love it. All my other senses are given a chance to take over. I observe gestures, listen to voice tone and pace and even seem to have a heightened sense of smell and taste. Try it, notice it and grab any opportunity to be in this space of unfamiliarity and watch what happens.

For many years I have been encouraging people to buy experiences and not things. Instead of saving up to buy multiple presents at Christmas, spend the same amount of money and take a family boat trip, go to a theme park, or go camping.

Make memories that you will still be talking and reminiscing about for years to come.

I was delighted when a friend shared with me that now there is science to back up my passion of experiences over things.

Recent psychological research from Cornell University in New York has confirmed that the key to happiness is through experiences rather than things. The two decade study is led by Dr Thomas Gilovich, who says that one of the key underlying differences between our value of experiences and objects is adaptation. We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.

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Basically, we get used to the things we own, and over time the happiness we derive from items dwindles. On the flip side, happiness that stems from things we’ve done actually goes up as time passes because those experiences become a part of us and shape our identity. It’s why the leather coat you relentlessly requested for your 21st birthday now sits buried and forgotten somewhere beneath your bed, whereas your two-month adventure through South East Asia is still recalled often and fondly, years later. It’s also why I feel exhilarated when I remind myself of this amazing jet boat ride I had in Sydney Harbour last Christmas…see if you can spot me…

Gilovich suggests that instead of saving for the latest home movie theatre, a much sounder path to happiness is through spending your money on experiences like travel, or even outdoor activities, new skills or visiting exhibitions.

“You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you,” says Gilovich. “In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

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I love it! So go on, invest in experiences, a cooking class, dance lessons, surfing lessons, volunteer.

Everyday adventures are so easy to have – eat something on the menu you have never heard of or eaten before, take a different route to work. What new things have you experienced today? This week? Shake it up. Say Yes! when you usually say No. And let the magic unfold.

Thank you so much! Love, Linda x

How can I be happy if my friends are not? Where poverty & paying it forward are synonymous.

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There are two common denominators I have observed in the people I have met and worked with in developing communities that have been traumatized by natural disasters or war.

The first is generosity. During the first few years of my humanitarian career this came as quite a shock.

Just imagine, you have lost everything, your home, your belongings and your means of earning a living. You have no financial security, no food security and no expectation that someone will come and help you. You have four young children to feed, dependent elderly relatives and a spouse.

Would you share your last bowl of rice with a hungry neighbour? Or would you keep some for tomorrow, just in case. Would you divide a meal cooked for four into 8 so that all could eat a little, without any hesitation? Would you open your home to a complete stranger?

happy_blog2Post Nepal earthquake April 2015 I have been working closely with a blind community, one of the more vulnerable segments of society. Unable to even see the new dangers created by the earthquake, moving around has gone from difficult to a nightmare. The earthquake has cut the tourist industry drastically and so their core business of massaging tired hikers and climbers has disappeared. Many of them with dependent families, none have security nets.

But everything they have is shared with joy. If only one hiker is massaged that day the masseur splits the proceeds between them all. Only enough money for two cups of chai, the mugs are passed around accompanied by grateful chatter. Collective happiness is the goal not personal happiness. ‘How can I be happy if my friends are not?, Prakash, the leader of the group explains.

happy_blog3.jpg Kindness is the second common denominator. A warm empathetic smile, a hand outstretched to help a young girl carry a heavy water bucket up the hill. Letting a tired stranger break his long journey through the mountains and shelter for the night in their home. Survival and happiness depends on looking out for each other.

I have been on the receiving end of the kindness of strangers with great regularity whilst on the frontline. Whilst engrossed in my village assessments I will feel a hand on my back, followed by a gentle massage, a cool wet cloth is wiped over my sweaty brow or I am eagerly beckoned to share a communal plate of lentils and rice. The observation of a human followed by direct need is humbling.

Everybody and everything is so deeply interconnected. Kindness glues people together. Kindness breeds more kindness in every way. You can be kind to your body, and your health will improve. You can be kind to your colleagues and your relationships with them will improve. You can be kind to your spouse, and your marriage will grow stronger. You can be kind to a stranger, and your self-esteem will increase.

In Africa there is the concept of Ubuntu – the understanding that no human exists in isolation. Translated as ‘I am only a person through other people’. Ubuntu recognises that everything one does affects others and the welfare of each is dependent on the welfare of all.

As you go about your day observe just how much we are all connected and if you get the chance to make someone’s day just that little bit better

– jump at it.

Making Magic on the Frontline

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…feeding hearts and souls.

I would like to bring you our video of magic on the frontline, showing you why we brought magic to the Philippines. The positive impact it had was profound as we aimed to heal hearts, minds and souls. Click the image below to watch it!

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Magic has been with me my whole life. I come from a family of amateur magicians; my grandfather was, my father is a magician and I am a magician. So when I leapt into the frontline as a humanitarian worker 15 years ago I automatically slipped a few magic tricks into a corner of my suitcase…just in case!

But it wasn’t until I was in Thailand in 2004 post the Asian tsunami that I started to really understand the transformation that magic delivers.

When a disaster happens the great and the good arrive with speed The Red Cross, the UN, Save the Children, but as fast as they reach so do the ‘nasties’ the sex traffickers and child kidnappers. The adults who have survived the disaster are distracted, searching for loved ones and any remaining remnants of their lives and homes. The children are often left alone or with an older brother or sister in charge. In the Thai survivors camp the volunteers had set up an enclosed area for the children, caring for them, consoling them and giving them activities to do.

Here is an excerpt from my book “Marmalade and Machine Guns” about magic on the frontline from my…

‘As the children tsunami survivors poured their pain out through art, black horrifying images, I realized in a flash that what we needed was magicians. My first request for such volunteers brought stunned silence or an outpouring of ‘ are you crazy!’

Within a few weeks, my first volunteer magician had left London for Phuket. Attired in the uniform of his profession – brightly-coloured waistcoat and dickie bow – Michael the Magician took the camps by storm. Dripping with sweat, melting daily in the unforgiving swelter, he performed at least three shows a day for three weeks. He performed to crowds of children and adults – on the beach, in schools or in the survivor’s camps.

In no time, Michael was being followed about everywhere he went, greeted with shouts of ‘Abracadabra’, like a pied piper weaving his spell. The show needed no words, he made his own magical stories with his actions: producing rabbits, making silk scarves disappear, twisting balloons into animals. He was like a bright butterfly flying around the blackened stumps of a devastated forest.

When he performed his magic show to the children of Ban Nam Khem School, the parents came early and squeezed in the back of the room .The magic seemed to take the tension out of their shoulders, smoothing away the lines of worry…for a while at least. The school had taken a particularly severe blow: out of a total of 450 students, 150 had been washed away by the wave. Michael’s audience was blindsided with grief, having lost so many friends and siblings.

‘Michael, please come back soon,’ I heard the head teacher say .‘Your magic is helping the children to find joy in life again. It is the first time I have seen them smile in months. Your magic wand is really working.’ News of the magician’s success must have travelled.

One morning, I found an email in my inbox:

Dear Linda,

Would a circus be of any use to you and your recovery work? We have a small children’s travelling circus, based in UK, and would love to help?

Love Arabella

In no time at all we had jugglers, stilt walkers, fire-eaters and Giggles the Clown roaming up and down the survivor camps, spreading a bit of happiness as they went. The circus stayed for six weeks and in that time they brought a ray of magical sunshine everywhere they set up. They also gave circus skills workshops and trained camp volunteers to perform tricks so that their legacy could be continued after they had left’.

…excerpt from my book Marmalade and Machine Guns
 

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The great thing with magic it has its own universal language, there is no need for translation. Magic unites people in fascination and wonder and brings joy, laughter and entertainment. I have used my little bag of magic tricks in so many ways; to build bridges, dissolve conflict and bring psychological recovery to devastated communities worldwide and …. I continue to do so.

In May 2015 I took a local Nepali magician to a village high in the Himalayas that has been completely flattened by the earthquake. As he performed his routine standing on top of a pile of rubble, his makeshift stage, he fed the hearts and souls of the children, of the people and for a moment they could forget their pain, relax and smile. I even spotted some passing American volunteers pause and smile and enjoy a rare moment of calm.

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What do you currently do to lift your heart and soul in moments of stress?

What tools do you have in your emotional first aid kit for those times of need?

For me laughter is the best medicine, and it’s scientifically proven to help. So if you are feeling a bit blue instead of switching on a soap opera, intentionally seek out laughter, put on your favourite comedy show, reminisce over a silly moment with a friend, visit a relative with a toddler…or…

…you can start smiling right now by reading the below:

“Dear Mum and Dad,

Apologies for taking so long to write, but my writing utensils were destroyed in the fire at my apartment. I am out of hospital and my doctor says that I should be able to lead a normal healthy life. A handsome young man named Pete saved me from the fire and kindly offered to share his apartment with me. He is very kind and polite and from a good family so I think you will approve when I tell you that we got married last week. I know that you will be even more excited when I tell you that you are going to be grandparents very soon. Actually there wasn’t a fire, I haven’t been in hospital, I’m not married and I’m not pregnant but I did fail my biology exam and I just wanted to make sure that when I told you, you put it in a proper perspective.

Love your daughter xxx”

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As the daughter of a magician I feel certain that a grand magic master not a midwife was waiting to greet me, a magic wand was part of my birthright.

I was raised from day one to believe in the magic of life, to expect the unexpected, to embrace the mystery and believe the impossible. And this has stayed with me all my life. I urge you to follow your bliss.

Life is not a business to be managed but a mystery to be lived!

NB: Magic is everywhere….

HRH The Prince of Wales, who I first met when he visited an aid project of mine in Delhi, is a great humanitarian and also a magician and member of The Magic Circle after passing his audition in 1975 by performing the “cups and balls” effect. The set of cups and balls he used is in The Magic Circle club in London.
 

Together we create a ‘magic circle’ of change.

I also have some other really exciting news to bring you today!

I’ve been working on something for weeks now that I personally wanted to bring to you…and finally it’s here!!!!

My passion is all about helping people on the frontline with a “Hand Up not Hand Out” approach and in my 15 years as a front line humanitarian worker I have learned so much from the people I have met, the places I’ve been to and the situations I have faced.

I owe those people, those places and those experiences a debt of gratitude!

…today is the day I bring the lessons I’ve learned to you!

 

Linda’s FREE Challenge

 

FREEDOM: RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!

5 Days, 5 Emails, 5 Challenges
September 7th – 11th 2015

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Intrigued? Want to know more?

>> CLICK HERE FOR ALL THE DETAILS + TO SIGN UP! <<

It’s a powerful combination of insights gleaned from my international corporate, humanitarian and humanistic adventures – from life threatening to life changing experiences that in the most extreme will either change your world forever, or encourage you to think, feel and act very differently to get different, better and more profound results.
It’s only for those who have a sense of curiosity, daring and adventure in their souls and an irritating niggle that there is something missing.

I feel passionate about sharing what I have learnt – I want to help.

>>>> CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE! <<<<

Thank you so much!

Everybody Dies But Not Everybody Lives.

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I encourage you to learn how to say “No more!”, so you can say “YES!” to experiences, to people, to places that can stretch you and stimulate you.

Be daring and be surprised by how wonderful it is to feel so alive.

I hope this email inspires you to live passionately and to say YES! And if you want to take things to the next level and really as if there was no tomorrow, no way to say No! then I’ve got something coming that you’ll love! Want to be the first to know what it is…?

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Just for a moment think back over your activities last week, the time you got up, went to bed, the route you took to work, the times you went to the gym or called your mother?

How much of what you did was similar to the last week or the week before? Did you buy your groceries at the same shop, meet your friends at the same pub and sit in the same seat on the train?

We are creatures of habit. There is something reassuring and comforting to repeated patterns. Don’t get me wrong certainty and routines are good. Its good to know that we turn on the tap and that water will come out, that your mother will pick up the phone at 6pm on a Sunday night and that the bus to work will run on time.

You may also find that you naturally surround yourself with people who agree with what you say and who support the same football team.

But believe me, and I know from my own experience, too much certainty can dull us, life can lose its edge, it’s excitement. Predictability creeps up on us slowly and unknowingly we slip into a semi happy, semi alive state, operating on semi autopilot. We expect and anticipate certain things will happen as they always do and so only need to half engage.

Does any of this ring true?

Mind you, uncertainty can be uncomfortable. As we step out of our known world we may have to face a fear or two or change an opinion. But believe me the rewards are worth it ten fold.

I started breaking free of my own sleep walk through life with tiny steps. I began by creating ‘everyday adventures.’ Simply doing ordinary everyday things differently.

For years I had toast for breakfast so I started to have porridge. I always got up at 7am ready to dash out the door with a coffee in my hand, I changed and got up at 6am with time to take a 30 minute walk or in the winter sit in my warm bathrobe with a cup of hot chocolate and watch the sunrise.

I drove a different way to work, I added a splash of colour to my black wardrobe, when I went out for dinner I intentionally chose something on the menu that I had never eaten before, I sought to make friends with someone from a different culture, religion or country.

Try it, it’s easy and it will start to reconnect you with that wonderful exhilarating tingle that life outside your comfort zone can bring you life

My 15 years on the frontline as a humanitarian worker has catapulted me into smashing through many of my fears, assumptions and expectations.

Until the age of 39 I had always taken ordinary, relatively safe, forms of transport; a car, a bus, a plane – my time in Tibet changed all of that. It was summer and the rivers were pounding, high and fast from the nearby Himalayas. For hours and hours the caravan of donkey and yak plodded slowly alongside the river, weaving up and down the hills. Being in the last third of the caravan my vision was obscured by the heavily laden animals but the commotion up ahead made me pull myself up and peer over the top.

To my horror the lead yak had plunged straight into the river.

My mind raced ahead and my fearful brain leapt into action, ‘What are they doing? Are they crazy? Where is the bridge?’ I saw myself already washed away, disappearing downstream caught up in the torrent.

I looked around to see who I could alert that this was suicide, to warn them against it, but no one was paying any attention and as we were all tied together, if the first animal was in the icy cold water, we would all be soon.

There was nothing I could do,

I had to face my fear, let go and quietly I said a few prayers. It was soon my turn and the freezing water lapped against the shoulders of my yak and seeped up my trouser legs.

There was no turning back

as this hefty beast weighed down by baggage and me carefully placed one foot after the next on the slippery riverbed of stones and moss.

The applause that greeted me when I reached the bank safely was comical, a crowd of relieved nomads who face this challenge daily recognized that I was clearly way outside of my comfort zone and praised me with their eyes and hands for my courage. I smiled sighed a deep breath and felt exhilarated, if inwardly hoping that we didn’t have too many more ahead of us.

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I have made a personal promise to regularly stretch myself, not to take outrageous risks, but to feel the fear, weigh the situation up and when it’s right, push on through.

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Linda Cruse, a very ordinary woman and not a natural risk-taker, has jumped off the side of a mountain and paraglided down to earth whilst sharing the thermals with hawks, has driven a snowmobile in minus 30, 200kms north of the Arctic Circle and has ridden a camel deep into the Sahara desert.

Don’t waste time because it will run out unless you live it…the inevitable will eventually happen to us all…so make the most of it now.

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Frontline Thinking

Linda Nepal

Life Lessons Learned from Living on the Edge as a Frontline Humanitarian

3 continents, 21 countries, 15 years and 1 suitcase

Real People Real Problems Real Change

 

What is the path you should be walking?

Quit My Job, Sold My House & Changed My Life

Fifteen years of living in extraordinary and extreme conditions has taught me many things. But what I have come to realise is that the key to living a life you truly want to live comes by asking questions, not ordinary questions but great questions.

The ones that make you really think, dig a bit deeper, challenge your status quo, set you off on a journey of exploration and possibilities that you may have never considered.

But be warned. Asking these great questions can change the direction of your life, sometimes a little bit but often drastically.

So it’s no wonder that we avoid them preferring to stay safe within our comfort zone of predictability.

If you are looking for better answers then start asking better questions! And if you ask great questions…you’ll more likely get great answers!

For many of us it takes a serious crisis; a marriage break up, the death of a child, a close friends fatal accident, bankruptcy, to ask the deep questions. It is at these times that the questions pour out easily…

‘Why him?’ Why now?’ ‘Why me?’

I know this too well because it happened to me – in my 30’s I took a job for one reason for money. It was a job I knew that I wouldn’t find fulfilling or stimulating but as money was my goal, I took it.

The build up of stress in my body crept up on me insidiously until it was like a pressure cooker, the misery tightly contained, until it blew with great force one dark winters night. I was driving on the motorway, desperate to get home, after a soul destroying hyped up sales conference when I had severe stabbing pains behind my eyes and then suddenly the curtains came down and I went blind.

Sitting on the side of the road my emotions went from fear to anger to despair. But as I prayed to a God I hadn’t thought of for a long time I made a firm promise that if my sight returned that I would seek out what I was born to do and live my purpose and my passion. I was lucky my sight returned. Stress blindness the diagnosis.

How I changed my life

I desperately wanted to be me again!

I devised a series of questions that would start to reveal my passion, my uniqueness, my gifts, re-discover my dreams and recover my talents that I had buried, lost or simply had forgotten about.

The answers came tumbling out!

  1. I realised that my purpose was to care for others
  2. My passion and curiosity was for foreign shores
  3. I was hungry to immerse myself in different cultures, traditions and religions.
  4. My natural gifts; empathy and listening!

It was time to make a difference!

The end result …’ Quit Job Sold House Changed Life’ … and I leapt into the frontline as a humanitarian worker.

What is the path you should be walking?

So if you are feeling a little lost or you look at where you are now in your life or career and you think to yourself, ‘How on earth did I get here?’….

Get busy and start to ask great questions and don’t wait for a crisis to occur to start the process!

It’s your life, every second counts!

As you start to let your passion and purpose bubble to the surface your whole life will change. If you don’t believe it, just try and see what happens.

What do you have to you to lose? Things change, we change.

Lets get started:

Frontline Thinking – My 6 Step Process to Finding out what path you should be walking?

Give yourself less than 60 seconds a question

Exercise 1. Things You Love To Do.

Writing at speed, note down 10 things that you really love to do, activities that when you are immersed in them time just flies. This could be something you did last week such as watching a beautiful sunset or when you were a teenager enjoying the thrill of racing around on your mountain bike.

When you have finished your list go back to the top and next to each activity write the date you last did it.

Salsa dancing July 2000

Exercise 2. Your Wish Is Your Command!

If you could have three wishes granted what would they be?

I wish …
I wish …
I wish …

Your answers will give you clues, pointers to explore and investigate.

Exercise 3. Smile And The World Will Smile Back

What makes you smile?
Seeing a newborn baby, watching a magic trick, taking a boat trip … activities, people, events, hobbies?

Exercise 4. You Are Talented!

What are you naturally good at? Social media, numbers, painting …skills, abilities, gifts etc.

Exercise 5. Teach What You Need To Learn!

Now look over your answers…any surprises?

As if you are putting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together see what picture forms as you place all of your answers together.

Are there activities that you love but have forgotten, that you are going to commit to scheduling into next weeks diary?

  1. Keep these answers close by you.
  2. Cut out pictures that represent your findings and create a collage.
  3. Ponder over the answers in a quiet moment, first thing in the morning before you get out of bed, whilst on a long distance drive or doing the washing up.
  4. Let them percolate and be open to surprises and possibilities.

There is never an ending…only the beginning of something new…

There is never an ending…only the beginning of something new…

Thank you so much!

‘Be yourself, be only yourself. Everyone else is already taken.’ Oscar Wilde

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The fact is, there is no public path….we are all different!

There is no one quite like you; your likes and dislikes, what makes you smile, what makes you cry, what makes your heart beat faster, what makes you laugh out loud, what scares you and what makes you feel bored.

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But how often have you found yourself following the crowd, conforming to the majority, quite happy to be the sheep in the middle of the herd rather than standing out and risking that feeling of being an outsider or even worse a social reject. It’s seems easier to blend into the crowd with everything from our clothes to our opinions. Keeping the water smooth and the fur unruffled.

Some degree of conformity is necessary for societies to function – cars stop at red traffic lights, children go to school, we respect other peoples’ property.

But consciously remembering and recognising your uniqueness, your likes and dislikes will bring back (or unearth) the depth and vibrancy in your life.

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The more you conform the more you lose that exclusive jewel that only you have.

Know what you stand for. Question how really important it is that these people like you.

Are you doing something just so that your colleagues have a higher opinion of you?

Is the latest fashion really your thing?

Do you really need to buy the latest hi tech coffee machine just because everyone else is?

Society, fashion magazines and the latest health guru are always telling us what is the ‘right’ thing to do, eat and wear. So be on the alert.

If you follow the rules of others it will be like wearing some one else’s clothes…they’ll will never fit you.

 

Frontline Thinking – My 4 step process to find out how to be unique and why you should never follow the crowd?

Exercise 1. Acknowledge Your Strengths

A great way to honour your uniqueness is to acknowledge your strengths. Its easy to put ourselves down; self-deprecating is often a cultural norm, but it’s not healthy.

Know your strengths.

This exercise is best done with a friend but can be done alone.

Each write down 5 things that you know you are good at. If you feel stuck ask your friends and family what they think you are good at.

Then taking turns state to your friend ‘I am a great cook’ and in reply your friend affirms this, ‘You are a great cook’. Saying this out loud deepens the impact. If you feel silly doing this exercise, laugh and that’s great for your health too.

So off you go …I am a good mother, I am a good listener, I make people smile, I am a great cook, I can repair anything….

Exercise 2. You Are A Sum Of Your Experiences

One very important source of your uniqueness is your experiences. Everything you have ever done is recorded in your conscious memory and your nervous system. Everything you’ve ever seen, heard, touched, tasted or smelled is tucked away in your brain.

Write down 5 experiences that have most powerfully shaped your life and next to it how it affected you?

e.g. I have climbed Kilimanjaro and I proved to myself that I have the courage to step outside of my comfort zone and achieve a tough goal that I set myself. I feel more confident now in many areas of my life.

Exercise 3. You Become Who You Have Coffee With

I would like you to think about the 5 people you spend most of your time with, either face to face or on the phone.

Make a list.

Next to each name, make a note of how positive they are (for you) on a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being the most positive). Do they encourage you in your uniqueness, do they spur you on to follow your dreams?

You are affected far more than you think by the people you spend your time with.

Think for a moment….

Have you ever finished a phone call and felt totally dragged down and drained?
Have you left a friend feeling ten feet tall?

I encourage you to become more aware of who you hang out with.

Exercise 4. Reflection

Reflection is the key to assimilating all you are discovering about yourself.

Look back over your answers and highlight the ones that surprise you or the ones that you know you must act on now…or in the next 10 days.

You are in the midst of a great journey of discovery!

My Road Less Travelled

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Leaping into the frontline as a humanitarian at 40 years old leaving behind safety and security many people said that I was crazy. Calls and emails would be filled with‘ Come on home now and settle down’, ‘It must be time to get back on the housing ladder?, ‘You don’t have a pension, what is your plan?’. I had to toughen up and suppress a wobble when I heard the concern people felt surrounding my new life on the frontline.

But I knew it was right for me to take ‘the road less travelled’. I had lived a comfortable life. But that unique part of me broke through my ordered life and my passion carried me through any fears of the unknown. I felt more alive than ever before on the frontline. I was able to combine many of my strengths and unique gifts. Putting myself in the middle of a catastrophic disaster I was able to make a real difference and use my strengths and skills to help others. I knew that this was what I was born to do. For me not knowing where my next meal or pay cheque was coming from and only having one suitcase of stuff was not scary but liberating.

This may all sound totally crazy to you too. But thats the thing…

We are all different.