He Called Me Brother

I’ve always loved Les Miserables. Before I was old enough to see the movie, I would listen to the soundtrack on repeat and now when I watch it, I can quote the full two and half hours off by heart which really annoys whoever is sitting next to me. You can often catch me humming ‘Do You Hear The People Sing?’ under my breath, or more often at the top of my voice, and I harbour a not-so-secret fantasy of falling off of the top of a barricade wrapped in a bright red flag, a dramatic protest against oppression and injustice. The idea of revolution fascinates me, people coming together and standing up against everything that brings others down. The camaraderie, the defiance, the purpose, I love it all. 

My Dad has always seen himself as more of a Jean Val Jean, the main character of Les Mis, the man who stole a loaf of bread because his sister’s child was starving and was put in jail for nineteen years, emerging bitter and angry until a chance encounter with a bishop turned his life upside down. The bishop showed him unwavering kindness in the face of all his hate and called him ‘brother’ even after Jean Val Jean abused his hospitality and robbed him. Jean Val Jean is the man who went on to be a symbol of hope and forgiveness, a man who rose above his circumstances then reached down to bring as many others as he possibly could with him, no matter what the cost to himself. His life was no longer just about him, it was about creating a better world. In many ways he really is a lot like who my Dad was and who he tries to be. 

Les Miserables is set around the run up to the French revolution. People are really struggling and are growing restless, a bit like the situation we find ourselves in now. The story follows a group of friends who are young and passionate and willing to die for their people and their country. It reaches its climax, everyone is singing, flags are waving, furniture is thrown onto the streets to build this giant barricade and then, with a few gunshots, it’s all over. The few who are on the barricade are slaughtered whilst the people of Paris hide away behind locked doors and closed shutters, too afraid to rise up. 

However, a revolution has already taken place. A revolution that was far more powerful than one which is fought with gunpowder and anger. It had taken place in a heart that was buried beneath layers of bitterness and mistrust. A heart everyone had given up on, even the person it belonged to. Somehow a single word pierced through all the armour to reach a place a bullet could never touch, a place still protected from the poison of hate. “Brother” Jean Val Jean says ‘He called me brother. When I insulted him, he trusted me. When I stole his silver, he gave me a piece that was even more valuable.  All he asked was that I use it to become a more honest man.” If simple human connection could transform a man as screwed up as Jean Val Jean, imagine what it could do for all of us. 

Deep down I know Dad is right when he says he’d rather be Jean Val Jean than a passionate but idealistic revolutionary. In our household, the universal and age-old power of love and connection usually wins out over dying in a blaze of glory and fireworks in many of our hypothetical battles and discussions. 

I still really want to fall off a barricade wrapped in a flag, but I know that in times of desperation a real revolution means that staying silent is not an option any more because something has transformed you. I also know that the only thing that can truly change us like that is something that touches us deep down in our souls, something like love, like human connection, like feeling as though you’re part of something bigger than just yourself and knowing that what you’re doing is right. No matter how desperate the cause, we have to believe in what we’re fighting for so much that it overpowers our fear – fear of change, fear of failure, fear of stepping outside our comfort zone, fear of doing things differently. 

As a family we live our lives very differently to what is considered the norm and we’ve done some things that others may see as crazy, but we don’t do it just for the sake of it. We’re not rebelling and revolting just because we’re frustrated or because we want to make some noise so that everyone knows about it. Everything we do has a purpose because we see ourselves as part of a bigger picture and as part of making this world a better place for everyone. 

So yeah, maybe we are here to start a revolution, but this time it’ll be Jean Val Jean and the bishop on a much larger scale. Maybe one day in the future they’ll write a book and make a movie about what is to come too and it’ll be a true story. But that’ll only happen if this time the people rise with us and if everyone stands together. That way, we’ll be unbeatable. 

By Gracie x

‘Human’ Is An Action Word

I (Gracie) wrote this post in response to following the story of Ahmaud Arbery – a young black man followed, shot and killed by a white ex policeman and his son, both armed, when Ahmaud was out for a jog in his Georgia neighbourhood in February. They followed him as they believed he looked like the suspect of a recent burglary. His killers were only arrested yesterday after a video of the shooting surfaced and were charged today.


The world is hurting so much right now, in more ways than one, but what confuses me is that somehow we’re all human enough to be brought to our knees by a virus that’s only a few months old and yet not human enough to recognise that our society is filled with the biggest killer of all, one that’s been around since the beginning of time – inequality and division. The news is filled with numbers and statistics of those dying from Covid 19 and we’re all taking steps to rid our world of it, we wash our hands and stand two metres apart, but still we let injustice and inequality run rampant throughout society, wreaking destruction and pain, and consequently anger and division. And when I say society, I mean the society you and I both live in for our entire lifetimes on earth, the society we shape with the actions we take every single day.

To me, human is a verb not a noun. It requires action, it requires love, it requires listening, it requires change, it requires compromise, it requires openness, it requires acceptance, it requires honesty and it requires conversation.

And the worse thing is that I’ll look back on this and I’ll tell myself that I should be more positive and that my ramblings won’t solve anything, but no. Some things need to be said and not just reframed in a more lighthearted and digestible way. We don’t get to switch on and off, this is reality and it doesn’t go away just because we want it to. This is how I’m feeling right now. I’m finding the world I live in and the world I’m part of frustrating and painful and I can’t even begin to imagine how much more so it is for those directly affected by inequality and injustice. And though I am proud of many elements of society, there are huge chunks that I am deeply ashamed of.

I’m just so tired of living life like when one day ends we have to wake up and start fighting for the next one to be a good one. I know I’m not the only person who feels this way. I wanna be a bridge, but bridges get trodden all over and it’s not long before your back starts to hurt. So tired of someone’s humanity being the irony in the punchline of someone else’s thoughtless joke. So tired of not understanding enough and so tired of understanding too much. So tired of humans not being human. So tired of history repeating itself and cycles that seemingly can’t be broken.

At the end of the day, how hard is it to love and respect each other? How hard is it to care about the life of someone compiled of the same molecules and atoms as you are just in a slightly different arrangement? Someone who stares back at you with the same eyes you look out through? Someone with a heart and a soul like yours? How much evidence and statistics do you need to start acting like a human, bearing in mind that human is a verb, taught to children in schools as an action word? How many more people have to suffer injustices before we do anything about it?

I’m not saying these things are simple. Life is complicated, people are complex, but love is not. Love is a very basic choice and anyone who ever made any difference understood that. If we let our love for our fellow human beings guide our actions, and yes we absolutely have to take action, we can rarely go wrong. Love leads to equality. Division leads to more division. Aim for unity in everything you do.

“We Built A Farm In A Week” by Gracie Chick – a reluctant teenage farmer

“You built a farm in a week!” our neighbour laughs as he drives past the once abandoned donkey pen, small dusty yard and strip of disused grass that is now home to a polytunnel, ten happy chickens, a veggie patch with a neat fence, tidy piles of manure and compost, a tea station and seats, water tanks recycled into growing beds and tools stacked in a corner. He’s right, with a bit of thought, teamwork and effort, we have built a mini farm in seven days. But why? None of us are farmers, or even gardeners. This year we had planned to travel the UK spreading the message of the necessity of community, bridging social divides, giving talks and hosting CommuniTea events. 

But then everything changed for everyone and, over the space of a week, the Coronavirus transformed me into a spade wielding, fence building farmer. Trust me, I know absolutely nothing about growing food or keeping chickens and, to be honest, I’m not particularly interested in agriculture or animals. However, I am interested in being in control of my own life and taking power into my own hands to make sure my family and community have enough food to eat. I’d have laughed at you if you’d said to me three weeks ago that I’d now be spending the foreseeable future digging through mud and composted horse poo, I’d have told you that I am a young person who writes important articles about social change and rewiring society – definitely not some green fingered gardener. But now society is being rapidly rewired whether we like it or not, and things have changed, maybe just not in the way we’d expected. Through our week-long ‘farming journey’ I’ve realised that none of us are powerless to make positive changes in the world. Especially since most, if not all, of those changes begin in our own lives. 

Often, the most powerful thing we can do is let our everyday actions speak louder than our words. As the many ordinary people we’ve met who are making a difference in their communities demonstrate, we can’t wait for or rely on anyone else to change things for us and at the moment, we need food, and so I am currently a change-making youth voice doing the most powerful thing I can do right now – getting stuck in growing vegetables and providing for my family and community. A week ago we were staring out at an empty, deserted yard, just trying to envisage what it would even look like if we built all this stuff we were talking about and now we have created an incredible and useful space which will soon (hopefully) yield delicious fresh vegetables and eggs. 

Because we are growing some of our own food, it also means we won’t have to take money from the government. At the moment they are giving out financial aid left, right and centre to keep this country afloat and if they continue to shell out to everyone who is entitled to it, the government will collapse entirely – meaning those who really, desperately need the help will not get it. However, if we all took only what was necessary and those of us who can provide for ourselves make the decision to do so, as well as those of us who have excess sharing with those who don’t, together we could stop our society falling into ruin and build a system based on sharing, support and community at the same time. In this system no one would be at a disadvantage because we are all just human beings with an equal capacity to share and connect. We wouldn’t go hungry because we’d share with one another. I’ll share the food I grow on my mini farm with you, but I’ll also show you how to grow your own, whether you’ve got a tiny corner or fields and fields, then maybe you’ll share what you grow with me. Or maybe you can teach me something in return?

Not everyone can grow their own food, but everyone can be part of a system based on sharing. And the part we have to play, as those who are able to, is to take only what we need and to give what we can. Through one simple empowered act such as growing some food, we have become part of positive change. 

Much like our choice to start farming, being part of the change is a choice every one of us can make in our own lives. It will not be a political shift or one led by any kind of leader, but a revolution of ordinary people choosing to care for one another. We’ve already seen the incredible potential we have to support each another in the face of this crisis, why stop when it ends? Why not use that connection to build a better world? 

You may think that sharing is against our human nature and that we could never shake the overriding desire to get as much as we can for ourselves and then defend it, that any other system is a dreamers idealism, but I think that this crisis has proved what we will do to support one another in our times of need in order for us all to survive. Our world will not go back to normal when this is over, we will have to rebuild it and, during that process, we will need each other more than ever. 

So I have a message for you as I dig my way through this pile of soil – do whatever you can to be part of positive change and share whatever you can too, for like when you plant seeds, you will receive tenfold. 

Reset And Rebuild

What does an ideal world look like? I’m aware that this question sounds like something you’d ask yourself at 1am as you ponder everything we’re surrounded by and think of everything that ‘could be’, or as some sort of daydream or maybe a game where you get to design a virtual ‘perfect’ world as an escape from reality.


An ideal world is not perfect, but what if it could be real? Imagine if someone hit reset and we got to build the world we want to live in. Imagine if every single one of us – young or old, rich or poor – had a part to play in that because we all have wisdom, skills and ideas to contribute.  At the moment, amongst the chaos, it’s almost like that reset has happened. We are no longer ploughing confidently forward the same way we have always done. When I opened my social media this morning and every morning for the last couple of weeks, it was flooded with offers of help and support for those in need, incredible acts of kindness, neighbours speaking to one another for the first time, meals being cooked for elderly strangers, bags of shopping left on doorsteps, people sharing what they’ve got with others – positivity, hope, unity. The Coronavirus has stopped us all dead in our tracks and given us a new perspective on life, one where we suddenly realise it’s not all about what we can get, but what we can give as well and, consequently, what we receive from giving. 


After this, things will not be the same as before and we have to start building our society back up. That’s just the facts. But we all have a choice as to the world we want to rebuild, the world we want to live in and the world we want our children and grandchildren to live in. Do we all suddenly stop supporting our communities and sharing our lives or do we continue to see the necessity for connection? Do the local Facebook groups we’ve set up to see if anyone needs anything fall into disuse? Do we stop checking in on our friends to make sure they’re okay and have someone to talk to? Community is the most powerful resource we have in a crisis and we are rising to the occasion because of the coronavirus situation, but there is an ongoing mental health crisis too, a climate crisis, a crisis amongst young people with little hope for the future, let’s come together in our communities to fight these catastrophes too because they don’t end when the Coronavirus does. 


The virus has delivered us right to the first step of rebuilding our world to make it a better place for us all – equality. When we’re all facing the same threat, we all have the same purpose – to defeat it – and I think we’re starting to realise that pulling apart in different directions, panicking and getting as much as we can for ourselves alone gets us nowhere and instead we must pull together. When we’re struggling to get food no matter how much money we have, it brings us all into equal standing and from there we can move forward. In a world that values community and human connection over money and materialism, we have to work together and no one is at a disadvantage because we’re all just human beings with an equal capacity to share and connect. 


A few days ago, I saw that a woman who was self isolating had posted a photo of a huge load of food that had been left on her doorstep, bags of dried fruit, beans and tubs of tahini. She explained that a few years earlier she had helped a family of refugees from Syria settle in her neighbourhood and today they had brought round all this food, as well as dropping the same round for this woman’s elderly parents. They had both provided for one another when the other was in need, a partnership so deep and connected that no communication was needed. A friendship built on sharing that crosses social divides. I truly believe that kindness is the currency that can make our world 

so much richer.


There was also a story recently about a man who is anonymously buying his entire village a takeaway every week during lockdown. What has changed so drastically that someone would be prepared to spend so much providing for the community around them and supporting local businesses just because he’s fortunate enough to have the funds to do so? I don’t know about you, but that is the world I want to live in – a world where those who have excess share with those who don’t, not to be seen as some kind of hero but because they believe in a system built on sharing what we can. 


We can create this world, I promise. It’s very different from the one we live in now, but even in recent days we are beginning to see what it might look like simply in our changing attitude towards others and what is valuable to us. It may seem impossible and faraway, but it starts within us and our lives and the choices we make now. If we panic buy and lock ourselves away and surround ourselves with enough food to last us maybe…four months, what are we gonna do when that four months is up and we run out? Or whether we take what we need for now, make sure everyone in our community has enough, take the initiative to grow what we can, support others and have them support us, invest, build something, create something –  a livelihood, a community, a future. 


We weren’t really connected with many of our neighbours when this situation began, everyone was going about their own business, a lot of new people had moved in since we’d been away and I hadn’t even seen many of them to say hi. So we decided to set up a Facebook group for the immediate area. We put a post on offering to help out wherever we could, cook extra food for anyone who needed it (this was before stricter measures were put in place) and be there if anyone was struggling with their mental health and needed someone to talk to. Suddenly loads of local people started posting on there, just little things but all things that are strengthening our community – people organising teams to dig in the garden, someone picking up some shopping, online resources being shared, seeds being exchanged, excess food being distributed, thoughts and musings shared. 


All over the world people are taking their garden fence panels down so that they can talk to their neighbours whilst both safely in their own gardens. When all of this is over, let’s not put those fences back up again, let’s not reinforce the things that divide us, let’s not forget the conversations we had and the jokes we shared over the garden fence and how we got through the hard times together.


It shouldn’t take a global virus to show us how necessary connection really is, but that’s the way it’s happened. Our humanity has been our most valuable resource for a long time. Look at how indigenous people all over the world live their lives, in harmony with each other and the world around them, what do they value? Money and possessions? No, its community that binds them together, their commitment to one another and their total, unwavering unity. We are social beings to our core and we need each other. 


We all need to start talking about what this new world is going to look like. Even the beginning doesn’t work without sharing – sharing ideas, sharing thoughts, sharing conversations, connecting. We need to put everything we have on the table and figure out what works and what doesn’t. We all have experiences of what community feels like to live with or without. We have our own backgrounds and cultures and valuable lessons we can share from ancient ways of doing things. We have friendships and connections that we can bring forward and strengthen. We have solutions to problems. We have wisdom and life lessons. Between us, we have quite a lot of material and financial gain that we could put to good use. We’ve got skills to share and exchange, things to teach one another. We have people who plan, people who discover, people who care for others, people who can create, people who can build, people who can dream, people who can express, people who can organise, people who can lead, people who are fair, people who take the initiative, people who motivate, people who comfort, people who raise others up, people who support, people who carry on no matter what, people who are smart, people who invent and reinvent, people who feel things deeply, people who fight for what’s right and, in this new world, we’re gonna need you all equally. 

Community VS Coronavirus


We’ve spent the last few weeks discussing and writing our TEDx talk, finding the best way to tell our story of discovery, connection and, above all, hope and I don’t want to give anything anyway before the talk in April, but the message we want to share with you cannot wait seven weeks, especially with this virus and the effects it’s having on society at the forefront of our minds. We all need to hear it now.

What if I told you that, on our journey, we have come across something pretty incredible, something that is revolutionising the future of our society and spreading throughout our country just as fast as the Coronavirus is, but infecting us with hope instead? What we’ve discovered is that our value system as a nation is shifting monumentally, and continues to shift a little more with every ordinary person who sees the need for change in their community and stands up and makes a difference. 

Starting when we’re children and continuing throughout our entire lives, we are taught to pursue materialism, but are now coming to realise that material things are not what make us happy. Possessions can so easily become worthless, whilst human connection is strong and runs deep. If we invest in our communities now, it doesn’t matter how much we earn or how well we did at school or how big our house is any more because life becomes about caring and not counting and a value system based on community excludes no one. 

My generation don’t have a ton of hope for the future – our planet is being destroyed, knife crime and violence are on the rise, it’s unlikely we’ll ever be able to afford to own our own homes, we’re in the midst of a mental health crisis and now there’s this virus to contend with too, but putting our energy into our communities gives us something we can all believe in and contribute to, as well as a support network of people who care. If the value system changes now, whilst we’re young, and we grow up caring about the people around us instead of feeling lost and resentful , the future we will go on to create looks a whole lot brighter. 

We all have a choice when it comes to how we personally deal with the Coronavirus and other issues our society faces – we can become fearful, distrustful, insular and self centred or we can pull together. I recently saw on the news that there has been an outbreak of the virus in the town of Buckie in North East Scotland, but if there’s anyone who will pull together when they’re struggling, it’s them, as we spent some time there on our journey and the strength of their community spirit blew us away. I have no doubt that they’ll get through this – together, as a community. 

It’s like, amongst the chaos, all these shoots of hope are springing up everywhere, not just naturally but because they have been deliberately planted by people who see the desperate need to make a difference. But why now? Maybe it’s like new growth after a fire that destroys everything. Maybe it’s just the right time for change.These shoots are the beginning of a new value system and when they connect at the root they are what stops our society becoming an unsurvivable and hostile desert.

We’re not sure of how everything will pan out, but it might turn out that we have to stay at the farm where we live for awhile instead of going off travelling as we planned. We’ve ordered a load of food so if we wanted to we could just hole ourselves up, but we have a whole community around us as well so, if the whole situation with the Coronavirus goes downhill, we plan to grow food, cook for people, create a space where everyone’s welcome and use it as an opportunity to bring our community closer together. Have you ever heard the story of stone soup? Individually they had nothing, the odd carrot here, some salt and pepper there, but together they created a hearty meal that fed them all and kept them going. 

The change is happening, people. Are you in or are you out? 

If The Kids Are United We Will Never Be Divided

I originally took on this journey on behalf of my generation because, though I know that the issues my peers are facing are big and complex and overwhelming and that I cannot solve them, I want young people to know that there is hope, that people do care, that people are willing to be part of bringing about change and that no one has to be alone in their struggles. I want to somehow give my generation the platform to feel empowered and proud and hopeful. I believe that community and human connection have the power to do that. 


On our journey, we’ve discovered that by rebuilding their communities ordinary people are creating their own solutions to the struggles they face. Simply by coming together, crossing divides and supporting one another, they are changing the face of the society we live in for the better. I want young people to be involved in this. I want them to feel the same sense of belonging I’ve felt through being part of these communities, the same sense of pride and warmth and empowerment. 


It’s plain to see that my generation are struggling, but I’ve learnt that when we are given the opportunity to be part of our communities and help make them a better place, we are simultaneously given hope for our future too. If we are an essential part of our communities now, we will feel responsibility and care towards them throughout our lifetimes because they’re ours and we played a part in shaping them. Young people have so much to give – our talents and gifts, our life experiences and knowledge, our ideas and creativity. Our communities and society are our inheritance, but we are part of them now.


We are a generation who crave social interaction and I believe that we can find the same belonging we seek in our friend groups and online in our communities amongst people of all generations and walks of life. I can tell you from my own experience that we can find as much fun, laughter, support, strength and purpose from spending time with groups of people in our communities as we can in the familiarity and restriction of our comfort zones. Community exists in so many ways, shapes and forms, but every single one of us has an invaluable part to play in it. 


Older generations, please recognise the necessity of what we have to contribute and help us get involved. Guide us with your experiences and wisdom, but listen to our voices too. Young people, I know it may be hard to know where to start and that it’s a step outside of our comfort zone, but our communities are as much ours as they are anyone else’s and we have to take ownership, we have to work together to make the communities and society we live in better for everyone using what we’re passionate about and what we’re good at. I know you probably hear this a lot, but this is our future and the power to shape it lies in our hands. It’s up to us what we do with it. 


Why We Haven’t Sold Our Story

Here’s the speech I shared at the CommuniTea event that the BBC filmed.


The One Show got in touch with us at the beginning of our journey and we agreed to make a film with them to share our story and message of the necessity of community and sharing our lives, but when we were arranging it and started telling them about the severity of all the problems we’ve seen and how everyone can and must be part of making a difference, they appeared to lose interest – telling us they had covered something similar before and would not be making a video. We asked them for their reasons so that we could write an explanation for social media as to why they’d changed their minds and quickly after that they decided that they would make a film after all.


We were incredibly excited for the opportunity to share what we believe is a powerful message. We’ve seen and been shocked by the extent of the mental health crisis our country is facing, the amount of people struggling with little hope for the future, the shocking rates of people – especially young people – who are taking their own lives because of the pain and hopelessness our society breeds and the chronic loneliness and isolation we suffer with. However, we’ve found simple but effective solutions in ordinary, everyday people transforming their communities, creating a support network and giving people pride and belonging, but somehow the media don’t seem interested. This is what our journey has evolved into and it’s so so important to us and we believe it’s important to everyone because if we all play a part in it, we will transform our society for the better. 


The One Show sent a team of four down to film for two whole days. We put on a CommuniTea event which took up a whole day of filming, they interviewed people who were there, people who had struggled in life, people who desperately wanted to make a difference, people who were taking active steps to make their community a better place. Even in that group of thirty people – we were aware of five separate tragedies where people had lost a loved one to suicide. Then they spent another whole day interviewing us, but instead focused on things like ‘what we’d do if we wanted one of our friends to have a sleepover in Mo’, ‘where we go to the toilet’ and Mum and Dad’s personal life. We were confused, we are bringing a powerfully effective but simple tool for change to the table to share with the British public and they wanted to talk about toilets and sleepovers? 


We told them once again how important it was that the community element came across and the team informed us they would include parts of that, but that their audience (on average, five million British people each night) are mainly interested in vegging out and binge watching box sets. Is this the new box they’re putting us in? They also asked me what I’d say to the majority of teenagers who just care about clothes and their iPhones and I thought – that can’t be all our generation is defined by?


After appearing on The One Show, we came home for a few days to work out the next step and have had conversations with a few of our friends who have also expressed their doubts about our credibility and how relevant our message is to everyday people which we understood, but found incredibly frustrating as encouraging everyday people to get involved in their communities is our whole message. 


As a family, we made a conscious decision at the beginning of this challenge to try and keep our message positive, but as we now make plans for the direction of the next step of our journey, we feel that this is something we need to speak up about. 


The One Show isn’t the only media attention we’ve received. As we’ve travelled the UK on our challenge, we’ve also had interest from many global mainstream press agencies looking to sell our story (where we would receive 50% of all revenue), but we’ve always held out because although we’ve had long conversations over the phone with them about the purpose behind our journey and all the incredible solutions we’ve discovered along the way to problems that affect us all, they always tell us that they’ll touch on that, but what their audience – the British public – is interested in are things like ‘where we all sleep’, ‘how we afford to live on a tenner a day’ or ‘what our advice would be to parents and grandparents who want to take the kids on a free or cheap day out on the weekends’. In fact, a journalist from a press agency got in touch with us about a paid offer just earlier today and when I thought I’d check out some of their latest stories they were about an overweight dog and a woman who ‘hasn’t drunk water in a year’. 


Do the corporations that control everything we watch and read think all we’re interested in is sensationalist stories? Even after we’ve explained that we want to share the the secret to solutions to problems that will affect us all and tools that will help us shape the world we want to live in? Do they think all we’re interested in is entertainment and that our message is irrelevant? We all love being entertained and just being able to switch off, but we also deserve to hear about the things that create positive change and bring us together. Tell us, is what they say true? Isn’t it about time that the media represent what really matters to all of us? 



Straightening A Few Things Out


“Is this the Sponger family? Missed the surname…”

“Odd family.  Kids look brainwashed or held hostage. ” 

“Just because you can live on 10 quid a day doesn’t mean you have to… The Walton’s roadshow”

“Call social services!”

“So these 3 kids don’t go to school, live in an unheated van, are fed only porridge and stuff they find in the woods and are forced to cook for strangers. And we are supposed to think that this is marvellous?”

“The parents are obviously not concerned about the childrens’ schooling!!”

“Yep, stick em in the back of a car to stump growth and limit mental exercise. Child abuse at its finest is what this is.” 

“They are having to live the lives of their parents and know no different. They are missing out on the experiences schools provide, not to mention the living environment they are being forced into.” 

“Strange couple & family…..I think they get money through selling their story.They use up so much fuel…can’t honestly cost a fiver…I think they are weird…..no thought or concern about their children’s future.” 

“my concern is do the three children have seatbelts, it didn’t look like they were wearing any to me” 

“Hope they have money saved or else old age poverty beckons when they aren’t so strong to move around or forage.” 

“Thought only USA 🇺🇸 had these f#@!wits!”


Last week we were on The One Show (you can watch the clip in the video above) and had the previous comments after our appearance and so we just wanted to confirm a few things. We’re not upset by anyone’s responses, we believe that everyone has the right to their opinion, but there was so much more to our story that The One Show didn’t cover so perhaps that’s why people were left with the wrong impression of us? 

Before we set off on this journey, we all had the choice as to what we wanted to do with the next chapter of our lives. We sat down and talked about it as a family and laid out all of our options. We could go travelling, maybe around Europe, learn from living life to the fullest and making memories or we could rent a house somewhere, the kids could go to school and join clubs and we could all settle into a conventional lifestyle OR we could do something to make a difference and play our part in creating change.  At the end of the day, we chose the final option as a family because we all felt compelled to do something positive – not because we are selfless or saintly, but because we could not sit back and watch so many people struggle with little hope for the future. Gracie was seeing the sheer amount of issues her peers were facing and we all wanted to be part of something that creates a better world and future for everyone. 

We planned an epic journey, a challenge to drive round the coastline of the UK in a tiny, unique campervan living on a tenner a day (£5 food – £5 fuel) to raise money for an incredible charity called CatZero transforming the lives of young people and full families. We knew it would be tough, but we were all totally up for it and we all had a role to play. We worked hard to kick-start it, Dad worked his socks off all winter and we sold our car. We then donated all the money we’d save from living on a tenner a day to CatZero (£6000) and set off on our charity challenge. We put everything into the challenge because we believed in its purpose and the way CatZero changes lives and gives people without hope a future. 

Our home for our charity challenge – which we named Round The UK On A Tenner A Day – was Mo. Mo is a tiny Morris Traveller campervan that’s one of its kind. It makes everyone smile and is such a catalyst for human connections. We chose to take on our challenge in our Morris instead of a larger vehicle because people’s response to us is usually positive by default and Mo has been the start to so many friendships and meaningful conversations. 

Dave is a professional and extremely experienced carpenter and, with Evan’s help, he modified Mo into a functional, comfortable home for our family. Mo is perfectly road safe, MOTed even though it is exempt, fully insured, has been reclassified by the DVLA as a motorcaravan and has three seatbelts in the back to keep us safe and secure in our seats. 

Our charity challenge lasted almost nine months and along the way we met people all the time who wanted to support us. All the money we were given was donated to CatZero to help them continue changing lives for the better, even the money people insisted was for us to spend on ourselves. We raised £17,000 for CatZero. The only time in nine months that we spent any of the money we were given for ourselves was when some kindly firemen paid for us to have an ice-cream in Wales and when an elderly man gave us the money for us to have some chips in our favourite chippie in Weston Super Mare. 

On a daily basis, people we met or people who found us on social media invited us into their home for a meal or a shower or to do our washing. When we went to thank them, they thanked us for allowing them to be part of what we were doing. We shared our stories and experiences with them and have made friends for life. The same went when we broke down and mechanics helped us on our way. 

When someone invited us round for dinner or brought us a bag of shopping, we didn’t carry any money that we’d saved over to the next day. Instead we put it into a separate fund so that we could buy tea making supplies and be hospitable to others or put it towards funding one of CommuniTea events to bring a community together. 

As for education – the kids have been invited to do a prestigious TEDx talk at TEDxNorwichED in April to share their experiences and ideas in front of a conference room full of 400 people (mostly educators) and a live online audience of up to 90,000. It can also get millions of views on YouTube afterwards. Norwich is the larger of only two TEDx education events in the world. Gracie was also the youngest attendee of the NATO Engages conference earlier this year where she got to ask the panel of world leaders questions about social change, be interviewed and do an Instagram takeover for NATO and the Atlantic Council. 

We’ve also visited, talked at and reported on hundreds of community projects all around the country as we see the incredibly positive solutions they’re creating in their local areas. Gracie wrote posts about them to tell their stories and encourage others to get involved in their communities, Irys captures it with photography and Evan makes short films and videos.

Irys got tours of several universities around the country just by taking the initiative to contact them and show her enthusiasm. Evan has learnt about engines and how to fix them from mechanics all over the UK. All three of the kids have spoken at various schools, scout groups and youth projects around the country. 

Everyone we’ve met has had something to teach us, a life lesson or even a practical skill. We’ve met people from every culture, background, generation and walk of life and learnt to see life from a diverse spectrum of perspectives. 

We successfully completed our charity challenge in January. It was difficult at times, but in those moments we reminded ourselves of the purpose behind it. However, overall it was a life changing and valuable journey with the positives far outweighing the hard times. We’ve decided to continue because we believe that what we’ve discovered along the way is a powerful tool for change. At the moment, we still fund our day to day living expenses (£10 a day to make it sustainable) and our CommuniTea events and plan to for the foreseeable future. We now want to share what we’ve learnt from all the amazing projects that are transforming their local areas, bring communities together and promote the necessity of human connections.