A school that teaches life skills! Girls learn how to change tyres and check oil levels

Girl power comes in many different guises; whether it’s a Union Jack dress, protesting at an activists’ march, or being the CEO of a business.

It’s also the ability to fix a car without having to dart into a convenience store when breaking down at the side of a road to ask, ‘Is there a guy who can help?’

And one school is empowering their students to learn all about the vehicles they will soon drive, with lessons in car maintenance.

The Stella Maris College in Manly – a beach suburb in Sydney, Australia ­– is educating their Year 11s on a series of life skills they hope will prepare them for the outside world.

For the full car maintenance curriculum, the teenagers will complete the course knowing how to change a tyre, understand the most efficient way to check tyre pressure, how to best monitor oil and coolant levels, and what to do in the event of a car accident.

The initiative kicked off after Galmatic, an organisation that encourages people to ‘know your car’, reached out to the school to gauge interest of possible student workshops.

The proposal complemented the school’s ethos to be strong, independent and resourceful young women, so they joined forces to help the teens become road ready.

Speaking about the project, Assistant Principal for Wellbeing, Amy Smith, said the students benefited from sessions and found the practical skills to be a valuable exercise.

She said: “We had three groups of roughly 40 girls in what we call an incursion (event on school grounds).

“The feedback was very positive, the ladies from Galmatic were very patient and thorough in what they were explaining.

“All the staff and our Principal, Elizabeth Carnegie, felt a workshop like this would be beneficial for many reasons, mainly skills the girls need to learn before they leave school.

“It was also important to show the girls that they have the capabilities to handle situations themselves once they are on the road, rather than rely on someone else.”

Meanwhile, Eleni Mitakos, who has run Galmatic for 13 years, revealed the company teaches up to 100,000 teenagers each year in schools across all parts of Sydney.

Chatting to Daily Mail Australia, she said: “The primary aim is for teenagers to feel comfortable behind the wheel. Ultimately, they are driving very big vehicles which can be very expensive if not looked after properly.

“We can’t stress enough to all our students, you should never ignore a problem with your car, you need to address it for your own safety.”

Looks like we might need a session with Galmatic ourselves to save on garage bills!

Son imagined sick dad swimming beside him during gruelling training to motivate him ahead of marathon

A man who embarked on an incredible mission to raise awareness for the rare illness that his father has, imagined his dad swimming beside him during gruelling training sessions to stay motivated.

Sam Blanchard’s dad was diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy [PSP] in 2017, a rare neural disease that falls under the Parkinson’s umbrella.

Yet where Parkinson’s is caused by damage to a specific area of the brain (the basal ganglia), PSP affects the entire brain. This results in a very aggressive deterioration and affects balance, mobility, speech, sight, memory, swallowing… everything.

As Sam was forced to witness the impact that the savage illness took on his dad, Mark Blanchard, he was determined to do all in his power to fundraise for PSP.

Not doing things by halves, he chose to undertake an extraordinary marathon that would see him swim 13km, cycle 100km, and run 42km in one day across the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England.

Speaking exclusively to Uspire, Sam told us about his impressive pursuit and just how he managed to push through the mental as well as the physical boundaries.

Sam explained: “The inspiration for the challenge came from my dad. From an early age, he inspired me to be active and would often take me to the gym with him.

“I remember being a young boy and thinking my dad was invincible and he could do the impossible. He would go out for hours cycling or swimming. But he was always competitive, and I never actually competed in anything.

“When we learned about his diagnosis, I knew I wanted to do something that would make him proud but also wanted to do something that made people stop and think. I wanted to do something that I thought was impossible.”

And impossible it was, to begin with, as Sam faced a series of hurdles.

Originally, the challenge had been set to be completed over three days; with the swim around the island, the cycle, then the run.

This initial plan included a swim of 96km, a feat only accomplished by five people before, experienced endurance swimmers, who took over 24 hours to complete it.

However, when training began in September 2019, Sam was new to swimming and struggled to hit a distance of even 1.5km.

Sam said: “Last winter, I went through some extreme highs and lows, more lows if I am honest. The training was six days a week, sometimes two to three sessions a day. This was on top of a full-time job of around 40-50 hours a week.

“I relied heavily on my colleagues and because they knew the background to what I was doing, they were letting me arrive late or leave early in order to fit in training.

“It took over my life; I was having to work on what I was eating, often not eating enough due to work, I was always tired, needing to get eight or nine hours sleep a night but often having to train at 5am or late in the evening just to make sure I got the sessions in.”

He continued: “When the running and cycling increased, I began to find it difficult to stand up if I had been sat down for too long, going up and down stairs was a chore, having to go one step at a time and pause due to pain in my knees or calves.

“I can’t say for sure, but I am confident I had a stress fracture in my shin, it meant I had to rearrange my weeks to ensure long enough recovery between my runs.”

Despite immense strain on the body and the mind, Sam hit a turning point in March 2020 when he began breaking through barriers in training to gain momentum.

He had built up his capabilities to achieve four-hour swims and was just a week away from flying to Mallorca to undertake a one-on-one endurance swimming camp with Anna Wardley, who had successfully swum around the Isle of Wight herself seven years earlier.

But then, COVID-19 happened.

Sam lost access to the gym, swimming pools closed, and he had to cancel his trip.

[Credit: Patrick Condy]

He said: “It was a real low. I lost a lot of momentum and direction over the next few weeks. My dad was shielded so I couldn’t even draw on him for motivation. I felt lost, I thought I had let a lot of people down and I was embarrassed.

“At other times through my training, I was able to draw on my dad and his illness. I would often imagine him swimming next to me, not the dad I know now but the invincible dad I knew as a boy. Obviously, that dad never got tired so when I was slowing down, I would imagine my dad speeding away from me and I had to catch him up.

“Of course, this was a solo event, which meant hours and hours of training on my own. My coaches were now remote, and I was just going up and down in a pool for hours. So often, my mind would wander and could go to quite dark places.

“There was rarely a training session I didn’t break down. In the pool if your eyes are red, it’s assumed it’s because of the chlorine. But in the gym, it could be embarrassing.”

While Sam’s journey was exhausting and demanding, his dad remained the focus so that he could reach his goals personally while also for his family and the charity.

In particular, Sam wanted to finish the quest in honour of his dad’s own sporting abilities.

He said: “Prior to my dad’s diagnosis, he was strong and active. The chairman of a road cycling club on the Isle of Wight, brown belt in karate, frequent gym goer and weight lifter.

“One characteristic that also stands out for me was the pride he took in his personal appearance, always dressing sharply and being clean shaven, eating well and putting his training ahead of any social distractions.”

It was only when Mark went to visit his son in America in 2015, that Sam really noticed a difference from the dad he had grown up with.

Sam continued: “I walked past him at the airport as I didn’t recognise him. He was small, almost frail looking, unshaven and dressed in tattered clothes.

“He had made a series of seemingly random life decisions in the months leading up to this trip, including job changes, relocation, uncharacteristically spiritual decisions.

“After collecting him from the airport and watching him struggle to climb into and out of my car, falling in the corridor of my home, I worried he might be heavily drunk.”

Sam monitored his dad during the visit, watching as he continuously lost balance, acted increasingly childlike with a bizarre new laugh, although surprisingly, barely touching a drop of drink. He even contacted family to ask if dad was having a breakdown.

However, during a hike along one of the stunning gorges in Western New York, Sam began to put the pieces together and think perhaps this was something neurological.

[Credit: Patrick Condy]

He said: “After witnessing him fall spontaneously backwards, luckily landing on his backpack and avoiding a certain fall to his death, I questioned him how he was feeling.

“He tried blaming his balance on an old ACL injury [Anterior Cruciate Ligament] in his knee that he sustained skiing, I think forgetting that I work in professional sport as a physiotherapist and knowing full well this was not a weakness in his knee.

“At this stage, I started to worry big time about the prospect of something neurological or worse, something like a tumour.

“Over the years, dad finally got a diagnosis of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy [PSP], since then we have learned about the disease as we go and witnessed its rapid progression.”

Driven by sheer determination and grit, Sam set about his crusade in August of this year.

And despite the many obstacles during training, the day itself was extremely positive.

Sam told us: “Everyone around me was buoyant and laughing all day, when I was struggling with sea sickness during the swim, my friend Scott Dawson (another successful swimmer around the Island) was there to pick me up and keep me focused.

“I could not have done the event without the support crew behind me.”

And, of course, his number one supporter was also there ­– dad.

Sam said: “He was laughing! He has developed this wicked laugh as part of his condition, which has everyone else laughing. It is completely uninhibited.

“Dad had insisted that he stayed for the whole event, which was 15 hours in the end. He was there when I got out of the water at Cowes and was in great spirits. Little did I know however he was then taken to A&E due to a complication of his illness.

“In hospital, he was telling the staff about my challenge and that he needed to get out. Luckily, he was there at the finish line and had a Guinness in hand to give me.

“My uncle gave him a lift home, around 10pm, a really long day for my dad, and he said he laughed the entire way home.”

[Credit: Patrick Condy]

Not only this, but Mark defied all expectations by standing from his wheelchair to wave his son off before the bike ride, a truly miracle moment for anyone immobilised by PSP.

Sam’s miraculous work continued as he raised a staggering £10,400, with donations split across the PSPA, the Earl Mountbatten Hospice and Surfers Against Sewage.

Speaking about how he would like to see education change around his father’s illness, Sam believes that research and understanding is crucial.

He said: “The biggest impact the PSPA has had on my family is providing support groups. On behalf of my nan and grandad, I want to thank them for these groups. They have met fellow families and they are learning together, as they go. It has been invaluable.

“I would like to help people understand more about the progression of the disease, as it is so multifactorial. I hope now that more people around my home on the island know about this, as I know a lot of people that knew my dad assumed he had a breakdown or that he was drunk. People I had grown up with, worked with, drank with, would look at me in disgust when my dad fell for no reason. I want them to understand.  

“The problem with rare conditions is that they are exactly that, rare. They have limited numbers of people with the condition at any one time… so, what is the incentive for drug companies to fund research into rare conditions if not many people are going to need the medications? That is why these charities are so vital.”

While estimates vary, it is believed around 3 in 100,000 have PSP.

If you or a loved one has any of the following symptoms, ask your GP for a neurologist referral: dizziness, unexplained falls typically backwards, loss of balance, muscle stiffness, dislike of bright light (photophobia), difficulty controlling eye movement.

For more information, click here: PSPA

To donate to Sam’s mission, click here: TRIsleOfWight

Black culture shines bright with these 5 role models giving voice to diversity

Black culture may now be in the spotlight, though knowing where to go to help educate ourselves and our kids may be a little trickier.

However, thanks to the good folks over at Positive News, they have compiled a Top 5 list of resources that are shining a light on black culture in the UK.

Collating a diverse group of people and projects, they showcase the work of creative people of colour inspiring others to explore their heritage and give voice to their identity.

First up, is On Things We Left Behind.

[Podcast sisters Surer and Saredo Mohamed]

On Things We Left Behind is a story-driven podcast, by Surer and Saredo Mohamed.

The sisters, now based in the UK, explore the hidden afterlife of war following their lived experience as daughters of Somali refugees who moved to Canada.

During conversation, they question how leaving your country shapes the new life afterwards, while taking an in-depth look into the lives of those who must start again.

Next up is, Black Ballad.

[Black Ballad founder Tobi Oredein]

This UK-based lifestyle platform tells the human experience through eyes of black British women, proudly elevating voices through content, community and commerce.

Journalist Tobi Oredein, with pal Bola Awoniyi, launched the site in 2014 after growing tired over the lack of representation of black women, ‘on the pages and in the offices’.

The pair now explore a range of topics from mental health to careers to politics to dating.

Thirdly, we have Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé.

[Rising star Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé]

Aged just 21, the student secured a million-dollar book deal for novel Ace of Spades.

The story, which follows two black students at an elite private school, is a “love letter to black queer kids, black kids who love mysteries and thrillers, black kids who need hope, but most of all it is for black people to see that not only is it possible for us to get a happy ending regardless of what we’ve been through, but that we deserve them”.

She is already paving the way for book number two.

In fourth position, Derek Owusu takes the title.

[Derek Owusu with Stormzy]

This writer, poet and podcaster from north London, discovered his passion for literature at the age of 23 while studying exercise science at the University of Manchester.

While he could not afford to switch degrees, he began reading all he could lay his hands on and sneaking into English literature lectures at uni.

He went on to edit and contribute to Safe: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space; while his first solo work That Reminds Me won the Desmond Elliott prize in 2020. He also just released his debut non-fiction title, Teaching My Brother To Read, about exploring the power and meaning of books, and how reading can change your life.

Last but not least, Rocks.

[New film Rocks is being celebrated for its authentic casting]

Proving to be a hit on Netflix already, this film follows teenager Rocks, who fears that she and her little brother Emmanuel will be forced apart if anyone finds out they live alone.

Thanks to the help of friends, the siblings evade the authorities, in a story that celebrates the joy and spirit of girlhood.

The film is making waves for its authentic casting, with protagonists plucked from obscurity by filmmakers at their school, and positive Muslim culture portrayal.

The magic of tech and how it’s being used to protect wildlife and illegal deforestation

Our planet’s rainforests are under threat from human-driven deforestation to access land for farming, grazing of livestock, mining, or to make palm oil for products like shampoo.

This deforestation not only affects the people and animals living in the areas where the trees are cut down, but also the global environment as it goes on to affect water supplies and climate change due to how it affects the air we breathe.

However, now the traditional Amazon tribes are joining forces with the magic of tech by using drones to detect illegal deforestation in the Brazilian rainforest.

You may or may not be familiar with a drone, though simply they are an unmanned aerial vehicle that can be controlled by a human operator and capture images from above.

Now, thanks to Indigenous rights’ groups teaming up with WWF International [World Wildlife Fund], they are beginning to train Andean people in the Amazon rainforest to use drones so that they can compile evidence for illegal logging activities.

Illegal logging – the harvesting of wood that is in violation of national regulations – is one of the major causes for the devastating wildfires that sweep the area and rip down the trees as cattle ranchers burn the forest to make way for pastureland.

This is believed to be responsible for an astonishing 80% of deforestation.

The drones will help tribes capture high-resolution images, video, and GPS coordinates of logging sites as well as prime habitats where vulnerable species are in danger such as the harpy eagle – a bird that’s sacred to the Uru Eu Wau Wau tribe in Brazil.

Along with the Uru Eu Wau Wau community, a further four tribes will become part of the initiative that has been made possible with the help of the Kaninde Ethno-Environmental Defense Association; an organisation that fights for the rights of people in the rainforest.

Speaking about the project, senior conservation analyst for WWF-Brazil, Felipe Spina Avino, said the drones allow tribes to use ancestral knowledge alongside technology.

Felipe told CNN: “They can compile a case with a lot of evidence that they can send to the authorities which then have much greater pressure and much greater resource to act upon the illegal activities that are going on.”

Already, the drones have discovered a 1.4-acre area of clear-cut land with grass seed, suggesting illegal activity as the cleared forest looks set to be used for cattle pasturing.

Free health care gifted to underprivileged thanks to generous hero Michael Jordan

They say team work makes the dream work, and Michael Jordan has certainly taken this philosophy from the court to health care.

The basketball phenomenon has called upon his philanthropy powers once again to open a much-needed clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina for underprivileged communities.

It is actually the second medical clinic that the six-time NBA champion has funded, with the first opening last October.

They are both part of the same project, the Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Clinics, that have been set up to provide services to residents with little or no health care.

[Credit: Novant Health]

The $7million (£5.4m) cash donation, gifted by Jordan in 2017, marked the biggest donation he had ever made at the time.

Speaking about the clinic, the 57-year-old sports hero said he is immensely proud of the success that has been achieved especially amidst the unprecedented year of 2020.

Jordan said: “To see how this has evolved over the last year is too gratifying. It makes me want to continue doing more so we can keep answering the bell when the bell is ringing.”

He added: “When we came together to mark the first clinic’s opening last fall [autumn], no one could have predicted we would be facing a global pandemic just five months later.

“I’m so proud of the positive impact our clinic has had on the community so far, especially during Covid-19.”

The new clinic boasts a 6,800 square-foot facility, equipped with 12 patient exam rooms, an X-ray room, and space for physical therapy too.

Its greatest asset, however, is that patrons will not need insurance in order to receive treatment which is usually required in America to access health care.

CEO and president of Novant Health, Carl Armato, said in a statement: “The impact of the first clinic has been measurable and if Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is the importance of having accessible, safe and quality care in communities that need it most.”

He continued: “Michael Jordan’s commitment to improving the health of our communities, and society, is deep-rooted.”

Jordan’s generosity is just as iconic as his performance on the court, after he made significant charitable donations over the years.

In 2015, he donated his winnings from a lawsuit settlement against supermarkets that had used his name without permission to 23 different Chicago charities.

While in 2018, he gifted $2m to relief efforts after Hurricane Florence damaged parts of North Carolina, including his former hometown of Wilmington, and a further $1m to aid the Bahamas’ recovery following Hurricane Dorian the following year.

This summer, following the death of George Floyd, he announced in a statement with his Nike-backed Jordan brand that they pledge to donate $100m over the next 10 years to organisations ‘ensuring racial equality, social justice and greater access to education’.

Dragon’s Den for little ones! How kids can turn ideas into reality

Standing in front of the entrepreneurs on Dragon’s Den trying to flog an idea is no easy feat, though it’s made a millionaire or two out of the best contestants.

And now our little ones are in with a shot of becoming the next Levi Roots and shooting to stardom like he did with his now infamous Reggae Reggae Sauce.

Thanks to the creative minds at Little Inventors, they are encouraging kids to turn their ideas into reality no matter how bonkers their fantasies might seem.

The organisation, that aims to inspire imagination by taking children’s amazing concepts seriously, are on a mission to prove that education does not have to be boring.

Encouraging children across the world to get involved, Little Inventors provides the opportunity to develop and showcase their creativity and problem-solving skills, build their confidence, curiosity and resilience to become caring citizens of the planet that will support them not just now but as adults in everyday life and their chosen career paths.

The team create free resources for teachers and parents to encourage kids to evolve their thinking and draw great invention ideas, before submitting them for exhibitions.

Then, the Little Inventors skilled experts and makers get to work, turning the children’s ideas into reality from the practical to the fantastical.

Once the projects come to life, the inventions are showcased online and in books to inspire tomorrow’s inventors, scientists, and makers that they can make a difference.

A variety of challenges are available to help kickstart ideas, with resources ranging from how to create space travel ideas, how to protect wildlife, and how to reduce food waste.

There are also suggestions such as ‘invent a gadget that would help you get ready faster in the morning’; ‘design a really fun toy for a pet’; ‘design a cool piece of equipment you would like to wear to explore deep in the oceans’.

Creative experiences not only open pathways for children to learn in an exciting way, they are also known to improve mental growth by providing opportunities for trying out new ways of thinking which builds self-confidence and self-esteem.

In particular, we liked Northumberland native Erin’s ‘use less water’ campaign where she devised a shower that can only run if someone is riding a bike to generate its power.

Erin, 11, said: “Most people use too much water for their showers, so for my invention, one person goes in the shower and the other gets on the bike attached to the floor.

“They then peddle and when they start to get tired – or the person in the shower says stop – they stop. This will save water.”

Erin added: “It uses energy from humans, anyone can use it. It also keeps you fit.”

Then there’s the magic door, which is like a real-life Narnia.

Young Molly, aged eight, from Shanghai, China, said: “The Magic Door can help you go everywhere. You open the button on the back of the door, then, you say where you are going so you don’t go to the wrong place.

“Next you put your hands on the door handle. After that, you open The Magic Door, it will shine and is pretty. Next you are ready to go to holidays.”

We could do with one of those right about now!

For more info, explore here: Little Inventors.

Calling all Ed Sheeran fans! Extremely rare handwritten Perfect lyrics are up for grabs

If the lyrics, ‘Baby, I’m dancing in the dark with you between my arms… darling, you look perfect tonight,’ set your pulse racing, then we’ve got the ‘perfect’ Christmas gift for you.

For Ed Sheeran’s original handwritten lyrics to hit song Perfect can now be yours.

Perfect is of course from his third studio album, Divide, and nabbed the top spot for Christmas no1 in the UK charts in 2017.

The global phenomenon is donating the piece of paper upon which he penned the song, and a variety of personal items, for an auction to raise money for charity, GeeWizz.

GeeWizz support children and young adults throughout East Anglia with life-threatening conditions, a disability or cancer to provide specialist equipment to improve their lives.

To kick-off proceedings and start raising some dollar, Ed is handing over his lyrics alongside his childhood Lego and a £3 ticket to his first ever gig in Framlingham.

Thanks to the support of his parents, John and Imogen Sheeran, they are also involved in the auction to help youngsters in the area where Ed, now 29, grew up.

As well as provide specialist equipment to sick kids, there are also plans to redevelop a playground for children with special educational needs and disabilities at the Thomas Wolsey Ormiston Academy in Ipswich, with an estimated cost of up to £300,000.

Funds will also benefit the town’s St Elizabeth Hospice, which aims to help teenagers and young adults with incurable illnesses live their lives to the full.

Other stars to get in on the action include David Beckham, Kylie Minogue and Usain Bolt, who have also donated items to the online auction running until November 8.

Meanwhile, there is also a Rolling Stones gold disc and signed Pink Floyd memorabilia from drummer Nick Mason donated as prizes too.

The only catch? You might have to have a generous budget.

The top bid on Ed’s handwritten and signed lyrics sheet is currently sitting at £8,100 at the time of publication.

However, more affordable items include a personalised signed Multiply tour programme from 2015 or one week of work experience at Ed’s label Atlantic Records.

Ed is also continuing his philanthropy with his own charity, having recently launched the Ed Sheeran Suffolk Music Foundation.

The foundation has been set up to help aspiring musicians under the age of 18 with some small but helpful grants for an army of mini Eds.

To check out the items, click here: Ed Sheeran Auction.

Be surprised by how strong you really are as artist unlocks secrets to healing

They say art speaks where words are unable to explain, though one artist is doing both.

Kate Banks not only uses the captivating colours of her art to transport people into an otherworldly realm, she also explains the rich tapestry of their meaning to help us heal.

In particular, her new Master Works series is an exploration of the subconscious mind and tapping into it to unlock not just our demons but our strength and compassion too.

Speaking exclusively to Uspire, Kate revealed how the inspiration for her series arose from “looking in to find a way out”.

Kate explained: “After exhausting outside resources in search of pain relief, I understood that the mind is key to unlocking whatever it is you need. I needed to transform my mindset; and little did I know the magic that would take place from doing so.

“A happy life depended on this transformation, and it takes strength to do such things. So, the journey began and into the darkness I went.

“There is more in the darkness of the unconscious mind than things we don’t want to face. Things like deep strength and compassion, life changing things.”

Kate’s struggles began when she was just three-years-old and was diagnosed with a dislocated hip. To begin the long process of correcting her deformity, she had several surgeries and learned early on that staying positive is fundamental in life.

She believes it was the experience of being in a body cast throughout childhood that enabled her passion for art to grow, planting the seeds for her future works.

In overcoming difficult obstacles, she changed her view on life, including seeing her congenital abnormality as an immense gift, for without it she would not have reason to find deep strength and go on to help others in revealing their own.

Kate said: “The Master Works series embodies a process to finding balance.

“Various historical and philosophical references, in addition to psychological symbolism, are used throughout the series to help shed light into the darkness of the mind.

“I finished the first painting, Balance, in June of 2017. There will be eleven paintings along with a book when the series is complete. The eleventh painting will be called, Balanced, in which aspects from the entire series will be combined in a balanced way.

“The book will define how the process of discovering balance within correlates to the cosmic reality of natural law. I hope it will help heal and reveal that the strength you need to accomplish anything, including happiness, is already within you.”

Natural law is a system that is based on values intrinsic to human nature, whereby all people have inherent rights from God, nature, or reason rather than legislation.

Kate hopes that by delving into the unconscious, alongside her use of archetypal images [universal symbols], can ignite the spark needed for individuals to get to know themselves and in turn get to know humanity though that process.

She said: “I believe images have powerful impacts on our minds and unlike much of the content in our world that is designed to persuade thinking, my series is designed to free thinking. Without making a sound, art is louder than the lion, it is substance for the soul.

“The Master Works aim to inspire transformation by bringing awareness to one’s own potential and power from looking within. There is a key there, a key to the freedom to be you, but do you know who you are and what makes you happy?

“Those answers can be unveiled by exploring your mind. Being human is not easy, that’s something I strongly empathise with. You can choose to live happy or crappy, though it may take more work if I choose happiness, is that not what all of humanity wants?”

Kate says that this philosophy is one she continues to live her life by, and despite still experiencing physical pain daily, she uses that pain as a tool for insight.

She concluded: “I’m reminded every moment of how the body works as a whole and how one part of the body affects the whole, just as each human affects humanity.

“I’m a clear example that strength is what happens when you transform pain. You will be surprised by how strong you really are.”

For more information, click here: The Master Works.

Hit the hat-trick of eating fresh, saving the planet, and supporting local produce

We’re all familiar with the ‘you are what you eat’ slogan, but now we’re waking up to the reality that ‘the planet is what you eat’.

Without taking action, we risk significant dangers to climate change, animal welfare, and human disease from the antibiotics and hormones meat is pumped with.

On a mission to support sustainable living, a number of Caribbean islands are now revolutionising their approach to food and agriculture.

In particular, they are turning to homegrown ingredients rather than overseas imports, which reduces both a large carbon footprint and huge amounts of packaging waste.

Previously, the region had difficulty maintaining good farming conditions due to the effects of climate change and damage from tropical storms.

[Credit: Hofi Cas Cora]

Yet with new tactics, they are hitting the hat-trick of eating fresh, supporting local produce and helping the environment.

The Cayman Islands, famed for its incredible wildlife and white sand beaches, are now embracing more farm-to-table restaurants and seeing a surge of eco-friendly practices.

They are also encouraging farmers to showcase their goods and sell products at artisan markets that both restauranteurs and the local residents are encouraged to attend.

In addition to this, there is a government initiative called Cayman Sea Sense. The programme promotes serving fish from only sustainable, stable populations and the use of fishing practices that minimise habitat damage and unintended by-catch.

Local executive chef, Massimo De Francesca, also plans to set up a programme in which kitchen and bar waste is sent to farms for animal feed or composting material.

[Credit: Kimpton Seafire]

Meanwhile, over in Curaçao, they are using groundwater pumped with wind energy and sometimes a solar pump to access water thorough deep wells.

Trailblazing farmers Femi and Joshua Peiliker, who also own restaurant Hofi Cas Cora, enforce sustainable living by growing fruits and vegetables on their land as well as raising livestock that then become the main ingredients for their menus.

Speaking about their evolution, Femi said: “We work with two local restaurants that save food waste for us. We feed it to our pigs and use it for compost.”

The couple say there is always room to do more, hoping to continue their venture with a zero-waste store to sell package-free farm goods as well as bulk items like grains.

[Credit: Kimpton Seafire]

And last but not least, Puerto Rico is flying the flag for a new future too.

Chef Juan José Cuevas is committed to working with local growers and producers to continue the island’s recovery after the devastation of Hurricane Maria two years ago.

Chatting to Lonely Planet, he explained: “We make a point to support these recovering farms by buying from them as often as possible.

“Across the property, farm-fresh eggs and fruit are the rule. At my restaurant 1919, we maintain social consciousness by having a menu that consists of 75% local products.”

His business also puts cash back into agriculture, helping local farmers with additional sustainability efforts such as installing solar panels for renewable energy.

Mum creates character with autism to help normalise diversity in children’s books

A mum whose son was diagnosed with autism tried to help him learn about the condition, only to discover there were no age-appropriate books to share with him.

So, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

Nikki Saunders began putting pen to paper to create stories her son could relate to and has since become a published author stamping out stigma for kids on the spectrum.

With a background in special education, Nikki felt empowered to share her knowledge as an educator and a parent, which is when The Eddie Series was born.

Her debut book, My Awesome Autism, is a beautiful, bright and sensory adventure.

It tells the tale of a little boy named Eddie who is autistic and teaches readers in a cheerful playful way about his diagnosis and how we are all different.

The book acts as a fantastic communication opener between the child and parent or carer as it helps to broach the subject in a gentle and nurturing way.

Speaking exclusively to Uspire, Nikki spoke about her journey and what led her to stock the bookshelves with inclusive material for everyone, so no one feels left out.

Nikki said: “My son was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. I remember searching the shelves for happy, bright and colourful books on autism for children, I found nothing.

“The sales assistant said that they didn’t stock that sort of book, but I could see she wasn’t aware of what I specifically needed, or possibly even why.”

She continued: “While up against many challenges of awareness along the way, my son began asking questions about his diagnosis in more detail. He was always aware of his diagnosis but as he grew older, he, of course, wanted to know more.

“Having worked in a SEN [special educational needs] school and previously I worked with adults with different learning abilities, I wrote, My Awesome Autism.”

Autism spectrum disorder [ASD] refers to a range of conditions characterised by some degree of impaired social behaviour, communication and language, and a narrow range of interests and activities that are unique to the individual and carried out repetitively.

The World Health Organisation [WHO] state 1 in every 160 children is on the spectrum.

Nikki makes it her mission to paint autism in a positive light and celebrate the brilliant and quirky traits of individuals who live with the condition.

She said: “I called my first book My Awesome Autism as my son is awesome and so is everything that is a part of him, like his interests and humour.

“Nothing changes when you have a diagnosis other than additional awareness and understanding, which is why it is so important to not minimise any struggles and access support. Equally, you are you and that’s wonderful.”

Nikki says that her aim is to not only raise awareness but also improve understanding by supporting and empowering families to express themselves through a variety of communication strategies that work best for them; whether verbally, through signing, using PECS [picture exchange communication system] or eye contact.

Chatting about the writing process, Nikki said it also proved a valuable bonding moment with her son.

She explained: “He laughed at my stick men and corrected my grammar.

“It can be daunting delivering all this information to your child, and for them to relate to it personally too is a big ask. This is another reason why the book is not overwhelming in a wordy kind of way, with busy images too.

“It was such a success, my son felt relief, happiness and so proud. We decided to help other children and their parents.

“I started social media platforms such as The Eddie Series Books on Facebook and over time the book has reached so many. I self-published while hoping to find a publisher and we were luckily successful and I became an author falling into the best job for me.”

The response has been incredibly positive with parents sending Nikki their personal stories to thank her, as well as teachers, carers and therapists turning to them too.

Nikki said: “I had a beautiful email from a parent thanking me for writing my book and how it’s helped them as a family, he high-fives his mum a lot now as that’s what Eddie does in a particular book. I am extremely grateful, humbled and lucky to help others.

“Going forward, I plan to continue with the series, releasing more of my social stories and resources. I have so many I can’t ever imagine stopping, it’s my absolute passion.

“I’m grateful to my children for giving me the best job ever as their mum and secondly a passion with the best little tour guides I could ask for.”

One of the reasons children with autism can struggle with learning is due to issues around focus, attention, organisation, memory, emotional control and frustration.

Nikki’s books are designed to combat these difficulties with colourful, eye-catching illustrations carefully designed in simple 2D characters, sensory colours with simple contrast and clear short sentences allowing space to process in the child’s own time.

Other titles in the series include; Welcome Back Eddie After Lockdown, Mistakes Are Cool, and Eddie’s Colourful Feelings.

To grab your copy, click here: My Awesome Autism.