Man becomes foster dad at just 25 to help kids rewrite their futures

Some of us still think of ourselves as teenagers until we hit our 30th (or 40th!) birthday.

Yet one hero has been taking on responsibilities long before this, after deciding to become a foster parent at the tender age of 25.

Trevor Elliott knew he had the power to support at-risk children by mentoring them, though it was a David and Goliath battle to be taken seriously due to his own youth.

Speaking exclusively to Uspire, Trevor – who received an MBE for his services to vulnerable children last year – told us all about how and why he kickstarted his fostering journey.

[Credit: Trevor Elliott]

Trevor said: “I started working as a football coach and youth worker when I was in my late teens; I realised straight away how much I loved working with young children, giving them a safe environment within which they could flourish.

“Ultimately, I saw the incredible difference that this was making to their lives and how, more widely, doing this would help to reduce youth crime.”

He continued: “I began to notice that while helping the children for four hours a day was rewarding, any kind of progress we made was reset when they went back to their estates or homes, they were becoming products of their damaging environments.”

To address this, Trevor looked into providing care within his home.

In addition to hard graft on the footie field, Trevor also has 10 siblings and eight nieces and nephews which he credits with giving him the experience to connect with young people.

[Credit: Trevor Elliott]

However, Trevor was turned down several times with local authorities citing his age as an issue.

Yet with a three-bedroom house, bought while working as an estate agent, Trevor was determined not to just rent out the spare rooms to professionals but to create a safe haven for children instead.

Persevering, Camden council in London finally approved Trevor as he found someone who believed in him and has never looked back.

Within two weeks, Trevor became a foster dad to two teens on what was initially a short-term basis before their stay was extended due to the progress they made.

Reflecting on the feeling of what happened when he first saw the boys come into his house, Trevor said it was initially overwhelming but beyond fulfilling.

He explained: “I was scared and anxious, one of them didn’t speak English so I didn’t even know what food or drinks he liked. Let alone what activities he enjoyed.

“I soon began developing a relationship with him and we now have an amazing bond.”

[Credit: Trevor Elliott]

This boy has since passed his GCSEs, mastered the English language, obtained his driving licence, and better yet, gone to college to study car mechanics and now has a job.

While this particular story has a happy ending, Trevor is keen to stress that foster kids still face huge disadvantages and need routine to help them flourish.

He said: “Living a stable life is the main challenge for foster children; they tend to have their placements broken down due to their behaviours which gives way to inconsistency.

“That’s not good for a vulnerable child as consistency is key.”

It is estimated 65,000 children in the UK currently live with foster families, which is nearly 80% of the 83,000 young people in care and living away from home.

[Credit: Trevor Elliott / Instagram]

Speaking about his own foster kids and how he helps them develop healthy coping strategies, Trevor said he encourages them to maintain a structured daily routine to learn and do things that make them happy in an environment within which they don’t feel judged.

Trevor also said he wants to emphasise that fostering isn’t what most people think it is, and that it’s incredibly rewarding and foster parents can learn so much from it.

He concluded: “People often assume that foster parents need to be older, with children of their own and perhaps some kind of educational experience. That’s not the case.

“You simply need to be able to create a safe home for a child and show them the love, kindness and consideration that they need.

“In a sense, young people are the best foster parent candidates because vulnerable children and teens can relate to them – we really need to dispel this stereotype.”

For more info on fostering, click here: Foster Parenting.

To follow Trevor’s journey, click here: Trevor Elliot MBE.

This ‘Black Fairy Godmother’ is helping people who are struggling

While it would be a dream to live a in world where fairy godmothers told us to click our heels together three times to get what we wanted, sadly that’s not a reality.

But that doesn’t mean that fairy godmothers don’t exist in other guises.

Meet Simone Gordon, otherwise known as ‘The Black Fairy Godmother’, who is actively creating change to support black and brown marginalised families.

Not only does she do this by providing financial or domestic relief, but also by helping them get to a place of stability where they can live peacefully and/or seek work.

[Credit: The Black Fairy Godmother / Instagram]

While she does incredible work as a philanthropist and motivational speaker, The Black Fairy Godmother says “fairy dust isn’t always shiny”.

And even though she comes to the rescue by helping mums and dads get laptops for their children to study or food to feed their families, in her native USA – one of the world’s wealthiest nations – more than 40million live in households that struggle to put food on the table.

To ensure that she helps a wide pool of people, Simone selects different emergency fundraisers each week and encourages her social network to send in donations.

[Credit: The Black Fairy Godmother / Instagram]

For example, this week, she is seeking funds to help a family who have a son with special needs to avoid eviction and a homeless 22-year-old who is in desperate need of a home.

Simone then shares the PayPal or GoFundMe links online – all of which are vetted to ensure they are validated – in the hope that fellow humanitarians can dig deep to help out.

In addition to helping families that contact her, Simone supports an ‘Angel Food Assist’ programme that helps fight hunger with donations going to people who need groceries. 

[Credit: The Black Fairy Godmother / Instagram]

She also advocates for domestic violence survivors and help families flee unsafe environments, with 20 people per minute physically abused by an intimate partner in America and only exacerbated during the pandemic as people are forced to stay home in lockdown.

Even supporting these fantastic causes, Simone’s work is far from done though.

She also encourages members of the public to use their birthdays as fundraising opportunities and to choose a charity to ask friends and family to donate to instead of gifting presents.

Oh, and did we mention Simone runs an ‘Adopt A Family’ programme? This ripple effect of good vibes invites supporters to choose one family whose story resonates and fundraise for them.

As they say, a fairy’s work is never done.

For more info, click here: The Black Fairy Godmother.

‘It’s better than any medicine’: Drama therapy is transforming lives

When it comes to managing emotions, tackling mental health can feel pretty intense.

Though what if we were to tell you that it could be fun too?!

This is exactly what dramatherapy strives to do, by tapping into creativity to overcome trauma, low self-esteem and other issues that leave people struggling to cope.

[Credit: Roundabout Dramatherapy]

By using drama-related techniques – such as storytelling, improvisation, puppets and music – people begin to understand themselves just as they might in traditional counselling.

But without an acting coach or attending drama school, how is it possible to access this?

The awesome team at Roundabout Dramatherapy are dedicated to helping children and adults find solutions to their problems, proudly working with anyone from toddlers to 90-year-olds.

[Credit: Roundabout Dramatherapy]

The focus is not on performance as such, but rather to work with the therapeutic aspects of drama to help participants feel empowered and challenge their difficulties.

Their incredible work resonates particularly well with people who have Asperger’s syndrome, as the sessions are designed to help them cope with their learning difficulties and to feel calmer.

In addition to this, dramatherapy is said to be exceptional for those struggling with bereavement as it gifts them a space to make their grief more tangible and less abstract.

[Credit: Joshua Hanson / Unsplash]

But who can say it better than us other than those who have taken part in the classes?

One participant said it is “better than medicine”, while another reported it is “the only place I can really be myself”, and a third said “it is where I have learned to make connections”.

See you on the stage, then!

To get involved, click here: Roundabout Dramatherapy.

How men are being empowered to find their spiritual side and reconstruct gender roles

Throughout lockdown we have been aware of the physical walls that separate people, though what about the mental walls that keep others out?

While we can all fall victim to this, men in particular suffer in silence as they remain squashed under societal pressures that it’s somehow not manly to cry or show emotions.

This is why The Activated Man – a series of podcasts to help men who are struggling – could not come at a better time as it empowers them to recognise that they deserve a voice in society.

[Credit: Jackson Simmer / Unsplash]

Speaking exclusively to Uspire about the project, spiritual extraordinaire Evan Strong revealed why he became involved and how he hopes to help question gender roles.

Evan said: “Something from my background in psychology and the social sciences left me troubled, that the average Australian man has 0.5 friends to turn to in a crisis while the average for Australian women is about four to five friends.

“This discrepancy has motivated me to assist in somehow finding ways to redress this issue.

“Being asked to participate has highlighted to me that my perspective, including analysis of empathy and Gnosticism (belief that humanity’s nature is divine), could be of benefit in deconstructing/reconstructing issues of identity, gender roles, and cultural expectations.”

Evan hopes that by sharing his own attempts to smash stereotypes and express his true self that he can guide others through the process to find their balance too.

He does this by embracing all facets of his life, without suppressing anything that poses a threat to the expectations of ‘being a man’.

[Credit: My Health Yoga / Facebook]

Evan explained: “I have a feminine side in that I am well-groomed, have empathy and talk about my feelings with friends – sometimes even at my local pub while the football is on.

“I balance this with masculinity, like going to the gym, Indiana Jones style adventure looking for lost artefacts and archaeological sites, and, most importantly, opening pickle jars.

“Society now has leaned too far into a toxic masculine energy; a feminine energy is needed to temper the imbalance. In saying that, there is definite toxic femininity at play too.

“We need an integrative balanced approach for ourselves and collectively for society.”

Evan strives for others to see their personal imbalances and be comfortable enough to address them, deconstruct and reconstruct new ways of being, feeling, thinking, and interacting.

While his beliefs may sound like the stepping stones to creating real, long-lasting change, the question is HOW are men to make these changes living in a modern world?

[Credit: Evan and Steven Strong / Forgotten Origin]

Evan believes that the first chess piece move is to look inwards rather than out.

He said: “Self-reflecting can be difficult at first. I was lucky enough to journal for university assessments within my counselling and human relations/communications majors, this afforded me with the necessary skills to look inside myself.

“I’d suggest anybody new to looking inwards that you should try to journal and write your thoughts and feelings out, draw or paint, write a poem or song, or even a combination of all. Trust me, it gets easier with practice until it becomes second nature.”

Evan continued: “Being an Activated Man is about being responsible, vulnerable, adventurous, courageous, solutions-oriented, logical, pursuant, protective, grounded, giving, action-oriented, leading, boundary-setting and steadfast.

“It’s also being okay with defeat and realising that obtaining these qualities takes time.”

The world-renowned theorist, who co-founded Forgotten Origin with his father Steven, also said it is important to allow downtime to break the traditional paradigm and archaic notion of masculinity that demands men to be working and busy all the time.

In Evan’s case, he challenges the pressure to overwork by ensuring work-life balance and unwinding to his favourites Grand Designs, River Cottage and sci-fi.

[Credit: Stefano Pollio / Unsplash]

Evan also urges men to challenge social conditioning that enforces they must be good at sport.

He said: “In my case, I am terrible at sports and was always picked last in the high school teams. I have found other ways to be physical via gardening, reforesting and landscaping, which I also find grounding, and working out at the gym or in fitness classes.”

Even leading the conversation as a facilitator, Evan says it has reminded him to stay true to his way of being and encouraged him to continue on his path to activate his true self.

Evan concluded: “I am on a journey that will need adjustments as I go, no doubt, but hopefully we can all together show other men in this chaotic world that there is another way to be a man.”

Yoga guru and The Activated Man event organiser Carrie-Anne Fields said she hopes the new podcasts will help men as a tool to explore their spiritual wisdom.

Carrie-Anne told us: “Men are looking for leadership as to what their roles are in this new world and how to empower themselves to be a warrior who can live their own truth.

“We want people to feel empowered, to be a truth unto themselves and to know it is possible to break free from the matrix of control.”

And as Evan summed up perfectly, they hope to show men they can be a warrior while being protective and strong without being dominating or aggressive.

To listen to the podcast, click here: The Activated Man.

Man turns destroyed village into thriving town in remarkable revamp

There are two kneejerk responses when disaster strikes: fight or flight.

And for one man named Ojok Okello, it was most certainly fight.

In what was a David and Goliath mission to rebuild a destroyed village following more than a decade of war in northern Uganda, Ojok has transformed it into a thriving town.

[Credit: Ojok Okello / Twitter]

Okere City, formerly known as Okere Mom-Kok, now has a school, health clinic, bank, community hall, and church that 4,000 residents are proud to call home.

Oh, and did we mention there is also a nightclub and kickboxing club?

In addition to these, electricity generated from solar energy is easily accessible as is clean water from a borehole – both rare for the area.

When we say Ojok is a hero, we do not use that term loosely.

The London School of Economics graduate and development expert is funding the project himself and splashed out 200million Ugandan shillings (£40,000) last year alone.

Ojok decided to take matters into his own hands after returning to the village he had left as a baby, when his father was killed in the bush wars of the 1980s, and discovering the devastation.

[Credit: Okere City / Facebook]

However, thanks to Ojok’s efforts, if you visit now the sweet smell of shea butter will greet you.

This is because Ojok has tapped into the magic of the shea tree, having planted this beautiful natural resource to help locals produce oil-rich seed from which butter is extracted then sold.

Not only does this accrue income for the village, it also allows residents to work collectively as a community and create a sustainable green environment to live in.

They also have a unique style of banking whereby weekly investment meetings are held to invite small businesses to make financial contributions which are then redistributed as loans to members who need them. When borrowers repay the loan, the cycle continues.

[Credit: Okere City / Facebook]

Speaking about this method, original to Africans, expert city planner Amina Yasin said it provides a system where people are put first ahead of big bank balances.

Amina said: “The way in which indigenous continental Africans have thought about money has always been outside of the central banking system. It’s been about community and caring for each other, and patience, and long-term investments.

“We’ve always known a lot earlier than the western world and other, quote, unquote, developed nations, that money was out of fashion and it was not a sustainable way to live.”

She added: “Okere City is being intentionally developed with the community in mind.”

We kinda want to live there ourselves.

[Credit: Okere City / Facebook]

London is coming back to life as cinema inspired by NY jazz bar opens

While everyone loves the movies, there’s always a risk of having popcorn thrown at your head or people talking through the action.

Yet we’re confident London’s brand spanking new cinema will be the classiest of them all and free of the usual trials and tribulations that come with watching a film with the public.

Please put your hands together for the Curzon at Hawley Wharf.

[Credit: Krists Luhaers / Unsplash]

The venue will be inspired by New York jazz bars, so should not only promise a host of fabulous flicks but also an experience like no other as you unwind in the unique space.

Set against the backdrop of Camden Town, this little haven will boast five 30-seat screens just a stone’s throw from the iconic Hawley Arms.

While photos from inside are yet to be released, architect Takero Shimazaki promises an ultra-glam design splashed across 6,000ft of pure enjoyment.

[Credit: Jeremy Yap / Unsplash]

The Hawley Wharf site joins the Curzon family – known for their broad range of art house films – as its ninth cinema in London, with a tenth in Hoxton Square opening soon too.

With all cinemas across the UK forced to close as the pandemic kicked off last March, this new spot could not come at a more exciting time as the government hope theatres can reopen on May 17.

We’re already in line to grab our tickets!  

[Credit: Merch Husey / Unsplash]

Abandoned pets rescued after nuclear disaster forced owners to evacuate

While animal welfare activists open our eyes to wildlife wellbeing, attitudes are beginning to shift as people shop for ethical meat or go vegan.

Yet few are willing to go the extra mile and put animal health before their own.

That’s why the story of Naoto Matsumura is so extraordinary, aka the Dr Doolittle of Fukushima.

[Credit: Keiko Nasu / Facebook]

Not only does Naoto care for an army of feral cats, dogs, and other homeless animals, he does so in the small Japanese town of Tomioka – inside of Fukushima’s exclusion zone.

In 2011, the area suffered a huge disaster triggered by a nuclear plant explosion following a horrifying earthquake and tsunami.

At the time, residents were urged to leave their homes as radiation was everywhere (in the water, soil and food) which posed a huge risk to health.

Following guidelines, Naoto did as he was told. However, with nowhere else to go, he soon returned to his town where he remains to this day as a lone resident in the region.

[Credit: Naoto Matsumura / Facebook]

Back home, Naoto discovered many pets had been abandoned by his neighbours in their panic to escape quickly and so he began caring for them.

Now, he has become somewhat of a Pied Piper for them, looking after domestic pets and also cattle, pigs and ostriches from the farms after their owners also fled.

Reflecting on the situation, Naoto revealed that his neighbours’ dogs were still tied up when he returned as those who left assumed they would be home in a week rather than leave permanently.

[Credit: Keiko Nasu / Facebook]

Naoto said: “From then on, I fed all the cats and dogs every day. They couldn’t stand the wait, so they’d all gather around barking up a storm as soon as they heard my truck.

“Everywhere I went there was always barking. Like, ‘we’re thirsty’ or ‘we don’t have any food’. So, I just kept making the rounds.”

While Naoto remains the only human living inside the 12-mile radius of the exclusion zone, meaning he is continually exposed to radiation, he is still going strong at 60-years-old.

He survives on relief food delivered from the outside and drinks spring water that has been checked for contamination, while using solar panels to power his computer and mobile.

What a hero.

[Credit: Naoto Matsumura / Facebook]

How to find super quality food from small farms in your local area

Once upon a time we were told eating ‘five a day’ was enough to improve our health, now experts say that figure should be closer to 10 items of fruit or veg a day to stay fit.

Ten?! There’s barely enough time in the day.

Here’s where FarmMatch steps in, to make sure your fridge and cupboards are stocked all year.

They do this by allowing you to shop online and connect with local farms in the area who are selling Mother Nature’s finest.

The initiative is the brainchild of Max Kane after he was diagnosed with Crohn’s, a bowel disease that causes severe inflammation, discomfort and pain of the digestive tract.

Following a lifetime tucking into high salt, fat, and sugar products, Max knew he needed a change and revolutionised his diet. He now hopes to share his farm-to-table ethos with others.

[Credit: Nadine Primeau / Unsplash]

There’s only one catch, you’ll need to be a US resident to use FarmMatch.

So, to all our American friends, simply enter your zip code on their site, choose from the list of farms, fill your basket, then select whether you want to pick it up or receive a delivery.

For those in the UK, don’t be too disheartened, we have a few alternatives for you…

[Credit: Sara Scarpa / Unsplash]

First up, we have Farms To Feed Us, who encourage consumers to join forces with local growers for a ‘farm to fork’ experience and understand where their food comes from.

They have created an open database of more than 300 farms around the UK who sell vegetables, meat, and dairy directly to the public.

We also love the good folk over at Oddbox, who celebrate misshapen fruit and veg not deemed ‘perfect’ enough for supermarkets that would others go to waste if not sold by them.

Last but not least, we’re big fans of OLIO, this quirky app is a tool for people to give away food and other household items they no longer need to their neighbours for free.   

Fascinating discovery as kangaroos can communicate with humans

We’re not quite sure how having a pet kangaroo will work in the city or without a garden, though they sound like the perfect companions.

It turns out our pogo-tastic pals can communicate with humans in a similar way that dogs, horses and goats do – despite never having been domesticated.

Better yet, apparently it’s all in the eyes and they can ‘talk’ to us with a certain look.

[Credit: Photoholgic / Unsplash]

The remarkable truth has been unearthed over in Australia, where researchers worked with 11 kangaroos over eight days to see if they could get food out of a box.

For the experiment, the box was locked and therefore making it impossible for the kangaroos to gain access to wine and dine without help.

At first, they scratched at the box before realising they couldn’t access the treats. It was then that they turned their attention to Dr McElligott, who was in the enclosure with them.

Speaking about the trial, Dr McElligott revealed how the kangaroos then tried to communicate with him in the hope that he could help them get to the food.

[Credit: Ali Johnson / Unsplash]

Dr McElligott said: “The kangaroos looked up at me and they did this sort of gaze alternation – looking at the box, back at me, back at the box, back at me.

“A few of the kangaroos approached me and started sniffing my knee and scratching my knee. If it was a dog, you’d call it pawing.”

This reaction is evident that the kangaroos were intentionally trying to communicate their desire to get him to help retrieve the food from the box, says Alexandra Green, an animal behaviour and welfare researcher at the University of Sydney.

[Credit: Ondrej Machart / Unsplash]

Dr Green explained: “They’re a social species and would use these cues among each other.

“In a captive setting, where there are humans present, they’re probably able to adapt this ability to communicate with humans.”

For any sceptics out there, who may think the kangaroo activity was purely coincidental, and the researchers are reading too much into it, think again.

A similar study was done with wolves, who are also undomesticated, which saw them attack the food boxes with their teeth without any communication to try and ask humans for help.

It sounds like the researchers may have wanted to be out of the enclosure for that one so they didn’t end up as part of the meal.

The truth about kindness: 30-day challenge says being kind is a choice

We may all know the motto, ‘In a world where you can be anything, be kind’.

Yet with conflicting personalities, high stress levels and hormones flying around in every classroom, workplace, and home, it’s not always so easy to follow.

That’s why teaching it from a young age is crucial, so kindness isn’t seen as extracurricular.

Now, an incredible ‘Kindness Matters 30 Day Challenge’ is tackling the issue head-on, with a uniquely tailored eLearning programme to give pupils and staff all the resources they need.

[Credit: The Kindness Coach]

Complete with daily videos and ideas to cultivate kindness in the classroom, the challenge promises to create positive relationships, increase respect, and boost pupil participation.

For any teacher who faces World War III each day with answering back and disrespect in class, this sounds like heaven.

Created by John Magee, aka ‘The Kindness Coach’, he believes teaching children the importance of being kind not only improves mindsets but also benefits them academically.

Speaking about his venture, John said: “It has been scientifically proven that it takes 21 days to create a new habit. So, imagine what happens when pupils commit to doing the 30-day challenge.

“I can tell you that your pupils will form a new positive pattern and habit of behaviour, which in turn will bring more kindness into the classroom and the school.

[Credit: The Kindness Coach]

John said that when pupils adopt the attitude and understanding of simple acts of kindness that is often taken for granted – such as complimenting a teacher on a good lesson or letting another pupil go before them in the lunch queue – it can have a huge impact on their day and other pupils too.

In addition to creating this positive environment, another benefit of kindness is the release of the ‘feel-good’ hormone oxytocin.

This not only reduces negative and aggressive behaviour but triggers an element of contagion where there is a knock-on effect and everyone in the school begins to form better relationships.

[Credit: Priscilla du Preez / Unsplash]

John said: “I believe it is not cool for any pupil to mentally, emotionally or physically abuse other pupils or staff, or to use inappropriate language or to hurt people. Until pupils take ownership and 100% responsibility for their words and actions and realise that kindness is a choice, they are going to keep repeating this process – hurting themselves and others as a result of their choices.”

As a qualified hypnotherapist and life coach, John also said that as all behaviour is learned behaviour then if we can learn to hurt each other, we can learn to be kind to one another.

He concluded: “Kindness is an innate part of who we are as human beings. I believe together, we can create ripples of kindness throughout the UK.

“Just imagine how much kindness we could share with each other and the world.”

Click here to start your journey: Kindness Matters 30 Day Challenge.