Through Toby's project, we feel like we have made friends all over the world. This means that, whenever anything happens - anywhere at all! - we feel that somebody we know is in danger or trouble. This isn't always easy to explain to a young child, especially if we have no real way to communicate with Toby's writing partners in other countries - other than post, which of course often gets disrupted. Sometimes, though, we get lucky. Like a few days ago. We first learnt Kamal's name when a friend mentioned she might have a contact for us in Nepal...this was early on in Toby's project, back in August 2013. We were given Kamal's Facebook name, and I contacted him with a message, which went unseen for a long time (as Facebook messages from people who are not "Friends" tend to be). We didn't hear anything back...until May this year, when people took to Facebook to ensure friends and families were safe. Kamal came across our message, and responded. To be thought of by somebody else when their own life has been turned upside down is truly humbling. We do not often mention Toby's fundraising, but Toby chose ShelterBox because they go wherever needed, providing emergency care - and right now, they are very busy in Nepal. If you do have a £, a $, a Euro, Yen or anything to spare, you might consider donating it here: https://www.justgiving.com/writingtotheworld/ .
Toby has reached his fourth full ShelterBox, so we thought we would post here to celebrate and to say "Thank you" to everybody who has helped him achieve this goal. We never thought, when he started, that donations would come from nearly all continents, and we are truly grateful to everybody who made this project possible - by becoming a letter-writing partner, helping to find a partner, being part of our "little world" on Facebook, sharing ideas, recipes, etc., and, of course, donating - thank you" http://www.justgiving.com/writingtotheworld
Toby received a very special response today. Blue Peter is a children's programme, and Blue Peter badges are "badges of honour" given to children to contribute to the show, or who do something worthy of special recognition. About 50 letters into Toby's project, friends and family were starting to say things like "you ought to get a Blue Peter badge for this". Toby didn't want to ask for a badge until he had completed the full challenge and written to every country in the world...but he did write the letter to Blue Peter immediately after the one that completed his project. That was in October, and today, the postman brought a response - and a Blue Peter Badge, in recognition of his project and his fundraising! Toby is feeling very honoured, and is so happy! The badge arrived the day before his 6th birthday - normally, badges are only given to children 6 years or older, so he's especially happy to have got his badge while he is still five. A badge is not *just* for the honour, it actually comes with a "Blue Peter Card", and gives Toby free entry to lots of attractions, such as zoos, aquariums, castles, theme parks, etc. - so it will help us do more exploring, too. Thank you to Blue Peter, and to the world, for helping him achieve his goal, and helping us explore the world!
Blogging twice in one day, but neither Toby nor I could wait to share the amazing news! Collins Big Cat, the publisher behind the book "A Letter to New Zealand", have said that, if and when Toby reaches his fundraising goal of £590 for ShelterBox, they will match it with another £590, which means Toby would manage to raise the funds for TWO boxes.
A certain little boy just ran screaming around the living room.
...and, well, if that's not a good incentive to help Toby reach his fundraising goal........
He's raised £218.16 so far.
Thank you very much to our friends at Collins Big Cat!!!
When ShelterBox asked whether they might tell people about Toby's project, we (that's Toby's parents) said "yes" because we figured it might a) encourage other kids to dream big, and b) help with those last few pesky countries. Little did we know that Toby and I would get whisked to the ITV studios in Leeds, and end up making the news. You can see our little adventure at ITV Leeds Studios (for a limited time) here: http://www.itv.com/news/calendar/update/2013-09-04/writing-to-the-world/ - I do feel compelled to mention two things that got cut from the interview: 1) That it was Toby, after learning about Somalia, who said "what can I do to help?", and that made us look to ShelterBox as a charity (check out his letter to Somalia, he asks the question there!), and me thanking the world for their amazing support in helping us find contacts. Also, I would like to make it known that Toby is usually a bit more chatty! TV cameras will do that to you......
Thank you so much to ITV for inviting us over, hopefully, we'll get a chance to come back one day and see a bit more about how everything works!
Apologies for the delay in posting the raffle results! First of all, a massive, massive thank you, the raffle raised over £80 for ShelterBox, and both Toby and I are super-grateful! Secondly, we have to admit to a tiny bit of shenanigans in the draw - you see, Toby's Daddy won a glass pendant, and I think he was looking forward to *some* glass leaving the house, so he withdrew from the draw, and the pendant was raffled off again. Some people won more than one thing, this is because everybody was entered once for every £1 they donated, so if you donated £5, your name was on five slips on paper, you got ten slips of paper if you donated £10, etc.
So here, without further ado, the winners:
Packs of 5 greeting cards go to: Holly U., Davina, and Katrin
Ammonite pendants go to: Katrin, Davina and Ally N. (from Daddy's work)
Fossils go to: Davina, Katrin, James C., and Nicky F.
...and since that result looked a bit wonky, we found three more fossils and two more glassy pendants, and the three fossils go to Matt W. (from Daddy's work), and Alex and Steph from Taekwondo, and glassy pendants go to Andrea from Daddy's work, and Megan from Taekwondo.
I promise that everything was mixed well, and Toby did a good rummage! Thank you so much again for entering!!! Now, it remains to be seen who will be right about the very last address to be found........only 37 to go!
Toby would be the first to admit that he's a lucky boy (yes, he really would!) But he would say so even more emphatically after we started embarking on this project. So how do you explain to a five-year-old what it is like to be hungry, to be without education, without a home, to be suffering from the aftermath from a natural disaster - especially if your own experience of most of the above is only second-hand?
Toby loves books, and we have found a few that have explored the topics we needed to look at. ShelterBox have brought out a few excellent books - three to date, with a fourth in the pipeline, explaining what it is like to live through an earthquake, a tsunami, and a flood.
There is also a series called "Children's True Stories: Natural Disasters", which encompasses six books, all of which cover topics we encountered on our journey. These are aimed at slightly older children, but served us very well.
Obviously, none of these books are cheery, but a few people have asked how Toby is learning about the countries he is writing to - this is one of the ways. I promise I'll share books about celebrations, too!
You can get the ShelterBox books here: http://www.shelterboxshop.org.uk/category/books
As you might know, Toby is trying to raise money for ShelterBox, a charity which brings emergency aid to those in need, all over the world. To do so, he decided to hold a raffle. We decided on the rules together, and I tried to phrase them "all official", so here goes:
1) The prizes are:
- three packs of 5 note cards and envelopes, printed by Toby (and Mummy) with an ammonite, drawn and cut by Toby (3 prizes of 5 note cards each);
- four ammonites (two ammonites and two imprints, actually), found by Toby on a fossil unting trip to Port Mulgrave last week (four prizes, one ammonite each);
- three handmade glass ammonite pendants, made by Toby's Mummy (three prizes, one pendant each).
We will be adding a few more prizes as we think of them.
2) Each entry is £1. You can either donate at http://www.justgiving.com/writingtotheworld, or pay us in person (if we see you). For each £1 you spend, you get to guess one country (i.e. if you donate £5, you can enter five country names. The objective is to guess the last country that we will get a contact for. You can enter the names of countries directly on the JustGiving page, or use the Contact page on the website to let us know.
3) The raffle will run for ten days only, until midnight 23rd of August. After this point, all prizes will be raffled off. Then, at the end of the project, we will contact everybody who guessed the right country, and Toby will write you a personal "well done and thank you" letter.
4) Winners for the ten-day raffle will be posted on this blog on 24th of August, and we will contact you if we know how to!
Toby's Mum and Dad will pay for postage of prizes, so all money will go direct to ShelterBox.
Please note: This is not a fair raffle. We are finding new contacts every day, and so, strictly speaking, the longer you wait, the better your chances are. However, even if "your country" gets found during the ten days the competition runs, you will still be entered into the raffle, so it doesn't matter. We will add further prizes as we think of them. People who are helping us with countries are allowed to enter, but please don't hold back countries just because you want a letter from Toby ;). It's in the spirit of raising money for charity :)
Hints and tips: To choose a country, check out the map on the homepage, and/or the list of countries. Please note: there are dark horses in there - I have written to embassies, schools, university departments - anything could happen! Every single country on the list has at least one potential lead, even if it is a "wild card" email. Similarly, countries not on the list (and red on the map) may enter the pot again, if a contact doesn't come off.
This blog is mainly a way to keep track of our recipes - for day to day updates, please check out Toby's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/writingtotheworld