“Don’t follow the path. Go where there is no path and start a trail” -Ruby Bridges

As Ruby grows it’s my responsibility as her parent to encourage and guide her. As she gets older I must allow her freedom and independence as her role in our home changes and develops and she learns the skills that are vital in day to day life. Personal hygiene, self presentation, responsibility for her own space, helping others, walking to school safely and contribution in preparing meals are key factors Ruby has been working on.

I am confident in Ruby’s ability to find her way around our kitchen, awareness of hazards, identification of specific food groups, basic knife skills and her help in creating a healthy family meal. Make no mistakes, I’m under no illusion Ruby would much rather sit on her backside and play Minecraft on her IPod or create music videos using VideoStar but with a bit of motherly persuasion and a huge nudge in the direction of the parlour, she soon gets into the swing of it. This morning we had a full blown tantrum because I asked the poor child to polish her school shoes. Small chores at the age of eight can have a significant impact on her choices as an adult. I’m strict in belief that looking well, feeling well and eating well are ultimate lessons my daughter will learn and are the foundation of greater achievements in life. An outlook I was lucky enough to be gifted with as a child and a way of life that should be transferable from generation to generation.

Everyone will have different opinions, interpretations and boundaries as to how they educate their children in life skills and some may not even decipher the critical importance of teaching youngsters how to become self sufficient, aware of themselves and their surroundings or the significance of a healthy lifestyle.

18,000 children in Dundee are living in poverty and will tonight go to bed hungry, higher living costs are making it difficult for people to make ends meet. This statistic doesn’t just run through our lower class or benefit receivers, it’s a problem wide spread as the elated cost of basic amenities are pushing parents into working longer hours to provide for their families, unwillingly sacrificing time and experiences with their young ones. As everyone feels their purse strings tighten, we have to subsidise accordingly and more often than not basic necessities such as our expenditure on food can be impacted, driving us to make unhealthy or cheaper choices. It’s an issue that I struggle with myself as a single, working parent. Life can be difficult to juggle but it is by upmost importance I provide my daughter with the best my budget allows. Lack of education can have a significant impact on this worrying statistic. It’s absolute as a community we allow every child a happy and fulfilling lifestyle and a chance for the future.

Food on Friday reaches some of the poorest and most vulnerable families in Douglas, Whitfield and neighbouring schemes of Dundee. The charity provides support for families to take responsibility and improve their own lifestyles through the means of cooking, gardening, fitness, education on health, hygiene and tasting new foods. Their vital work within Primary and Secondary Schools solidifies relationships with children and their carers and an education on a healthier lifestyle can be sustained. Anthea Reid the project leader has campaigned ceaselessly and the project is growing, from strength to strength they are creating more awareness and spreading the word, its an idea I would love to see reach across the West End of our city too. Food on Friday also run other activities such as Women’s Cooking groups, life coaching and experience in the work place. Through social media, radio, television and networking promotion, Food on Friday has become well known across Dundee and is respected for its achievements and succes in tackling childhood poverty.
Anthea is determined in her field and is ‘honoured to work within this community and will continue to strive to outreach to the people who really need it’.

Help for Kids is another local charity, flying the flag for our younger generation within Dundee. The aim of Help for Kids is to support, aid and fund local children, or causes concerning the youngsters, who are either vulnerable or disadvantaged through social and economic circumstances or through health and disability. Supporting those who are effected by illness by donating funds for equipment or other necessary treatments, which are not provided by the NHS. Sourcing necessary clothing and furniture for kids who have had less fortunate and sometimes traumatic start to life due to unexpected circumstances. Since 2011 Help for Kids have supported over 10,000 under 18’s living in our local area. Working directly with communities, families, support workers, volunteers and professionals. Their support is not just about donating funds, they get involved, engaging with the community is at the heart of what they do.

I was honoured to meet Anne-Marie of Help for Kids and Anthea of Food on Friday at Dundee’s Face of Freedom, where I heard their incredible ongoing achievements first hand. The annual charity event was enthusiastically presented by local radio presenter Gary Robinson of Wave 102 who professionally kept the eager audience engaged and entertained with his charismatic persona in between an exciting catwalk show and live music by local artists Connor Reilly, Andy Goudie and Kevin Webb.

Dundee’s Face of Freedom gives prospective models a platform to shine including credible exposure, the winner receiving a cash prize, a starter portfolio of photographs and an opportunity of securing a modelling contract. The fun event brings together the competition with a catwalk show also involving adults and kids fondly named the Help for Kids models. The event is growing in popularity within Dundee’s creative community and this year the fab models strutted down the runway in Marble Boy, Rosy Tuesday and Hayley Scanlan, high street giants Debenhams and Primark kindly contributed too. The night is a celebration of kids, a celebration of creative talent and a celebration of everything that’s great about Dundee.

With the help of the cities finest photographers, film makers, musicians, boutiques, students, charity workers and top make-up artists, Irving Miskell Reid along with his hard working Freedom Hair Experience Team created an event which is strategically thought out with no stone going unturned. Organisers finely tune the catwalk show months in advance. Irving has a lovely way of allowing people to get involved and giving them full praise and credit where due. I was willingly given the task of customising the finalist t-shirts, a contribution I took on with pride and great pleasure, unskilfully shredding and slicing the stretched cotton, I was admirably impressed as the models wiggled down the raised runway trying to catch the eye of the three main judges- Fashion Designer Hayley Scanlan, Dom Migele of Migele Experience and Gail Sneddon of Paul Mitchell.

Jewellery and textile designers from Duncan of Jordanstone were keen to get involved in fundraising for the local charity, they donated time and skill in creating shirts and tote bags unveiling a thoughtful, eye catching logo which was displayed and retailed on the night.

A fantastic effort was felt in the modern surroundings of Fat Sam’s Live but it was the kids that inevitably stole the show. Ruby, Daisy and Jacob proudly adorned their Help for Kids T-shirts as they weaved in and out the crowd, shaking their donations bucket, pulling in admirers with their sweet determination, I beamed with pride as the three sat perfectly during the show, taking in the importance of fund raising for a cause so close to home, they even managed to get their five minutes of fame when they cheekily sneaked on stage to announce the raffle winners. The young models drew joyful gasps from the crowd as they skipped down the catwalk with neon rags twisted in their sweet hair and young Serafina had everyone in fits of laughter with her adorable pout and stylised strut. An incredible eight year old named Summer proudly took the stage and had her long blonde hair chopped off, she kindly donated her locks to The Little Princess Foundation.

The night came to a close with the announcement of the deserving winner, Jamila. A beautiful lady with just as much personality, stage presence and charisma as her exotic looks. I left feeling like a winner and there may only be few who didn’t feel the same. Another event that encourages my faith and passion of the people within my home city of Dundee, raising a proud sum of over £2000. If Ruby continues to be surrounded by so much inspiration then I’m comfortable in the knowledge that I’m ensuring she receives the best lesson in life than all.

Long live the VEF and Jamila the Dundee Face of Freedom Queen.

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Above images by Tammy Lyn Shaw

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Film by Dylan Drummond, Son of the Sea

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