• All you need is love

    Beautiful little babies all lined up cot by cot. Some sleeping, some crying, some gurgling away - but the one thing shared across all these tiny lives - they had all been abandoned.

    We've worked in a lot of orphanages over the years, and as much as they can be very hard places to visit, often they are also places of great love and tenderness, run by some amazing people who dedicate their lives to helping give these children a better start in life.

    However, an orphanage just for babies - already our hearts were heavy as we pulled up outside.

    Casa Abrigo in Pedra de Guaratiba, Rio de Janeiro is home to 40 babies from all walks of life. Some as old as two, others just days old – abandoned in the hospital as soon as they came into the world. One little girl, Yara, was helpless as she watched her mummy shot by a gang a couple of days ago. She won't sleep because of nightmares and hates being left on her own. Another baby boy was left because he has cerebral palsy.

    The home is run by Anna and Tina, two devoted ladies who pour their hearts into looking after the little ones. With little practical support and no outside funding it is an especially tough job. They rely on local volunteers to give them a hand running the place – making sure the children are clean and well fed.

    More than anything, these children need love and cuddles. We’ll be working with Anna, Tina and the team to look at ways to make the orphanage more sustainable and provide practical help. We’re also planning a volunteer trip later in the year. If you can spare a few days to give some support and spend time helping to care – and cuddle – these precious children, please get in touch. hello@flamingo-creative.co.uk.

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  • Parada de Lucas - the favella where no one wants to go

    It was because of the amazing work of a lady called Nauza Nascimento that led us to visit one of Rio de Janeiro's most dangerous favelas, located in the northern most part of the city.

    A community where visitors don't go, we had been warned, enter without them knowing and you'll be shot. Questions asked later.

    Over a million people who call Rio home live below the poverty line. One in five resides in a favela, or slum. These communities are infamous for powerful drug lords and brutal gang warfare.

    Parada de Lucas is no different – it’s an impoverished community under the control of heavily armed gang members, and young people here are at constant risk of becoming involved in the drugs trade. You see groups of teenagers hanging around on street corners - their guns almost as big as them in some cases.

    Neuza explained to us about the frightening loss of innocence in the area, with the chances of a young boy joining a gang in Parada de Lucas being incredibly high. They start at age 8 as ‘formigas’ - running errands. After they have ‘proven’ themselves, they will get a walkie talkie and a gun and will be put on watch in some of the most dangerous areas, most prone to attack from other factions. Many die at this early stage.

    It was because of this that community resident and mother, Neuza, became worried about the lack of opportunities for her son and his friends.

    Neuza decided to tackle this head on because she wanted to show the kids that there was an alternative, a different way of living.

    Showing incredible bravery in the face of such a challenge and with no funding or outside help, Neuza built CIACAC from the ground up - literally. She had turned what was once her tiny, one roomed home into the project’s base and built upwards to create an even tinier home for herself and her family above.

    Yet whilst the space may be small (about 5m squared) – hundreds of young people have been through the project’s doors since it began 10 years ago.

    CIACAC acts as a hub offering skills classes in English, Spanish, dance, guitar and IT as well as taking the youngsters on cultural trips. And as a huge sign of its success, only 7 of the 900 children who have participated in CIACAC’s projects have gone onto be gang members. Incredible.

    Exposure to foreign cultures, the discovery of new skills and the chance to improve self-esteem is proven to work in this environment.

    To give us more of an understanding to the lives of the people who live here, Neuza walked us around the community – home to some 34,000 people.

    One of the first things you notice is the smell. Much of the waste produced is pumped into open sewers without treatment.

    People live in fragile looking concrete or wooden shacks and looking at them, you wonder how on earth they stay up. On each corner it’s hard not to look at the men and boys with their big guns and every so often a flash car drives past slowly, and you know it’s one of the traffickers doing their rounds.

    The ‘Little Learners’ Project

    We'll be working with Neuza to implement ‘Little Learners Brazil’ providing extra tuition to the young people at the project. That extra boost will come with ‘School in a Bag’ kits for every child. These contain everything a child needs for school, from pencils and rulers to school books and maths sets.

    Development and mental stimulation are the order to the day for these kids. There is life outside their immediate community, and we want them to dare to dream about other possibilities for a life they could lead.

    It is the biggest aim of the project, and to support this, we’ll be linking up kids at CIACAC with those back home in the UK and in other parts of the world. We live in a global village, and believe that children all around the world should have the opportunity to learn and grow together.

    Through Skype and Google Hangouts, they’ll be able to take part in educational activities with opportunities to chat, sing or dance together. We took part in the weekly guitar club which we beamed to kids at a school back in the UK.

    CIACAC is an integral part of the community and Neuza is a massive driving force for the young people of Parada de Lucas. She kept going, and she keeps going.

    We are completely in awe of this incredible lady and so excited to be a part of CIACAC's future.

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  • April at Flamingo: Creating a buzz...

    Malaria is the world’s biggest killer of children. It’s also completely preventable.

    Since it’s World Malaria Day this month, with a little help from some footballing friends, the team here will be doing our bit to raise awareness of how the humble mosquito net can help prevent this disease.

    Whilst footballers spend their working lives trying to get one in the back of the net, this April, they’ll be highlighting the need for an altogether different kind of net.

    Our ‘Bets for Nets’ challenge will see how many footballers we can cram into a goal net all to raise cash to buy mosquito nets via the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign.

    Steven Pienaar, Everton mid-fielder and former South Africa team captain pictured below with Katie and Sarah from Flamingo says: “I’m happy to help spread the buzz about stopping malaria this World Malaria Day and encourage everyone to buy a net from the UN Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign – a great initiative that sends nets and saves lives. No child should die from a disease that’s easy to prevent.”

    Along with our friends at bar and restaurant The Living Room, we’ll also be hosting 14 live ‘Music for Malaria’ events, and promoting their bespoke ‘Mosquito Mojitos’ – both of which will raise money to buy mosquito nets.

    And, keep an eye out for our ‘net-napped’ statues - we’ll be enlisting the help of everyone from John Lennon to Queen Victoria as we hijack famous statues in our nation’s city centres to raise awareness of the campaign.

    Nothing But Nets is a grassroots initiative that raises funds to distribute long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed nets to families across Africa, and educate communities on how to use them.

    If you'd like to buy a Mosquito Net, please visit: www.flamingofoundation.org/shop.

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  • Heel Appeal – we need your old shoes!

    This March we’re launching a brand new campaign, The Heel Appeal.

    We want your old, unwanted or out-grown shoes. Donated shoes will be recycled to raise cash for a variety of local charities.

    All types and condition of footwear will be welcomed so, whether you have towering stilettos that have never seen the light of day, or much-loved loafers on their last legs, we can give your unwanted shoes a new lease of life!

    You can donate your old shoes at any The Living Room bar and restaurant, any time before 31st March 2013. We can accept ladies, mens and children’s shoes – just look out for our green ‘Heel Appeal’ collection boxes.

    To find your nearest drop off point, please visit: www.thelivingroom.co.uk

    Beneficiary charities include:

    www.claire-house.org.uk

    www.snappyyork.co.uk

    www.theoliverkingfoundation.co.uk

    www.harrysrainbow.co.uk

    www.candlelighters.org.uk

    www.schoolforparents.org

    www.rainbowcentre.org.uk

    www.mustardtree.org.uk

    www.yorkhill.org

    www.oxfordshire.org

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  • The Pyjama Project

    In a perfect world, bedtime stories would be a staple of every childhood. However for vulnerable young carers up and down the country bedtime represents not a chance to escape into a world of make-believe, but simply an end to another exhausting day of very adult responsibilities.

    The day-to-day lives of young carers would be challenging for most adults. More than half of these children live in one-parent families and almost a third care for someone with mental health problems. Some children care for their parents for up to 50 hours a week, meaning friends, playing and even school come second to their responsibilities at home.

    Fiona’s story is a typical one. She’s eight years old, and her father suffers from depression. Her mother died a few years ago. She’s bullied at school and although her father’s condition has improved slightly, she worries that if it worsens again she will be taken into care.

    Needless to say, children like Fiona will have never experienced the simple joy of a bedtime story. The Flamingo Foundation’s Pyjama Project aims to change all that.

    Taking place during National Storytelling Week (January 26th – February 2nd), the project will see us partner with 85 Fuzzy Ed’s Funhouses across the country to collect new pyjamas and good quality used (or new!) storybooks. We’ll then donate these to Honeypot, an organisation that provides respite care for vulnerable children and young carers, enabling them to play, laugh and get lost in their imaginations rather than worrying about their parents. It gives children like Fiona (and Fiona is a real child who they are working with) something to look forward to and access to adults who can support her and enable her to have as normal a childhood as possible.

    Getting involved in the Pyjama Project is easy. Simply buy a pair of PJs or a book and drop them off at your nearest Funhouse (visit www.flamingofoundation.org/pyjamaproject for a location list). If it’s easier you can buy a virtual gift at www.flamingofoundation.org/shop.

    The collected items will be used to create bedtime packs showing a bit of much needed TLC to these youngsters – and giving them a chance to enjoy being the one looked after for a change.

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  • Help us make memories by running a mile

    This New Year, Team Flamingo will be doing a Thirteen-a-thon, 13 fundraising challenges for 2013.

    And, it’s just one month to our very first event - a 31 mile 'Memory Marathon'.

    On Sunday, 3rd February we're calling on our supporters to get active and head out for a run, either alongside us in Bristol or virtually wherever you are in the world, to fund our Memory Project.

    The aim is to buy 250 memory jars for children's counselling centres to help them work through bereavement. The jars are filled with coloured salts and act as reminders of loved ones. They cost just £2 each and are a wonderful tool in the counselling youngsters receive when a parent or sibling, has died.

    It's an interactive, soothing and warming creative activity for the children. They are given a glass jar, salt and coloured chalks and mix up the chalk and salts in different colours. As they do it they think about the special person and assign each colour a memory. These are all written down as a key to the memory jar, so the yellow might be the memory of a day at the beach with dad, or going to the football could be green.

    The coloured salt is poured in the jar at different angles to create a rainbow of happy times that remind the youngsters of what they shared with their relative. It can then be used in future to help them talk about their feelings and work through the loss with their counsellor and family.

    You can get involved in our Memory Project by running with us on February 3rd, starting at 8am. We'll be doing a 31 mile loop around key landmarks in Bristol, including the SS Great Britain and Clifton Suspension Bridge. If you're elsewhere in the world do your run virtually and send us a pic! You can do as few or as many miles as you like. Or you can come and cheer us on (please bring water, jelly babies and clear skies!)

    Alternatively, you can buy a memory jar online for just £2 - visit www.flamingofoundation.org/memoryproject.

    Jars will be going to the Rainbow Centre - www.rainbowcentre.org.uk to help youngsters there understand their feelings and cope with loss.

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  • Have yourself a Flamingo Christmas

    The clock is counting down towards Christmas, which generally means to-do lists are hurriedly being created and present shopping starts to get a little more manic.

    Here at Flamingo we know how important it is to track down gifts that will be treasured by recipients, and it’s often the case that shoppers these days will go the extra mile to buy from places that give something back to others.

    And that’s why we’ll be buying our Christmas presents from The Flamingo Foundation.

    There are gifts for everyone, no matter what the occasion, and 100% of the sale price goes into our projects. Every item is brand new and has been donated to us so we can raise money to improve lives around the world.

    Our shop has everything from jewellery and pretty things for your home to toys for the kids and even bikinis for those sunny getaways!

    Time is running out for festive gifts so get shopping and put a smile on the faces of your friends and family as well as people in need. So put the kettle on and visit www.flamingofoundation.org/shop to get going.

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  • Set up a mini economy & change lives? Join our Build-An-Income programme.

    We want to set up 50 mini economies in rural African communities by the end of 2013.

    Why? Because we’re committed to breaking the cycle of poverty and we believe passionately that this is one way to do that.

    We’re talking about people who have no choice but to live hand-to-mouth, day after day. They are locked in poverty with no way out, and have no options to borrow responsibly.

    We all know the importance of living within our means, saving for a rainy day and investing wisely in our businesses and homes. But for millions in developing countries these things are just not feasible.

    We’re starting these projects in Kenya. Operated by a group of villagers, the ‘Build-An-Income’ idea is that the trustees pay in savings of 200 shillings each (around £1.50) into a community pot. People can then request loans from the pot and their repayments are carefully arranged and monitored, with interest helping to swell the coffers.

    This allows them to finance each other by working collectively. Each individual has very little cash to spare, but together they can help the whole community.

    The money is often used to buy seeds, pay for school uniforms or for travelling for work or to market. By giving people access to these basic things they can begin to improve their lives.

    It’s all taken very seriously, and rightly so. The group are very careful about loans and repayments and incredibly aware of security, never keeping large amounts of cash and meeting in a different place each month.

    But of course, there is never enough money for all the people in need of a loan.

    And this is where you come in. With more than 70% of Africa’s poorest people living in rural areas millions are reliant on the land and have little chance of finding employment.

    The aim of ‘Build-An-Income’ is to create a sustainable model for increasing incomes. It gives them the chance to save and to increase the prosperity of their whole community.

    Here’s how the scheme works:

    • We set up, from scratch, a new mini economy in a rural economy. A group of people are trained how to run and manage the scheme safely and we give them all the materials they need, such as cash books.

    • Each month, every one of the 15 people on the panel pays in a small amount of 200 Kenyan shillings (about £1.50). Then the team looks at requests for loans from the community and prioritises these according to need (e.g. feeding children on school-related things are always given priority). Most often loans are for children or to set up or run small businesses such as buying seeds to grow crops.

    • Very minimal interest is charged and any funds go back into the community pot.

    • The community panel discuss each loan request and check pay-back schemes to help safeguard borrowers.

    ‘Build An Income’ is run by the community, for the community, and opens up all sorts of opportunities for people. They are simply unable to borrow money elsewhere so the cycle of poverty is inescapable.

    Tangible business benefits

    We focus on harnessing the talents of your staff to help others improve their lives through community mentoring and interaction.

    We can set up a scheme for a whole community from just £500 - a small investment for such a massive return for the people in need.

    - Fully project managed, meaning little time is required on your part. We look after the whole project from start to finish.

    - Branding opportunities – your logo on project materials such as cash books.

    - PR collateral – we’ll provide you with a press release and high res media ready images.

    - Opportunity to visit beneficiary projects – If you want to get really hands-on, we can take you out with us to start your scheme. This would include training and getting to know the community.

    Want to get involved?

    Email hello@flamingo-creative.co.uk or call us on 0117 973 90 19 for more details.

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  • Sunny delight! Your old shades help hundreds

    As we say goodbye to those hazy summer days we are also bidding a fond farewell to our first Shade Aid campaign.

    Over the past two months your generosity has known no limits, and we are delighted to have collected a whopping 842 pairs of unwanted sunglasses.

    Many of these have already been taken over to people in Kenya, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ethiopia, Zambia and Malawi, and the rest will be distributed by Vision Aid Overseas and Build Africa in the coming weeks.

    This means that hundreds of people can now go about their lives under the blazing heat of the sun without worrying about damaging their vision.

    And, as if that wasn’t enough, those shades that were no longer safe to wear have been recycled, and almost £700 has been raised. This could help restore or improve the sight of up to 44 people!

    None of this would have been possible without people like you giving up a pair or two of old shades, so a massive thank you!

    We’ve had support from right across the country, and the shades encompass a range of styles, colours and brands. Not that any of that matters to the people in need – with a pair of sunglasses costing them a year’s salary they are just delighted that others are thinking of their health.

    By the time a child growing up in Africa is 18 they will have absorbed 80 per cent of their lifetime exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays, Lucy Jenkins from Vision Aid overseas tells us. This can bring on problems such as cataracts and macular degeneration, as well as other serious eye disorders.

    But most people never own a pair of shades, let alone have access to an optician or ophthalmologist, so hundreds of thousands live their lives with poor vision.

    And this is why we have been so pleased with the enormous response to our Shade Aid campaign. It just goes to show that giving up one little luxury that we often take for granted can be a real life-changer for those in need.

    And as our campaign spokesperson Cara Kilbey, start of The Only Way Is Essex, says, “Your sunglasses might be replaceable, but your eyes aren’t.”

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  • Our Kat: Officially an outstanding young person

    We’ve always known Kat is great, but now it’s official! We even have a certificate to prove it!

    The lovely Miss Sparkes has been recognised as one of the Ten Outstanding Young People in the UK by Junior Chamber International. Hurrah!

    On her certificate for “Moral and/or environmental leadership” it states: “The global citizen: For her dedication and servitude to humanity, creating projects not just fit for purpose, but leaving a lasting legacy in the communities they touch.” And we couldn’t have put it better ourselves!

    Kat joins an impressive list of previous winners of the TOYP Awards, including Elvis Presley, John F Kennedy, Henry Kissinger and Jackie Chan, so she’s in very good company.

    And here’s why she won …

    Since launching Flamingo 10 years ago Kat has been dedicated to creating positive change for people around the world. Over the years she has inspired and reached out to thousands, working on everything from building schools to ensuring women have supportive underwear.

    Anyone who has worked with Kat will tell you that her ideas are never-ending, and often come at 3am when the rest of us are fast asleep! And not only does she lead a company that brings about long-lasting positive change for communities, what she creates also means positive results for the businesses involved.

    And she does all this while baking cakes, doing charity fun runs, attending innumerable client meetings and, most importantly of all, smiling.

    It’s an amazing achievement in itself, but we know that secretly, Kat is even more chuffed about winning because it means she is definitely still “young”!

    But seriously, we couldn’t be more proud of her. Congrats Kat!

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