This has been a very strange week as I thought I was going to be travelling overseas with the charity Tearfund. We were going to Haiti to see projects helping tackle the problem of plastic waste in one of the world’s poorest countries. The plan was to make a film on how international aid can help, and how to make such projects sustainable. We were then to report back to party Conference next week. Thank you to all the Chelmsford residents who have written to me about plastic pollution and especially ocean plastics this year. Unfortunately, the trip was cancelled at the last minute due to a predicted hurricane and a sudden heightened security risk. This gave me some unexpected and welcome time in the office.
I spend the day replying to emails and drafting letters. My very hard-working case worker has taken a week’s holiday and I don’t want her to come back to a mountain of work. I also take a long lunch break to spend with a friend who has been having treatment for a brain tumour. Even though the tumour is not a cancer it is very tough, and the side effects are really challenging. She is so brave.
More emails…. and a run… luxury.
In London I arrange to interview people who have applied for an internship role. We had over fifty applicants and I have shortlisted six, all of whom would be excellent. I cut the shortlist down to two and ask them to do a final written exercise.
I travel to Teddington to the headquarters of Tearfund. They are the only major charity that is working in developing countries to help solve waste issues. We arrange to talk to the team in Haiti using Skype. I learn how in Haiti there is very little piped water so clean water is delivered in plastic bags, if these get into the drains they cause flooding which results in more diseases like Malaria. The waste is also polluting the sea and killing the fish which is a vital source of food and income. It is a vicious circle. The charity is working with local organisations to establish local collection and recycling in a way that is sustainable and self-funding. My “Give up Plastic for Lent” challenge showed how hard it is to reduce plastics when living in a country like the UK, but it is even more difficult in many poorer countries. We discuss various actions we in the UK might be able to do to help.
I have a busy but rewarding day in Westminster. I’ve been asked to speak at eight different events at party conference in Birmingham – they are all related to work I’ve done this year but are all different. I spend the day preparing thoughts. I also make some calls about the Army and Navy flyover and watch the press conferences from Salzburg. Very frustrated that the other EU countries seem to give so little thought to the UK proposals. But I remind myself that we always expected that this stage of the negotiations would be tough.
It is my Birthday! Start with a radio interview on BBC Essex on what next for Brexit. I write a long article about cyber-security for the Chelmsford Neighbourhood watch magazine, clear the in-box, listen to the PM’s speech (firm and good) and have cake.
More Cake – this time in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support and Farleigh Hospice, both are excellent charities. I join the team at Whitley House Surgery in Chelmsford who have arranged a fundraising coffee morning. It’s very good to hear from the GPs about their priorities and what more we could do to help. Nice to meet many happy patients too!