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Thoughts from author: Emma Hines

the results are in...

People of the United Kingdom, you have excelled yourselves.

At the start of November, we launched our little hat tag game to help raise some more money for Age UK as part of our Big Knit campaign. We've been in stitches at some of the entries, and generally overwhelmed by how much everyone has got behind it.

For every picture uploaded, we gave 10p to Age UK, and for every vote, 5p. The money that has been raised through this, combined with the funds raised through all the hats sold in store on our bottles (we gave 25p per bottle sold to Age UK) has raised an amazing £200,000 this year. Thank you so much to all of you who bought a hatted bottle sold, took a hat tag picture, voted, and made us laugh. You've helped make winter warmer for older people across the UK.

A few of our absolute favourites....

We've had Boris (thanks Jen)

Boris (Jen)
Pyramids from Melanie

Pyramids (Melanie)

And a lovely clown from Susi

Clown (Susi)

But the three winners of this year's competition, who will each win the gift of dazzling Christmas shopping as we award their masterpieces £500 in Amazon vouchers, are:

David with his cow:

Cow

Leanne's cat

Cat
And Cathey's screaming masterpiece

Scream
Well done to the 3 winners and thank you to you all for getting so into it. Whilst the competition has now closed, you can still upload your images to our special gallery for another week, and help raise a few more pennies for Age UK.

hats amazing...

The hottest hat based competition this side of Moscow has been heating up this week as we've seen loads of amazing entries submitted.

Drum roll for this week's winners...

In first place Laura's guinea pig spruced up and put his glad rags on

GuineaDavid's udderly (sorry) brilliant entry came in a very close second

Cow
With Wen's wooly good (again, sorry, it's just too easy) entry in at no. 3:

Sheep
Well done for these 3 cracking entries. For those of you who haven't got involved yet we say firstly, we've missed you, and secondly, it's not too late. The competition will be running until the 9th of December, where we'll then be awarding the 3 images with the most votes the gift of dazzling Christmas shopping with £500 each in Amazon vouchers. And don't forget that we'll give 10p to Age UK for every picture uploaded, and 5p for every vote to help make winter that little bit warmer for older people across the UK. Get tagging now

homeward bound...

Foundation_blog_emma

How to try and sum up 14 pretty incredible days in a single blog post...

I've met over 50 rather special individuals who have benefited directly from our innocent Foundation

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Drunk about 20 cups of hot milk, straight from the yard

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Been given one jack fruit

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Had 2 delicious coconuts from the tree

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Been lucky enough to sit in on 3 of the monthly meetings run at local village level by disabled people for disabled people, where the big decisions get made.

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And almost been launched through the roof of 1 Indian bus (note to self: never, ever sit on the back row).

Trying to give a picture of all the people that I've met is a lot more difficult. I've been totally blown away by the sheer determination to drive change that I have witnessed this past fortnight- but one of the most striking examples I've seen is a man I met called Poundurai.

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ADD met Poundurai at a Federation meeting for disabled people that they attended about 5 years ago. He wasn't in a leadership role at the time, but they noticed his potential and began working with him more closely over the years to support the work that he was doing.

5 years on, and he now represents over 2300 disabled people in a block of over 40 villages in his area. He's the elected President of the Disability Development Trust, a co-ordinator of the governement disability programme, and Leader of the National Federation for the Blind, fighting tirelessly to make sure that disabled people get a fair deal. He and his team have helped more disabled people get bank loans than any other group in the area, they've taught parents of severely disabled children how to teach their children to wash and dress, and they've ensured that when things aren't right, they're addressed.

When I was there, we spoke to a lady whose postman had been skimming 500 rupees for himself off the government benefits that he was supposed to be delivering her in full each month. Apparently this is rather common.

From the look on Poundurai's face, I suspect the postman might think twice about it next time.

www.add.org.uk

power to the people

Foundation_blog_emma
As some of you will know, I'm currently in India working with one our innocent foundation partners, disability charity ADD. I've been here for 10 days now, and it's been quite the adventure.


We had our innocent foundation day yesterday so I sent across a little video across of some of the things I've seen and learnt this week, which we thought we'd share.

Pop the kettle on, stick the headphones in, and learn about some amazing people. What they are doing is truely remarkable.

India bound...

Every year, innocent gives one or two lucky employees the opportunity to go and work with one of the charities we support through our foundation, using some of our work skills. Those of you who've been reading this blog for a while may remember tales from Andrew in Malawi, JT in Kenya, or our Emilie in Ethopia.

Em in Ethiopia
Emilie in Ethiopia showing the bees who was boss

On Friday, I'll be following in their illustrious footsteps, lugging my camera and a notebook with me, as I head to India to work with disability charity ADD gathering materials for their fundraising and training needs. I'll be penning a few posts while I'm away but it sees only right that I do some introductions first...

ADD supports disabled people in 11 different countries across Africa and Asia to challenge disability discrimination. Their vision is to create a world where disabled people can enjoy their rights and participate in society as fully as they choose to, and we've been supporting the work that they do in India since April 2009.

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Three quarters of the disabled population in India live in rural communities, and less than 2% receive any form of vocational training. ADD India works to educate people in the skills they need to earn a livelihood, and offers financial support through microloans- these are frequently used to boost incomes in India, but disabled people are generally excluded from these schemes.

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The project that we're funding has so far delivered loans to over 200 people, enabling them to gain independence through their livelihood, and to participate more fully in the communities in which they live. Over the next few weeks, I'll be meeting a few of the people who have benefited from these loans, and be able to see first hand the impact that it has had not only on their lives, but on the lives of their families, who are often marginalised as well.

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So there you are. Introductions done. I'd definitely recommend that you get to know them a bit better here, but if not, I'll be in touch shortly with some more info from the other side of the world.