This week, for many, marks the start of a new year. The first week back at work, the school run, the grind of getting up on these dark, dank January mornings. It also brings resolutions: drink less, eat better, exercise more. Brush away the cobwebs and begin the year a new you, a better you, one determined to pick up that instrument gathering dust and finally start that blog you’ve been talking about…

Many of these will be broken a few short weeks in, only to be reinstated the following year. So, thinking more widely, what changes do you really want to see in the world in twelve months time? The last few weeks and months have seen tragedy strike at home and abroad. Without listing a blow-by-blow account, I outline a couple of these below.

Syrian and Iraqi refugees getting off a boat from Turkey on the Greek island of Lesbos

In Europe we have seen migrants literally washing up on the shores of Greece. Drowning in the Aegean Sea on almost the last stage of their treacherous journeys from Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea. In July, Britain’s Prime Minister used the phrase ‘a swarm of migrants’ to describe the situation, immediately bringing the imagery of unwanted insects to mind. Do we forget that they are people too? They are our children. They are our brothers and sisters. It makes me wonder – what can they be fleeing from to make this journey seem like a better option?

But the escalating migration crisis has also seen a huge increase in donations and volunteers working in Germany, Greece, Turkey and France. The press reported trains full of migrants arriving in Germany and Hungary being met by volunteers with welcome placards, and those distributing food and clothing.

Flooding in York

Here in parts of England, those in Yorkshire, Cumbria and other areas woke up to find their homes flooded. Following heavy storms and record rainfall, 16,000 homes were flooded in England in December, leaving families and individuals facing ruined houses and towns. But amid rising waters we also saw communities coming together. In view of current undertones of Islamophobia in Britain, we should celebrate the stories of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs forming small community armies in the cleanup operation.

On 1 January 2016 the 17 UN anti poverty targets known as Sustainable Development Goals came into effect. Unlike their predecessors, the SDGs apply to all countries worldwide. Broad in scope, the ambitious targets include goals to achieve good governance, empower women and reduce maternal mortality. These goals will stimulate action in these critical areas over the next fifteen years to better serve humanity and our planet.

Young girl, India

But why does it take these crises and UN declarations for us to sit up and act? We all remember that photograph of a drowned child which sparked the world’s conscience.

Whether or not in our own minds we choose to link these UN anti-poverty targets with what is happening in our own families, on our doorsteps, in the flood hit areas of the UK, the washed up beaches of Europe, or further afield in Asia, Africa and Latin America… We surely need to keep in mind that our attitudes of kindness are key.

So by all means – don’t eat that extra piece of cake and do go to that gym class – but also, let’s begin this year by truly caring about and showing kindness to others. Not to judge or assume, but to welcome all humans regardless of religion, politics, race and background… we are one and the same; we are humankind.

Sometimes even the smallest gesture of kindness can go a very long way. Join us in thinking differently about poverty and injustice this year, and the next.
Happy New Year to you all.

Abigail
Director
COINS Foundation