Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Nayu's Craft Time #60 Give a Girl an Education Campaign + Exclusive Interview

This morning I've spent time catching up on TV (still got 1 show to go) while working on a secret project which is slowly coming together. Now that's pretty much all the craft news for today (aside from having heaps of fun trying out colour combinations yesterday in the cute flower coasters). 
Some I love, some I like, some aren't my type ^o^
I rarely blog about good causes which I support, but this one has a time limit and means a lot to me. I'm going to tell you about a campaign run for and by a lovely teen blogger who I know online. All Amber wants is to study A-levels, which as the blurb says below might not be possible. I've known her since she started blogging, as I gave her some tips and stayed in touch as she found her book blogging legs and blossomed into an award winning blogger. She's lovely, kind, loyal, loves books and just wants the opportunity to fulfil her dreams. 

Who's the girl? 

The girl is me. My name is Amber Kirk- Ford, I'm 16 and I really need your help. Three years ago I developed several illnesses overnight: Chronic Anxiety & Panic Disorder, along with Emetophobia and Agoraphobia. Suddenly, I couldn't go to school or places with my family. I couldn't even hang out with friends. I went from being carefree and independent to becoming a constant burden on everyone around me. In short, it was devastating.

What happened next?

After lengthy meetings with my school and various solutions tried and failed, we began to think about home education. I'd been home educated when I was much younger and it was a success, but this time I was about to start my GCSEs and we all agreed that I needed qualified teachers. That's when we discovered InterHigh. 

Hang on, what's InterHigh?

InterHigh is an amazing non-profit independent school conducted entirely online, catering for students from all over the world, using classroom software and a headset to communicate with the teachers and classmates. Classes are live and highly interactive and, not only does InterHigh teach to International GCSE level, but it also has its own online sixth form college where A-levels can be studied, too.

Sounds amazing!

It is! It was the perfect solution, and as my parents couldn't afford the fees, my ordinary school agreed to fund my place on the condition that I continued to make good academic progress. I was so, so happy because it meant I could continue my education and therefore get my qualifications despite my illness.


I tried going to a psychotherapist but, being severely agoraphobic, this didn't work out. I then turned to online counselling where I built up a great relationship with my counsellor, but the organisation she worked for went into administration soon after - it was there one day and gone the next, with no warning. Doctors refuse to give me anti-anxiety medication as they say I am too young, and eventually I was referred to an online Cognitive Behaviour Therapist. This helped just enough to get me to a stage where I could go and sit my exams, although that wasn't without its problems. I got through it with the support of my old school, who couldn't have been more helpful, and my parents.  I get my exam results on 20th August.

So, what's next?

Nothing. That's right, absolutely nothing. Unless you can help me?
There is no support in place for a young person with my type of mental illness to be able to attend college, do an apprenticeship or go out to work.  Education is free in the UK up until you're 19, but only if you're physically able to get to a college. There are no student loans for studying at home. Sure, sometimes I can go out, with certain members of my family or on my own, but a lot of the time I can't. There's no way of knowing in advance if I'm going to be OK the next day or not, so how could I commit to a mainstream college or job?
What I really want to do is continue my education like other people my age. I want to go back to InterHigh to get my A-levels, and to not be beaten by my anxiety or lack of money. But my funding has come to an end, and I've been turned down for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) hence the need to crowdfund.

What will the money cover? 

I'm looking to raise £4,500. This amount of money is impossible for me to imagine, but I'm hopeful we can do it and change my life for the better. 
This would cover:
2 years at InterHigh where I would study for 2 A-levels (£1,830 per annum = £3,660) 
The registration fee (£50) 
The fee deposit (£150) 
One-off examination admin fee (£100) 
External examination centre fees 
I've never asked for anything as big and important as this before, and trust me when I say that I wouldn't be crowdfunding if I didn't absolutely need to. I've looked into other options, and this is my best and only chance at furthering my education. We're pretty much a one-income family and things are already very tight, so anything you are able to pledge - whether that's £1 or £50 - would be extremely appreciated. 
For the reasons above, I know not everyone can pledge, and if that's you then it would be really helpful if you could share the link to this page on Twitter, Facebook and anywhere else you can think of. I'd be so grateful.

Nayu again! Now you've heard the details, here a few more words from Amber in the form of an interview I had with her so you know a bit more behind her lovely self. 

 Nayu: What made you think about using crowdfunding to raise the money so you can study your A-levels at InterHigh?

Amber: I'd looked into grants and other support available but I wasn't eligible for them. I briefly entertained the idea of a Crowdfunder but immediately dismissed it because... who would donate to me? I'd probably get about £100 and then be back to square one. But then my mum suggested it, we started planning and I began to think it might actually work. It's my best and only chance of being able to do my A Levels - I had to try it.

How did you come up with the ideas of the different rewards?

Two whole days of brainstorming! I thought about what I could give, my mum thought about what she could give as she's also a blogger, and I thought about what other people could give. Eventually, I had a list to pick from and now my rewards span from advertising space and guest blogging opportunities to signed books donated by generous authors and even the chance to name a character in Holly Bourne's next book!

With the half-way mark nearly reached, did you ever imagine you'd get this relatively early in your campaign?

No, not at all. As I said, I expected to maybe get £100 and then be back to square one. But, if I remember rightly, we'd raised over £500 within the first hour of the campaign being public which was incredible, and now it's even been featured in The Independent and on Sky News! It's absolutely insane and incredibly heartwarming. 

 What A-levels are you hoping to study and why?

English Literature and Media Studies. I love English - obviously! - and it's my dream to work in the media at some point.

How would you sum up your feelings about the level of support the blogging community and others are giving you to help fulfil your A-level dreams?

It's made me realise how lucky I am to be part of such a lovely community, and it's also restored my faith in humanity. People I've never spoken to have even donated and I can't believe how generous people are. I wish I could hug every single person who has supported the campaign!

Nayu again! There have been a few online articles, which got facts wrong (£3000 wasn't raised in 24 hours, it took a few days), and has encountered some negative comments. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, I believe Amber's cause is a priority because considering how much outreach work she has through her Youtube channel and blog, imagine how wide reaching her book love and other messages will go with a media related A-level under her belt. To coin a phrase I use with a friend, simples! (translation: the answer is obvious). 

You can donate towards her cause using money, and/or simply spread the word to those who may be able to help. Here's all the details from the Crowdfunding page, click on the link to see what rewards you can gain by donating money (mostly book related). Go forth and spread the word! 

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