Category Archives: Learning

Opening our eyes and hearts to refugees

Do you know that Refugee Week has been observed in Australia for over 30 years?

Refugee Week is celebrated annually in mid June, incorporating World Refugee Day on June 20.  This is a time when Australians can acknowledge the contributions that refugees and asylum seekers have made to our country, and also for us to learn about the challenges many refugees face as they re-establish themselves and their communities in a new land.

The theme for this year’s Refugee Week is “A World of Stories” – reminding us that each refugee seeking safety has their own story of why they left home, and what they had to do to find safety. Readers who want to learn, and understand, the current conflicts and refugee situations will find these stories powerful and enlightening:

First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrant and Refugees Who Make America Great by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace

In the tradition of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls comes this collection of mini biographies celebrating the achievements of some very special first-generation immigrants and former refugees.  From musician Yo-yo Ma to scientist Albert Einstein, from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to tennis champion Martina Navratilova, this collection of high achievers span different ethnicities, religions, and professions.  And despite the America-centric title, many of their contributions have impacted / benefitted the entire world.  First Generation also offers a powerful reminder on how a safe environment, personal freedoms and educational opportunities help people realise their potential.

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

In Viet Thanh Nguyen’s mind, the experience of becoming a refugee – unwanted where they come from, unwanted where they go to – brands you forever.  He explores this idea in the eight short stories that comprise The Refugees.  These are not stories about escaping war, nor even about adapting to new cultures; they are simply stories of love, loss, memory and family – melancholy stories seen through the prism of the refugee experience.  Viet Thanh Nguyen is a respected academic who has become a literary star since winning the Pulitzer Prize (and several other awards) with his first novel, The Sympathizer.  The Refugees is his first collection of short stories. 

Stepping Stones: a Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs and Nizar Ali Badr

Canadian writer Margriet Ruurs was inspired by the art of Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr to create this book – they didn’t know each other and had never met, but managed to collaborate despite the distance between their two countries, and the political turmoil in Syria.  Stepping Stones tells the story of Rama and her family, who live a happy, peaceful life in Syria until war comes.  As bombs fall ever closer to their village, Rama’s family flees with only a few belongings, travelling overland and across the seas until they find a safe, new home. Nizar Ali Badr’s distinctive illustrations are made by arranging multicoloured stones – into characters and scenes with surprising levels of emotion and humour.  Stepping Stones is an excellent way to introduce the topic of war and refugees to young readers.

Homes by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah with Winnie Yeung

Abu Bakr al Rabeeah was a young teen when he confided his dream to his English teacher: he wanted to tell his story of growing up in Iraq and Syria, and of his family’s journey to safety in Canada.  He noticed that his fellow Canadians knew little about the situation in the Middle East, and wanted to challenge those who wanted to define his family only by their experience as refugees.  Eight months later, Abu achieved his dream with the help of his teacher, Winnie Yeung.  Homes is a gripping first-person account of growing up in a war zone.  The horrors of war are interwoven with ordinary childhood pursuits in a way that shocks the reader – flying kites with cousins among bombed-out buildings; playing with shell casings in the street – yet Abu’s childhood is not without love, or fun.  

I Can Only Tell You What My Eyes See by Giles Duley

Giles Duley is a photojournalist who is best known for documenting the long-term impact of war.  Despite losing both legs and an arm during an explosion whilst on assignment, he has continued his work as a photographer, reporting the stories of refugees not to evoke pity, but to encourage empathy and to inspire change.  I Can Only Tell You What My Eyes See is a record of the refugee crisis in Europe during 2015/6.  Giles Duley travelled through Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan, through the Balkans and to Greece and Germany, to retrace the journeys of people forced to flee their homes in the Middle East to seek safety in Europe.  Profits from the sale of this book will be donated to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR).

We are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World by Malala Yousafzai

In We Are Displaced, Malala Yousafzai uses her considerable public profile to highlight the issue of displacement – people forced to flee their homes due to conflict, persecution or natural disaster.  This is a much more widespread problem than most people realise – happening all around the world, affecting more than 68 million people, mostly women and girls. Starting with Malala’s own experience of internal displacement within Pakistan while escaping from Taliban rule, we are introduced to eight other girls, from countries as diverse as Yemen, Syria, Guatemala and the Congo, and their stories of displacement and disruption (and often discrimination as well).  These accounts are powerfully personal, confronting, and ultimately hopeful, as these resilient girls rebuild their lives in new communities.

Monday Inspo

It’s Refugee Week here in Australia. This week provides an opportunity to celebrate the immense courage, resilience and valuable contributions made by refugees to our society. Every refugee seeking safety brings their own story of why they left their home. The sharing of stories is an opportunity to remember and honour their journey. This week on the blog we will be sharing a few of these stories.

The best self help books that can help you decide what’s important

Self help books are one of the most popular genres in the world. There are thousands and thousands of titles to choose from and it can get a little over whelming. Some titles focus on discovering who you are, uncovering your strengths, and passions. Others take a different approach and teach us to take on qualities we aspire to. Sometimes a book comes along and really speaks to us, challenging our mindset and making us think about what’s really important. These are our favourite ones.

We’ve had a hunt around the internet and have found some of the best that we think will help you decide what’s really important to you. 

What do you really, really want? by Kevin Stebbings

What matters most to you? What keeps you from living a life of joy and purpose? In this unique narrative of life changing conversations, Kevin Stebbings offers an authentic framework for overcoming the distractions of life to rediscover what you really, really want.

He draws on the proven ideas and practices from the world of coaching to create a highly original and insightful book that will teach you how to discover your purpose, pursue your dreams, and achieve your goals.

You are invited into the story of two individuals who seek the help of a coach to find answers to life’s challenges. Their stories illuminate a path that you can follow to answer these questions: How do I overcome my tendency to procrastinate? What does it take to learn to say ‘no’ graciously and with confidence? How can I move beyond my fear of failure and start pursuing my dreams? What can I do to be more focused and less distracted? Stebbings uses coaching conversations to show us how to put our insights into practice so that we can live with passion and hope. What Do You Really, Really Want? is a compelling story with a powerful, yet simple message to empower you to live a life that is aligned with what matters most.

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Technically this book was written to help businesses and brands but in reality the messages in this book are applicable to more than that. After watching Sinek’s Ted Talk (you can view it here) we believe that asking and finding your ‘why’ can really help you hone in on what is important. 

There’s a naturally occurring pattern shared by the people and organisations that achieve the greatest long-term success. From Martin Luther King Jr. to Steve Jobs, from the pioneers of aviation to the founders of Southwest Airlines, the most inspiring leaders think, act, and communicate the exact same way-and it’s the complete opposite of everyone else. The common thread, according to Simon Sinek, is that they all start with why. This simple question has the power to inspire others to achieve extraordinary things. Any organisation can explain what it does; some can explain how; but very few can clearly articulate why. Why do we offer these particular products or services? Why do our customers choose us? Why do our employees stay (or leave)? Once you have those answers, teams get stronger, the mission clicks into place, and the path ahead becomes much clearer. Starting with why is the key to everything from putting a man on the moon to launching the iPod. Drawing on a wide range of fascinating examples, Sinek shows readers how to apply why to their culture, hiring decisions, product development, sales, marketing, and many other challenges. Some naturally think this way, but Sinek proves that anyone can learn how. 

Simon’s also written another book, Find Your Why, which you can find here

You are a badass by Jen Sinecero

You Are A Badass is the self-help book for people who desperately want to improve their lives but don’t want to get busted doing it. In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, bestselling author and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, serves up 27 bite-sized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word, helping you to identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviours that stop you from getting what you want, creating a life you totally love, and make some damn money already (the kind you’ve never made before). By the end of the book, you’ll understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass. It’s a great read.

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

Every time we are introduced to someone new, try to be creative, or start a difficult conversation, we take a risk. We feel uncertain and exposed. We feel vulnerable. Most of us try to fight those feelings – we strive to appear perfect. In a powerful new vision Dr. Brené Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability, and dispels the widely accepted myth that it’s a weakness. She argues that, in truth, vulnerability is strength and when we shut ourselves off from vulnerability – from revealing our true selves – we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives. Daring Greatly is the culmination of 12 years of groundbreaking social research, across every area of our lives including home, relationships, work, and parenting. It is an invitation to be courageous; to show up and let ourselves be seen, even when there are no guarantees. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly.

Brené Brown has one of the most watched Ted Talks (you can view it here) and her Netflix special was launched earlier this year (you can view the trailer here)

I thought It Was Just Me by Brené Brown

While we are diving into the inspiring world that Brené Brown opens us up to, we have another one of her books for you to read. 

The quest for perfection is exhausting and unrelenting. We spend too much precious time and energy managing perception and creating carefully edited versions of ourselves to show to the world. As hard as we try, we can’t seem to turn off the tapes that fill our heads with messages like, ‘Never good enough!’ and ‘What will people think?’ Why? What fuels this unattainable need to look like we always have it all together? At first glance we might think it’s because we admire perfection, but that’s not the case. We are actually the most attracted to people we consider to be authentic and down-to-earth. We love people who are ‘real’ – we’re drawn to those who both embrace their imperfections and radiate self-acceptance. There is a constant barrage of social expectations that teach us that being imperfect is synonymous with being inadequate. Everywhere we turn, there are messages that tell us who, what and how we’re supposed to be. So, we learn to hide our struggles and protect ourselves from shame, judgment, criticism and blame by seeking safety in pretending and perfection. Based on seven years of ground-breaking research and hundreds of interviews, I Thought It Was Just Me shines a long-overdue light on an important truth: Our imperfections are what connect us to each other and to our humanity. Our vulnerabilities are not weaknesses; they are powerful reminders to keep our hearts and minds open to the reality that we’re all in this together.

Girl, Stop Apologising by Rachel Hollis

I believe we can change the world. But first, we’ve got to stop living in fear of being judged for who we are.”

Rachel Hollis has seen it too often: women not living into their full potential. They feel a tugging on their hearts for something more, but they’re afraid of embarrassment, of falling short of perfection, of not being enough. In Girl, Stop Apologising, #1 New York Times bestselling author and founder of a multimillion-dollar media company, Rachel Hollis sounds a wake-up call. She knows that many women have been taught to define themselves in light of other people-whether as wife, mother, daughter, or employee-instead of learning how to own who they are and what they want. With a challenge to women everywhere to stop talking themselves out of their dreams, Hollis identifies the excuses to let go of, the behaviours to adopt, and the skills to acquire on the path to growth, confidence, and believing in yourself. Rachel’s written another inspiring book that we love, it’s called Girl, Wash Your Face and you can find it here.

Enjoy!

The top books that can help us slow down

Balance. Apparently we’re all meant to find it, embrace it and have it all of the time. The problem is, when we are busy it just ends up being yet another thing added to our ever-growing to do lists. The slow movement is one that isn’t new. There are cultures around the world that do not embrace being busy and rushing about and certainly don’t consider the idea of being stressed as a badge of honour. When we slow down we can take time to reflect on what’s important, see the bigger picture when we have problems, and find things that truly make us happy. 

In a effort to help you find a moment to yourself we have scoured the internet and collated a number of great books that all discuss the notion of slowing down. So pour yourself a cup of tea and find somewhere comfy to sit for five minutes for a readyou never know, it may be just what you need. 

Rushing Woman’s Syndrome by Dr Libby Weaver

In this book, nutritional biochemist Dr Libby Weaver explains the true cost of constantly rushing and the impact this can have on our health. Through these pages you’ll learn how and why your body interprets constant rushing as a ‘stress’, how an imbalanced nervous system may be causing you to gain weight or disrupting your sleep, why you feel tired but wired and how to identify if you have adrenal fatigue, whether stress might be behind your sluggish thyroid, how daily stressors may be affecting your sex-hormone balance and contributing to issues such as PMS, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, infertility, and debilitating menopause symptoms, why stress could be at the heart of your bloating, cravings or unpredictable appetite and how your emotional landscape holds the key to leading a fulfilling life without the need to rush. This book offers real solutions to restore your health, so that you can stay productive, healthy and energised in today’s world. Don’t let it take a health crisis to wake you up to change the way you’re living and get to the heart of what’s driving your rush, allowing you to live a more meaningful life that you love.

The flourish formula, and overachiever’s guide to slowing down by Courtney Pinkerton

Courtney Pinkerton reveals a simple yet comprehensive process that will help you slow down and accomplish and savour more of what is important to you. Courtney shares eight powerful mindset and mind-body techniques to help you break out of the “busyness fog” so you can contribute your unique professional and creative gifts and thrive in your personal life. The Flourish Formula is a bit of a self-care manual that every overachieving woman should read. Every page offers fresh insights about how to lean back before you can lean in. 

It’s about time by Valorie Burton

Our culture makes it so that even the most organised and efficient among us feels the pressure of the ticking clock and the possibility and regret of missing out. Modern life has evolved in a way that sets us up for stress, pressure, and overload. New norms and attitudes tap into deeply-wired psychological impulses that make it harder than ever to take control of your time. On top of that, many of us also have innate personality traits that make the struggle even worse. No wonder time can become a tyrant that leaves us chronically stressed and discontented. In It’s About Time, you can unlock an approach to life that bestselling author Valorie Burton calls “living timelessly.” You will come to understand the gradual changes that have led us to a place where having too much to do and too little time to do it is the norm, the vision for what it could look like if you were free from the stress of time and how to blast through the obstacles to those possibilities, and the practical steps to choosing the meaningful over the urgent so that your life is unhurried yet purposeful and reflects the values and impact that are unique to you.

It’s About Time helps you reimagine a life that is meaningful, at a pace that is natural, with a load that is doable and equips you with the tools to make it happen.

Ostro by Julia Nishimura

For some of us the way to slow down is not by sitting still, it’s by doing something…something meaningful. If you’re one of those ‘active slow downers’ then Ostro is for you. Since launching Ostro online in 2014, Julia Busuttil Nishimura has gained a strong and loyal following for her generous, uncomplicated, seasonal food. As an Australian of Maltese descent and a fluent Italian speaker, who is married to a Japanese man, Julia and her food represent everything that is good about modern Australian eating. She deftly brings together a broad range of cuisines and culinary influences using the very best produce on offer. This truly is good food, made by hand. Julia guides us through the uniquely satisfying experience of making pasta or pizza dough from scratch, clearly explaining the processes and demystifying the reasons behind them. She also shares plenty of simple, flavourful salads and one-tray bakes for days when time is scarce. Baking and desserts, too, needn’t be overly complicated – as Julia shows us, some of the best go-to recipes are the ones passed down the generations. But we also need the odd show-stopper on standby for special occasions! This is simple food that is comforting and generous in spirit. Slow down, take your time and enjoy it.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany: Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to a happiness project. With humour and insight, she chronicles her adventures during the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Rubin didn’t have the option to uproot herself, nor did she want to; instead she focused on improving her life as it was. Each month she tackled a new set of resolutions. She immersed herself in principles set forth by all manner of experts, from Epicurus to Thoreau to Oprah to Martin Seligman to the Dalai Lama to see what worked for her — and what didn’t. this is a great read. You can check out Gretchen’s other work here

The Art Of Simple by Eleanor Ozich

This book has the potential to be life changing. I read this in a day and absolutely loved it. When Eleanor Ozich moved to the outskirts of the city with her husband and young family she set about enjoying a much calmer way of life. Shedding unnecessary clutter and adopting a simpler style of living, Eleanor found herself with more time and energy to appreciate her family and friends and the natural beauty that surrounded her. In this, her third book, Eleanor shares recipes and ideas she has embraced in her quest to cherish life’s simple pleasures. Alongside recipes for nourishing meals you’ll find practical ideas to declutter your home, get your children to sleep and bring order to your day. There are also instructions for making natural beauty products and household cleaners, which promise to cost you less and be kinder to you and the environment. The author of My Petite Kitchen and My Family Table, in this book Eleanor unlocks the secrets to a more fulfilling life.

Enjoy!