Interview with Rebecca Beesley, Ooffoo Laureate Finalist

This is a copy of the article published on the ooffoo website. Original available from


Interview with Rebecca Beesley

Posted by: ooffoo

We recently announced the winners of the Ooffoo Laureate 2010 Competition, and we were so entranced by the letters that the judges selected to take 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, that we wanted to find out more about the authors. We want to know what inspires them, what their passions are and what drives them, so we arranged to hook up for a chat.

Here’s what happened when we chatted with Rebecca Beesley, who came 3rd in our competition with her entry, The Invisible Graveyard:

Your letter was so thought provoking and humbling, and at times raw because you told that truth so frankly and without apology. We’re so glad that you told it like it is – it was so powerful. Tell us more about how you decided to write about this.

To be honest I was worried that my letter would be seen as too negative for the competition because it is about a tragic subject but at the end of the day that is what is happening out there everyday and my belief is that if people knew about it, they will do something positive about it to speak up for these children.

I think if each person sees it in a way that makes it real for them, then they can’t turn away from it or ever forget about it. For me that moment came a few years ago when I discovered that the population of the town where I live is around 30,000 people. It is also around 30,000 children under the age of 5 who die unnecessarily around the world each day and society tolerates it. We would not tolerate it if we woke up to find the population of Tonbridge wiped out in a day, would we?

You mentioned in your letter that you sponsor children in the developing world. Would you mind telling us about your experience?

We were prompted by hearing Tony Campolo speak 7 years ago. He challenged us with the question – ‘if you don’t sponsor a child, why not?’ and we realised we had no excuses. It is such a small sacrifice to make with such a huge reward of saving a child’s life. What can we buy for less than 70p each day that is more worthwhile than that. For example, it costs less than a cup of coffee on the way to work, it costs less than a daily newspaper, such a small amount in our world can make a world of difference to a child who is on the brink of starvation.

We have been so privileged to get to know our sponsored children by exchanging letters and photos. They are now growing up to be amazing young men and women with hopes and dreams of bringing change to their communities and helping others. And because they have experienced their own life being transformed from one without hope to having a future, they know it is possible for others in their community too.

Our own children have benefitted from the experience as they are now reaching an age where they can write letters and draw pictures to send and they get to find out about how other people live around the world which we hope will help them make wise choices in life.

Where is your favourite place in the world and why?I have not travelled much in my life – but I would love to visit Nicaragua where one of our sponsored children lives. Even at the age of 8, she is one of the most inspirational people I have ever known. My dream is to meet her one day to thank her for how amazing she is. I just know she is going to be a world changer!

Do you have a favourite book, and if so what is it, and why do you love it so much?

With 2 little ones of my own and childminding 13 others over recent years (not all at the same time I hasten to add), I have not had much time to read. I do love the Narnia stories though – there is so much truth and love and life in them, all disguised as a fictional story. My husband tells me “The last battle” is the best one – so that is my book to read over the school summer holidays.

Can you tell us about your personal journey?That’s a tricky one to know where to start – not that there is anything particularly amazing to tell – but just where to start –

I grew up in Brighton and loved the beach – it is always available to all and you can go there anytime, whatever the weather, day or night and just “be”.

I met my husband at University in Bath and I knew straightaway that I had found my soul-mate. We even got married whilst still at Uni which others found a bit unusual but 10 years on I have no regrets about it.

Worked in Market Research until I left to start a family.

Becoming parents made us really see what is important in life – to find that you are overwhelmed with so much love for this little baby that you could never even imagine having so much love in you is just amazing. And then to find that amount of love doubles for when the next baby comes along is beyond my understanding but it happens.

Sadly, I lost my Mum very suddenly before having my boys and I just wish she could have known them. I have told them so much about her that they do often talk about “Granny Pari” even though they never actually met her.

What 3 issues are you most passionate about?Issue 1:
The most obvious comes through in what I wrote about – the tragedy of so many children dying and the world as a whole doing little about it even though it is entirely preventable. One of the frustrations I feel as a childminder is reading so much about government policy on ‘every child matters’, children’s rights, safeguarding children, equality and diversity and so on – and whilst it is crucial to get it right for the children directly in our care, it just feels so hypocritical to say that we believe in these things and yet not extend them to believing that every child matters wherever they may be in the world.

Issue 2:
Another issue much closer to home is that I have recently become aware of so many children locally being failed by their school. My eldest son has been diagnosed with having Asperger’s syndrome and he was treated so badly by his old school for a year and a half due to their critical and unsupportive attitude before he changed schools. During that time our whole family nearly fell apart due to the schools incorrect ‘advice’. His new school has been amazing – they actually do care about each individual child rather than just their own school image. His quality of life has improved beyond recognition just by changing him to a school that cares about him, helps him with his struggles and accepts him for who he is. The sad thing is I know of at least a dozen other children locally facing similar problems and not knowing who to turn to as they can no longer trust their school.

Issue 3:
I would have a lot more respect for organisations who would make a full commitment to fair-trade. In particular I am concerned about child-traffiking where children are bought and sold for horrendous purposes – child labour, slavery, child prostitution, forced into being child soldiers and so on.

I have tried to buy traffic-free chocolate – but it is not always clear cut. Why have the co-op only made their “bar” chocolate traffic-free? I celebrated when Cadbury’s made Dairy Milk traffic-free but that doesn’t seem to extend to all the dairy milk products within their range (again only the main Dairy Millk bars). The same goes for Green & Blacks – why only some of their chocolate? Their cocoa powder is fair-trade but their chocolate spread isn’t. I know some may argue it is better that they are doing something rather than nothing but I just can’t understand why they prefer to go to the trouble of sourcing two-types of cocoa rather than making it simpler for themselves and for consumers by sourcing it all ethically.

I know a lot of consumers, particularly the Ooffoo community are doing a lot to drive fair-trade, but I wish the suppliers would do more to expedite the pace of change.

Do you have faith in mankind?

Absolutely! I wish I could have more faith in the few who make the big decisions for the many, but mankind as a whole – yes.

If you could have a picnic with anyone in the world – alive or dead (you would be alive, we just mean that you can pick anyone even if they’re dead!) – who would it be and why?

That one is easy – Jesus. Just to thank him for his amazing love for me. He has so much compassion for everyone whatever their circumstances.

Do you have a favourite film, and if so what is it and why do you love it the most?

Lorenzo’s Oil. I can’t watch it anymore though as I just cry all the way through it. I suppose the reason I love it is that it is based on a true story, it shows the family’s love for their child so well and it proves that one person can make a difference to the world, against all the odds.

Think about your favourite school teacher – why was he/she your favourite?

I don’t remember having a favourite school teacher. I do remember the difference between going to a school that cares for each individual and one that treats you as a number. I remember feeling the shock going from a college where the teachers made a real effort to get to know you right from your initial visit to going to University where no-one seemed to personally care about you.

Can you tell us one thing that you like about yourself, and one thing that you’d change?

If others are asked one word that describes me it has always been “conscientious” – and I suppose that’s not a bad thing so I guess that is one thing I like about myself. There are lots of things I would change, for example I wish I could worry less, I wish I was self-confident, I wish I was assertive, I wish I was more thick-skinned.

What would you change about the world if you could change just one thing tomorrow to make it a better place?

Give everyone a heart of love to make people a priority, not possessions, and not their own agendas.

How urgent do you feel this issue is?I think it would certainly have a knock-on impact on so many other issues.

What has been your proudest achievement in life so far?My children – I adore them for who they are but I am also proud of what they have achieved. Josh did a sponsored walk for charity when he was just 3 years old and raised over £300. He even made the front page of our local paper! Daniel is just a natural worshipper – he seems to have a musical gift even at his young age.

What do you aspire to achieve in the future?

I would love to leave the world having made a difference and achieved my purpose here – even if it is just my boys knowing how much their mum loves them and believes in them so that they can go on to fulfil their purpose.

And finally, is there any one particular message that you would like to send to our community?

It was thanks to the fantastic Ooffoo community that has got me to being here having this interview. I have been so inspired and encouraged by this wonderful group of people who are so committed, so passionate and determined to make a difference.

I once heard it said that “the way society is, is not the way society has to be” and I applaud the Ooffoo community for believing this.

Thank you so much Rebecca for taking the time to speak with us – it’s been a real pleasure to get to know you a bit better. We wish you the best of luck in all you do and we hope to ’see you around’ in Ooffoo.


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