Saturday, 15 December 2018

Michelle Obama: Her Life After The Presidency

By Diana OrfaniLegends Report Contributor

The former First Lady is realising that "Home is where we make it" while striving to advocate for female education beyond her political duties.
Being the First Lady of The United States of America is quite something - having the world at your feet and getting the best of everything, enjoying the VIP treatment and lifestyle, mingling with dignitaries all over the world in an atmosphere of complete comfort and luxury. This is a life many would crave yet few experience. However, this is something which former First Lady, Michelle Obama is relieved to have left behind after her and Barack Obama left the White House in 2017. She is now concentrating on pursuing her goals and making a difference beyond the often restrictive White House walls.

With her long-awaited memoir ‘Becoming’ creating a buzz in UK and US, the former First Lady reminds us of the importance to keep on fighting for positive change as she once again launches an education-related program for girls: The Global Girls Alliance. Mrs Obama said:

“With the Global Alliance, we’ll lift up the grassroots leaders in communities all over the world who are clearing away the hurdles that too many girls face.”

Appreciating The Beauty of a Simpler Lifestyle

Since becoming a private American citizen, the former First Lady has not hesitated in expressing the joy of being able to do things at her own accord and living in a much more private household, without the international inspection and glare of the world. In an interview on the Ellen Show, Mrs Obama was asked by Ellen DeGeneres what she’s been up to lately and she revealed that she has been enjoying a more laid-back lifestyle outside the spotlight: “....hanging out. I wake up when I wake up”.

Adjusting to a new lifestyle may be a daunting thought, especially when becoming a regular member of society. Although, the Chicago native indicates there is more to cherish outside of the presidential bubble. Moments that are usually acknowledged as tedious by most ordinary people are perceived as the ‘coolest thing being a former First Lady of USA’ for Michelle Obama:

“The small things. It’s the small things,” she admits. “It’s opening my door and walking out and enjoying the weather and sitting on my patio.”

Ultimate Happiness Is In The Love And Affection of a Family…

However marvellous materialistic wealth might appear, Mrs Obama says that life after the Presidency has given her the precious chance to dedicate much of her time to her children. An aspect that she found difficult while being the First Lady:

  “It’s going to my girls’ game and just really being a mom,” she declared. 

In fact, in her recently published, memoir, she touches upon the fear she had for her two girls in the early period of them living in the grand mansion:

“I thought, what on earth are we doing to them? They’ve spent the majority of their life in the international spotlight, with all the criticisms and the judgements,” she said.

While we are generally sold on the myth in society and through the media that owning extravagant manors and elegant possessions are the answer to a perfect life, legends like Michelle Obama show us a different side. After living in the White House for almost a decade she says it's not the lavishness of a house that makes it valuable and grand, it's the love and affection between your nearest and dearest that truly makes it a home. Homes before houses and people before things:

"We are doing great. The girls are good", she says, currently living in   D.C.’s Kalorama neighbourhood. “We were in the White House for eight years, but it wasn’t the house, it was us in it. It was our values and our love for each other and we just move that to another house.”   

Making a Difference: Anyone Can Do It

Nevertheless, it’s taking a stand to create awareness and make a positive impact that Mrs Obama has identified as one of the great privileges of being in an influential position. One may think social activism is part of the job - that it’s nothing new or inspirational. Yet, the former First Lady has indicated that caring about people and causes does not stop there or need to be restrained to a political role. She points out that anyone can make a difference in many ways - without the requirement of an official public position:

“There are so many ways to make an impact,” she explained to audiences in New York City. “Find your passion. It’s up to you to determine what your message is and how you want to use your voice.”

Never Stop Fighting For What You Believe In

Post-Presidency, the Princeton graduate continues to participate in events promoting female education - pursuing her advocacy to the core. Making sure the changes do take place – no matter what. For the former First Lady, it’s girls such as Malala Yousafzai who encounter deadly dangers just to obtain an education which strengthens her determination:

“...right now, there are tens of millions of girls like Malala in every corner of the globe who are not in school - girls who are so bright, hardworking and hungry to learn”, she declares. “I plan to keep working on their behalf…for the rest of my life,” referring to women incapable of accessing education.

The Significance of Education Especially Concerning Women

With her most recent project to empower adolescent young women -  Global Girls Alliance - Michelle Obama is seeking for every girl around the world to have an education - rich or poor. Mrs Obama explains:

“When you educate a girl, you educate a family, a community, a country.” 

She acknowledges it as a way of girls being able to have a voice of their own, come into their own and reach their fullest potential. This derives from the belief of everyone being deserving to have a fine education regardless of their gender.

Being an influential and highly powerful individual definitely has its perks and many of us tend to yearn for such entitlement and privilege that legends have. Nonetheless, we tend to forget that sometimes what we perceive from the outside can be a deceiver of the eye.

The reality of the matter is that we often don’t appreciate the things we already have for the blessings that they are. Living in a private household and doing normal daily activities without having to constantly be watched over or critically scrutinized is what Mrs Obama treasures most.

Her life after the Presidency suggests it’s a person’s belief and desire in wanting to make a difference that counts, not the status they hold and it is the simplest things that truly make life extraordinary and special: love, passion, family and being of service to others.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

The Extraordinary Life

The Extraordinary Life

Photo Credit -
My name is Diana. My parents are from Afghanistan. I was born on 7th February 1997. I was born six months premature and as soon as I was born I had breathing difficulties, the doctor or nurse told my parents I could not breathe but they said they would give me three days. If I did not breathe or be able to revive in those three days, then, unfortunately, that’s it. Nevertheless, I was a fighter and fortunately, I started breathing on the third day and this all because of the Almighty, my beloved mother and family. Yet still, my legs were very similar to penguin legs and my head was too big, but my mother massaged my legs day and night as well as gave medicine to me for my head so it can be a normal sized head. She did this despite being sick (asthma) herself. Thus, today if I’m walking with legs that are straight and no longer like a penguin and have an average sized head it is all thanks to my loving and exceptional strong mother.  I love her dearly; she has done a lot for me which I’m forever grateful for and shall never forget despite her being ill.  

I’m a confident, bubbly individual with a strong mindset, positive attitude and a loving soul who just wants the best in life and to be able to leave behind an inspirational legacy on a global standard. I’m immensely passionate about acting and journalism especially feature writing, broadcasting and editing. Additionally, I enjoy reading novels and watching movies, mainly Bollywood and maybe Afghani. I’m blessed with two older siblings - both brothers. They both are blessed with normal appearances unlike myself. I’ve done all my schooling and education in the historical yet beautiful city of London. From Infant (Wembley Infant School) to University – London College of Communication Aka University of the Arts London and now a journalism graduate with experience. Although at first teachers were reluctant to provide me with a normal education as they believed I was going to be a danger to the pupils due to my physical appearance. They thought a special needs school was a better place for me instead.  Nevertheless, my mum fought for me. She informed them that I'm simply short but yet mentally stable and once they actually observed that with their own eyes I was enrolled in a normal educational system after all.  All throughout my educational years, I’ve been fortunate with fine understanding friends who have accepted my uniqueness and have just been supportive as well as friendly and caring.

I was born with Achondroplasia. It means I have a short posture – below average. I don’t mind being that way because I have been gifted with a lot more greatness in life. Although it does sometimes get to me and can be tough to live with yet still I have always been strong and learned to live with it. People in the street just stare at me and even ask about my unique appearance. I don’t mind when they do such things as they are bound to ask since it’s rare to see people with this kind of appearance. To those who have Achondroplasia or any kind of uniqueness that gets acknowledged as being different from the world and involves being faced with hardships at times. I would like to just say be strong, don’t give up; you can be anything you want in the future, enjoy your life, NEVER lose hope and keep smiling. 😉  

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Joys of Life without Alcohol

Featured Image provided by Donato Pirolo on Flickr via Creative Commons
A few friends and an atmosphere of chit chat and laughter. Chilling out and letting off some steam with a glass in hand. Enjoying the company with the occasional sip. The sip that soon turns into gulps with the aid of a bottle. Day and night, the glass in hand or the bottle in sight, every drop, a drop of destruction or ‘broken dreams’. Something, a redeemed recovered alcoholic, Jean Pierre understands brutally well but can still be unimmune to. Studies have found that alcohol has more ties to negative impacts than positive ones.

Drinking is not the most celebrated or encouraged, concerning health and addiction. Reportedly, 10.8 million adults are drinking at a level likely to pose a risk to their health. It may be fashionable in the west, though for alcoholics like Jean Pierre sobriety is the greatest intoxication. “Today I find a way of living where I’m satisfied with myself. When you come back from a dark place you enjoy everything because I’ve been to some very dark, very very very dark place”, he admitted, recalling his traumatic moments.

Alcohol can be very dominating. Making one believe every happiness lies within a bottle. Seeing solution and comfort in the product instead of family and loved ones. “I drank on a daily basis, what I felt to be enough alcohol to survive. The pursuit of money, was always high on my list of priorities when drinking. I thought that, without it, happiness would be difficult to find,” says George, a member of the Alcoholic Anonymous, an international mutual aid fellowship that helps alcoholics to gain sobriety.

Before redemption, Jean Pierre felt the same. His whole life revolved around liquor, heavily blinding him to see the real joys of life and value it. “People didn’t abandon me. I pushed them away because of all my drinking. The drinking was more important than anything else”, he says. It resulted in him straining his relationship with his former girlfriend to eventually being alone and abandoned. She couldn’t tolerate the constant boozing and bear life with someone who did not know their limitations and spirals out of control. A relationship he forever lost and could not rekindle. “Every human being likes to have a companionship…their own family. You got nothing. You lose everything”, Jean Pierre openly expresses, regarding the negative effect of alcoholism on his personal relationships. According to Alcoholics Anonymous, there are alcoholics that may hide their drinking from their colleagues and their families.

“People can become physically dependent on alcohol if they drink very heavily over a long period of time”, explains Maddy Lawson, Communications Manager of Alcohol Research, an independent charity which deals with alcohol-related harm. The redeemed alkie claims his alcoholism is a phenomenon of craving, not being able to be satisfied with a limited amount or acknowledge when it is suitable to stop. “I can never quench my thirst because it makes me feel better and makes me feel good”, he admits.

He firmly believes it is an illness, an alcoholic experiencing such a state could be a sick person that needs help.  Unfortunately, society fails to understand the severity of alcoholism and how difficult it is to fight it. “Alcohol is a disease. You got it and that is a disease but people don’t see, don’t understand”, Jean Pierre says.

The office administrator drank for 30 years, from the tender age of 14 until becoming a 44-year-old man. Now, twelve years of constant sobriety and Jean Pierre could not be happier, especially when it prevents him from hitting the absolute low again. From Park Lane, living the most lavish lifestyle, having the best of everything to being excluded from society and living in a hard-cold pavement, bench and doorway. The one aspect he will never forget and most significantly does not want to relive at any cost.  “I never wanted to end up on a park bench. Alcohol cost me to live on a street. People look at me and spit on me. When I sleep in the doorway some young drunks people piss on me”, he says. "I used to wear Armani suit. I used to eat in the best restaurant, here in London, in France, in Miami, in Los Angeles.”

It was the extreme level of Alcohol consumption and not being able to have some self-control that took its toll and put Jean Pierre in a critical position. He was heavily blinded by alcohol, not knowing right from wrong, becoming wild and uncontainable. Losing almost everything worthy and significant as well as loved ones. “I have a drink and I feel good. The problem is it makes me feel good for the first, second and third drinks. Then after that, I become disgusting”, he admitted. “The landlord kicked me out because I slapped a woman on the backside. Because I start to swear.” During his unpleasant phase of endless drinking, Jean Pierre was a proud owner of a restaurant as well as a restaurant manager and a chef. He lost it all due to alcoholism. "I never wanted to lose a job. I wanted to have a job where I will receive my paycheck but not P45 before my paycheck", he says.

There have been alcoholics who have attempted a free liquor lifestyle, not giving into temptation or at least tried to control it. “I was amazed at how difficult it was to stop completely. The longest I ever managed was three weeks without a drink”, explained Kevin, one of the members of the Alcoholic Anonymous. “The next time I tried to stop I found I couldn’t stop at all.” Some have even suffered a certain type of condition in the process. “On a few occasions when I had tried I suffered badly with DT’s. My best attempt was in December 2000. I stopped drinking early in the month and had a bad case of DT’s”, recalled George.

Charities dealing with Alcohol issues inform that having a blip can be off-putting and people should not be judgmental or dismissive of those that do have setbacks as the setback alone can make one feel bad enough. “The important thing is not to write someone off because they’ve started drinking again”, states Maddy Lawson.

For Jean Pierre, it’s the fear of not being able to stop consumption as well as the haunting memories of hitting rock bottom that has sustained him to not even have one blip. “If I had one, it is game over. An alcoholic must have a complete abstinence. If I start I never know when I’m able to finish. When I drink I lose control, I do a lot of things and blackout, I don’t remember the next day”, the recovered individual admittingly said. “So, I don’t want to go there because it’s very dark”, he continued.

Surprisingly, for someone who once sought immense comfort in liquor, the process of giving up was not too challenging either. It may have been hard but nothing tormenting. Jean Pierre genuinely believes it’s all about having a desire and wanting it to happen. “Everything in life we do need to start with a desire. There’s a lot of people who make it seem difficult for themselves. But I didn’t”, he says confidently.  I’ve got a desire, I make the decision, I put in action and now I’ve got the results.”

The experience of severe turmoil caused by excessive boozing has enabled Jean Pierre to truly be appreciative of life since being alcohol-free, having the control to do what the heart desires and not be stopped by a bottle. “A new freedom and a new happiness. That is life in sobriety”, he expresses with delight. “The bottle of broken dreams is no more broken dreams. Whatever I fancy and want to do that is the joy”. Cutting out alcohol has even given him the ability to value anything given, more than some other people will. “Live the same normal life and maybe better than some people who don’t appreciate what they got. Because today I’ve got the gratitude to enjoy. Because I didn’t have it at one stage”, he explains. “Alcohol took everything away from me.”

Jean Pierre is still vulnerable though and not completely resilient from liquor despite being sober and clean for twelve years. “I’m just recovered but I’m not bulletproof, I'm not cured. I’ve got some prayer, some meditation and reviewing my day. With that I’ve been put in a position of neutrality when it comes to alcohol”, he clarifies. It’s the regular treatment that has aided him to avoid having triggers otherwise he can easily be led astray.  “If I stop doing everything I need to do today and something happen in my life and I’m not spiritually fit than anything can be a trigger for me to have a drink”, he admits. “Even after years of not drinking, very few people would find it easy to avoid falling back into old habits or behaviours”, says Maddy Lawson.

Alcohol addiction or excessive drinking is not the ideal position to be in and life can indeed be beautiful and worthwhile without it. The satisfied recovered alcoholic Jean Pierre has found peace and comfort from feeling content and he will happily provide guidance to those who need it as he knows how devastating alcoholism can be and that an alcohol-free life is truly worth living. He believes that there is more to life than drinking liquor. It’s all about socializing, keeping busy and having something to do. “People will think there is only alcohol. There are other ways to escape or remove stress. Through socializing many things can be done. Everybody needs to find something they like to do in life”, he suggests.

A Life in the Day - Fashion designer & Support assistant, Sheree Robinson

A Life in the Day: the Fashion designer and Support assistant Sheree Robinson juggles between two careers and is succeeding really well. 

During the week, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays my day starts with supporting students in London College of Communication. I support them with their physical needs: carrying their equipment or books. I also sit with students to help them plan or structure their time so that they are organized and are not falling behind in their studies as well as writing notes for those who are entitled.

I am also a fashion designer, therefore, the other two days, Wednesdays and Fridays I may go to Central Saint Martins, a  public tertiary art school, to teach students how to knit and give them guidance. Some of the time I also go to Central Saint Martins for knit work.

In the evenings I spend my time mainly on my own knitting career: most of the time I do knitting parties, in bars and clubs located on the east and west side of London. It involves setting the table, giving a demonstration and a close-up view if needed, I do them through a company called Wool and the Gang that I also freelance for.

But when I get approached to knit materials for someone then I attend fewer parties and focus on trying to get the request finished. So far I have knitted for Derek Lawlor, small companies and as fashion week is approaching I’ll be knitting for those who are involved and would want clothes made. Additionally, for my freelance work, I attend meetings at The Prince’s Trust, they are helping to support my new knit work business.

When it comes to knitting nothing is the same every week:  teaching and giving guidance in the mornings depends on which day they need me or require my assistance. There even has been moments where I have had to go to St Martins instead of attending LCC.

Attending parties again depends on whether they need me or not, if they are holding an event for me to go and help them or if I am not busy knitting clothes for someone.  Therefore I never really know what is coming next or what I'm supposed to do, all I can say it simply changes.

So as you can see I have quite a busy schedule but when I do get some free time to myself I work on my own collection, knitting clothes such as hats, jumpers and much more. My dream, my absolute dream would be to be my own boss or self-employed: working on my own clothes, knitting them and selling them to the public. Having a proper income or wage. That would be absolutely amazing!


Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Migration Crisis

Migration Crisis
The illegal journey of a migrant towards Europe

She is sitting high up on a gentle comfy bed with casual yet stylish clothes surrounded by books, a table and computer with a relaxed posture and a smiley expression drawn on her face. It’s a total contrast from just a year ago when she was tolerating starvation, thirst and, the cold. Aisha Sharifi, afghan, was one of one million illegal migrants who came to Europe in 2015 to seek safety. The migration crisis became one of the top stories since 2015. “I regretted it so much because I saw the risk of death every situation”, she said, concerning the daunting experience.

Aisha left her beloved Afghanistan, as she was receiving threats and travelled to Pakistan, feeling anxious as it was travelling illegally. Once Aisha entered Iran her and her family got divided up into two cars and only Aisha’s car got stopped by the Iranian police. Her heart was beating rapidly. “When the Iranian police caught us I cried because they were permitted to shoot us", she recalled, calmly. She was taken into custody for three days. After paying off the Iranian police, Aisha was safely released and her nightmare continued getting worse. Her cousin also accompanied her on the trip. “It is a mistake to come through this way. But if one really need to they accept the greater risk of death with the very little chance of getting to Europe”, she said.

Aisha reached the border of Iran and Turkey at night, tired and hungry. She came across the mountains which she had to cross to get to Turkey. Reportedly two people died here of dehydration hoping to reach safety. Every step she took her feet trembled as you could just about put one foot after the other. Therefore, the chance of falling off was significant.  Witnessing 4 or 5 dead bodies lying on the mountains added to her fear. “I cried a lot when we were walking on the big mountains”, she said.

After surviving the mountains, she finally reached Turkey. Her next journey involved crossing the Aegean Sea to get to Greece. Reportedly over 800 died in the Aegean crossing from Turkey to Greece. When Aisha sat on the puffy boat her heart began racing rapidly again with a tensed expression drawn on her face as the boat was small and there was a lot of people. They all mostly feared that the boat could possibly sink or stop, chanting their prayers silently and holding their loved ones close. Unfortunately, their doubt did soon become a reality when the boat suddenly stopped in the middle of the sea. “We thought we would drown”, said Aisha.

They sought help from the police boat despite the fact that they would get arrested for 2 months as their travel was still considered illegal. “We thought rather than dying it’s better that they save us”, said Aisha. Miraculously, though, the boat started to function again as other passengers tried to fix the machine and they continued on. “We were very close to getting rescued by the police. If the machine would’ve have not started up the situation would have been much worse”, recalled Aisha. When Aisha arrived at the Island of Greece she sought asylum and stayed in a camp. Then another boat took her to the capital of Greece.

From then on she moved from country to country taking the Train and Bus until she eventually reached Germany. Her uncle was amazed that she made it to Germany. “At first I could not believe that she made it to Germany, safe and sound. The approach she took to get here was truly courageous”, he said. Now when Aisha reflects back on her journey she still feels down. “Now when I recall those moments I get upset as I faced a lot of hardship. But then again I feel extremely elated too as I have been given a chance to live a safe life in Germany”, said Aisha.  

The coffee spilt incident!

                                                         The coffee spilt incident!

A few stairs down from the workshop area there are sounds of chatter and laughter, consistent tapping of kitchen objects and the smell of rich coffee that has risen from the coffee machine,
filling up the atmosphere with its strong fragrance. It's lunch hour at the Tygon café. Students tip tapping and making their way to the long queue, eager to have a snack or a drink. One by one they wait patiently, distracting themselves with their smartphones or by interacting with their friends as the queue barely reduces and moves along. Making one in particular individual very intolerant and frustrated. “Right, that’s it. I can’t take this any longer!”

This particular individual is a student. Stood with their back fairly bend with a tired and fed up expression drawn on their face. Moving out of the queue and making their way towards the counter. But as the student almost reaches the counter they are oblivious of the person, wearing a grey hoodie, walking in their direction which results in them colliding into one another, allowing for the unthinkable to take place. In a matter of moments, the student’s chest turns red and redder. The coffee has been splattered on their top. “I’m so sorry”, said the person, looking in disbelief. “I honestly did not see you.” “You burned me!”, exclaimed the student, in a rage of anger.  The person was getting fairly worried as they did not want to get in an even deeper trouble. A staff member walks into the scene, a mop and bucket in his hand. “Look, go to the medical room”, he said. “You will be okay”. He reassured the student and then began mopping the floor.

The student made his way out and the person followed them, wanting to apologise. “Look, mate, I truly am sorry. I did not see you. Is there anything you want me to do for you?” The person really tried to make amends, but the student was having none of it. “Please just leave me alone”, pleaded the student.  “You really hurt me…actually, you scarred me!” The student walked off and the person realized there was no point in trying again. With great remorse, they took one last look at the student then walked off towards the workshop block, head hung down.