Friday, 27 April 2012

Testing, testing, testing.... Penwizard's personalised books

This is the default setting for the book, Michela's copy had  "school"
instead of "playgroup", while the character had brown hair and eyes.

Two posts in a day??? Yes, I know, it might snow tonight... I'm really behind with my blogging so after publishing a rant, I'm attacking the backlog.

As regular readers know, I have spent the past three years or so reviewing products for a parenting website, but it's coming to an end as my daughter is five and there are fewer opportunities to test products (the last item I tested was a car seat as she still has to use one). Furthermore, products that are up for review are usually baby/toddler equipment, no toiletries or fancy products.  So it's down to my blog to review the products for school-aged children!

First up is a personalised book featuring Peppa Pig and my daughter. I ordered this from Penwizard after some customisation so the character beside Peppa looked more like Michela. I also typed a special message as Michela is very proud to be five. The book arrived pretty quickly and I showed it to her at bedtime. She was so excited to see her name in print she flapped her hands as if they were wings, a funny thing she still does. She is a big fan of Peppa pig, so she was really chuffed to share the pages with her favourite character.

We read it together (she has just started to read, so she needs a bit of help), then she frankly offered her opinions. Now, if you have a five year old, you will know that they are pretty critical, so any opinions she expressed doesn't mean that she didn't love the book.

So what was her criticism about? She liked the purple dress but fancied a green one, or even blue, the school's colour. The outdoor pages were missing the sun, flowers and some clouds. She also said that glitter would have been very nice.

Still the fact is that it's her own book, with her name on it and she is going to keep it forever....

Cold charity

I have volunteered at various charities and have occasionally seen and experienced some unpleasant things, but after having a rather shocking conversation with somebody who dismissed my occasional but regular volunteering by saying, "I don't really know you and you have been here only a couple of times", I'm feeling rather annoyed to put it mildly. I pointed out in a polite way that I was there more than a couple of times, but of course I didn't have a killer reply ready then (you only get those in hindsight). And to top the bill, my partner was "accused" in a veiled but still obvious way of switching a lower price on a puzzle at our local charity shop today. It beggars belief.

It just feels that being a volunteer is not unlike working for a company, you get bullied, treated unfairly and the ethics are as shaky as in the corporate sector. Several years ago I witnessed the verbal bullying of an individual coming from an ethnic minority group who was volunteering his time as a fundraiser. I didn't dare to say anything then, I was young, a bit naive and needed their references to apply for a job (I was fresh out of university). 

Even when this happened to myself at another charity I said nothing and left with good grace using an excuse. Why? Is it because I didn't want to harm an organisation that does good work? Later on I was bullied in my job and had to resign. I was working in a corporate environment and at least I was paid to take the crap, still I wish I did something rather than just resign and mention a personality clash in my exit interview.

But let's go back to volunteering, which is on the whole a really good thing to do as it helps a good cause, can provide you with new skills and open horizons. To be honest I had off-episodes in most charities I have volunteered, often from other volunteers. Lately I started to speak up when I don't agree rather than suffer in silence. I stay calm and say my piece, but I keep thinking of when I kept my mouth shut and regret it. 

On balance, for mums like me, volunteering is doing something great while on maternity leave or a way to get involved in the local community (children's centre, school, etc). When I started working again, I kept volunteering because it's such an enriching experience. You might do it for having something on the CV rather than just maternity leave, better your community and possibly get a character reference if applying for a job. But what if you get the mean treatment or it's difficult to get a reference? It's quite shocking how non-profit organisations can be no better than a profit organisation despite their assurances that they nurture their volunteers.

Still, despite all the off episodes, I still want to be a volunteer. If I stopped something would be missing from my life!