I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Saturday, August 18, 2018



After six years, 363 blogs and 860,000 visits to this page, the time has come for me to have a go at penning the most important words I have ever written. If the next couple of thousand words find a way to hit the sweet spot, then this blog will transform hundreds of lives: maybe even thousands. And if the chosen words fail? Then I guess I will have failed as well.

When I first started writing this blog in 2012, my main intention was to promote my books. But things soon changed. Soon this page became a platform for flagging up all kinds of important stuff. When you work in a foodbank, you get a front row view of where things are going wrong. Abject poverty. Dreadful injustice. Withering addictions. Wrecked minds. Broken soldiers. People lost and never found.

For six years I have used this page to tell the stories of people the world seems to have forgotten. Discarded. Judged and dropped. People living out a semblance of a life in the twilight world at the bottom of the ladder.

Twice I blogged in desperation when First Base faced the prospect of running out of cash. On both occasions the community came through for us and we managed to survive. Which means we will get to help out twenty or so people with an emergency food parcel today.

And tomorrow.

And the day after that.

Over the last fifteen years we have helped out over 60,000 people in their time of need. Have we fixed every problem in their lives? Of course we haven't. We've put a band aid on the wound. Tided them over. Got them over a hump. Stopped them being hungry through a long cold night.

And there are times when we all need a band aid. A band aid stops the bleeding. A band aid solves the immediate problem. However it doesn't stop us from getting cut again. When someone hasn't eaten for a few days, food is their number one priority. Of course it is. When you haven't eaten for a few days, a food parcel can feel like the best thing in the world.

Have we changed any of the huge forces which are causing so many people to be unable to feed themselves? Of course we haven't. How can we? We are just a small charity in a small town. We don't make the weather. All we can do is provide umbrellas.

So why is this blog different? Let me have a go at explaining.

A year ago I was out and about walking the dogs with a BBC World Service podcast in my ears. The programme was all about the problems faced by Uganda and its young population. And out of a clear blue sky, a simple fact jumped into my head like an Israeli paratrooper.

It got my attention. Big time.

School girls in Uganda miss up to 25% of their education. Why? Because their families cannot afford to buy sanitary pads for them.

What a huge problem. And yet, it was a huge problem with an unbelievably simple solution.

Provide sanitary pads.

So I walked back home and played the podcast to Carol. 

She told me she had heard a remarkably similar programme from another developing country. Quite a co-incidence.

So what do you think? Do you think this is something we could try and help out with? In Africa? In Uganda?

She did. 

And we did - last November. 

We wanted to prove to ourselves it was possible to make a difference. Thankfully it was entirely possible. We met all kinds of great people and established a means to make things happen.

Instead of yet more words, I will refer you to the five minute video we have thanks to the kindness and talent of Al at Phantom Power films which is posted on a new website we have thanks to the kindness and talent of Creatomatic. It never ceases to amaze me how great people are.

Here it is.

So that was November. What happened next?


In Uganda lots of good things have happened at the Kamuganguzi Janan Luwum Memorial school. There have been big falls in both absenteeism and infections. As the word has spread of the availability of sanitary pads, more and more girls have joined the school. When we were there in November, there were 250 girls on the school roll. Now there are 330 girls. It looks like they have voted with their feet.

In Scotland, we have worked our way through the tortuous process of setting up a new charity. It has taken a while, but we've finally made it.

The Kupata Project.

'Kupata is Swahili for 'secure'.

We have an excellent team of Trustees - Carol, me, an accountant, an MSP, a local councillor and an African migrant.

Our ethos? Our mission statement? Well that is simple enough.

The Kupata Project will have
NO paid staff, NO fancy offices, NO overheads, NO travel expenses for trips to Uganda.

Basically we will only have two running costs. Very modest expenses for our two wonderful young volunteers in Uganda and the cost of producing a yearly set of accounts for OSCR - the Scottish Charity Regulator.

Otherwise every single, last penny we raise will be spent on providing sanitary pads to the girls.

Already there is a growing list of schools who are asking for help.

Over the next year we hope to gather plenty of evidence. Then we will be well set to make lots of applications for funding.

With luck and a following wind, we will make the Kupata Project fly.

A couple of final points.

For fifteen years, First Base has been in the business of giving out band aids. More and more and more band aids. And all the while things have kept on getting worse. And worse. There is nothing we can do to hold back the growing tide of need. We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure everyone who comes through our doors will receive the food they need to keep body and soul together. We have never turned anyone away in 15 years due to a lack of food and we are determined to keep this proud record going.

Happily, thanks to a successful funding bid to the Scottish Government, First Base now provides free sanitary pads from all the 25 locations which stock our food parcels across Dumfries and Galloway. This mirrors the situation across Scotland where the Government is about to make free sanitary ware available to all school girls and students. Only last week, North Ayrshire Council installed dispensing machines for free sanitary ware in the ladies toilets in every library. 

The Kupata Project faces a far greater challenge, but one we all feel inspired to take on. Providing sanitary pads for school girls in Uganda is all about investing in the future. The drive and creativity the young people of Africa show every day is truly something to behold. As the countries of the West get older and more and more exhausted, Africa's youthful millions are absolutely the future.

And education is everything.

Regular readers of this blog will know I tend to view most things through the lens of Scottish Independence. Fair enough. Ever since the Brexit vote, the Johnson/Rees Mogg brigade have been painting ridiculous pictures of some kind of re-awakening of the British Empire. In their arrogant, deluded imaginations they seriously seem to think all the old colonies will form a queue at London's door to go back to the good old days.

How completely and utterly ridiculous.

However, a very different future awaits an Independent Scotland. One day we will join the list of all those other countries who have found a way to free themselves from London Rule. One day we will also be an ex colony.

And then we will have huge opportunities to forge links with all the others. We will become a fellow traveller. A kindred spirit. A brother in arms.

Scotland and Uganda share much in common. We are both drop dead gorgeous places with vast untapped potential. We are both having to deal with the aftermath of being robbed blind and asset stripped by London. We both have our best years ahead of us.

Every girl who receives her first pack of sanitary ware also receives a post card carrying a very simple message.

'To you from the people of Scotland'

It is a message they will not forget in a hurry. Fair enough, London doesn't allow us any say on Foreign Policy right now. But it doesn't mean we can't make a start. Forge links. Build partnerships from the bottom up. Get the word out that Scotland is different. We aren't about nuclear weapons and illegal wars and rampant jingoism.

All of which means sanitary pads are not like band aids. Instead, they are an investment. An investment in the future of every girl who gets the chance of 25% more school. And an investment in the future of an Independent Scotland.

Well, I guess it's time for the nuts and bolts. 

£6 buys a year's worth of sanitary pads for a Ugandan school girl. If you want to make this happen, please follow the link below.

So. That's my best shot I guess. Time to light up, cross the fingers and hit the 'Publish' button. If you've made it this far, I guess you can see why this is by far the most important blog I have ever written. 

One more time. Here's the link.


  1. Is there a way to donate without handing all that data over to BT ?

  2. Hi Feargas. I guess there are three options. 1. You could make a bank transfer to our account - Barclays, The Kupata Project, Account number 73898210, Sort Code 202924. 2. You could send a cheque made out to the Kupata Project to Glenmill, The Glen, Dumfries, DG28PX, or you could send cash to the same address. Hope this helps. All the best. Mark

  3. Might be an idea here: to transfer to Uganda:

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