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Birmingham poet offers on-demand service for charity

UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 02 MARCH 2016

Birmingham City University academic Kate Thomas is using her poetic skills to help build a better future for some of the world's poorest children. 

Kate has set up Poems On Demand (P.O.D.) – a literary service that gives people the chance to commission a bespoke poem in return for a donation to support the work of Plan UK.

Athena SWAN

Birmingham City University

Plan UK works with children in 50 of the world's poorest countries so they can move themselves from a life of poverty to a future with opportunity.

Kate has recently written commissions for birthdays, Valentine’s Day, wedding anniversaries, an adoption celebration, retirement, Burns’ Night and a Bar Mitzvah – as well as a number of personal poems written to celebrate friendships and memories. Kate will also write to a poetic form of choice, from ditties, odes and limericks to free verse, ‘terza rima’ and sonnets.

As well as being featured in the journal ‘Envoi’ and the anthology ‘May Day & other poems’, Kate is currently working on her own collection of poems to be published in 2018. Kate has won several prizes for her own literary work, which is increasingly influenced by themes of landscape and memory. 

“I’m happy to hear from anyone who wants to commission work for a friend, lover, family member, colleague, team, community member or neighbour to mark or celebrate any occasion. 

“To fulfil a commission, I’ll ask for some essential information about the poem such as the subject, style, length and what they would like it for. As well as more details about the person, people or occasion it is for, I will often be sent a picture or photograph for further inspiration.” 

Kate works as a Research Fellow and Project Manager at Birmingham City University, where she is helping the institution work towards an Athena SWAN accreditation, which recognises commitment to advancing the careers of women in higher education.

Kate said: “Gender equality is important to me personally and I am fortunate that I am able to raise awareness of the issue in my professional life too through my work on Athena SWAN. 

“I became involved with Plan UK through their ‘Because I am a Girl’ campaign, when I sponsored an eight year old girl in Burkina Faso. ‘Because I am a Girl’ encompasses supporting girls’ rights to attend school – as well as campaigning against early and forced marriage – and this aligns with my commitment to gender equality issues in the broader context.”

Now Kate plans to find out first-hand how the money she has raised is helping communities. On Friday 11 March, she travels to Hanoi in Vietnam for a trip which includes a six-day hill trek, where she will visit Plan projects in the mountainous Thái Nguyên province.

Along the way, Kate will stay each night with families in remote villages and she will discover how Plan is working with communities to improve the education, health and sanitation for children in the northeast region of Vietnam.

Kate added: “This is my first trip to Vietnam and I know the trek will be arduous. However, I can’t wait to see the work of Plan for myself and learn how communities are being given the opportunity to move away from a life of poverty into a brighter future.” 

Plan has been working in Vietnam to build a better future for children since 1993. In partnership with communities, local authorities and the national government, Plan Vietnam works with children and their families in over 180 communities, running projects on early childhood care, child protection and disaster relief.

Senior Community and Events Officer Kevin Machin commented: “Plan has pioneered child sponsorship for 75 years, and in the UK today over 100,000 children are sponsored through us. Our ‘Because I am a Girl’ campaign is all about helping girls worldwide to realise their potential, and we are delighted that our supporters will get the opportunity to see the vital work that we do, and the positive impact that their donations are having on the children in these communities.”

Commissions for Poems On Demand can be submitted via the project's website, which includes details of prices and timescales. Donations are also being accepted through Kate’s JustGiving page.

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