What is HRF?

We would like to start by telling you what HRF is from scratch. This does not mean that all we have said to date is invalid, we simply want to restate. For 12 years, we have generated a lot of information resulting from our research, and we now want to make it available more widely. We also want to take advantage of our new, improved website and we are bringing it to your attention so that you can use it when necessary. Let’s begin!

1. What is HRF? An International Think Tank based in London. Sometimes, another immediate question follows: What is a think tank? A laboratory of ideas that launches lines of thought into society.

2. What is HRF’s aim? We seek a ‘social revolution’ in the home environment or as our slogan says: we want to renew the culture of the home.

3. What does that mean? Well, homes are very important for society and many people have neglected them for some time, so we want to encourage people to return to giving homes all the attention and care they deserve.

4. How are you going to achieve this ‘social revolution’? We have two clear lines of action: theory and practice.
The theory is simply to demonstrate through research with academic institutions and prestigious disciplines, the importance for society of the work involved in running a home, for example, for the health of its members or the global economy. For this reason, we do research and organize Experts Meetings, Symposiums, Academic Conferences or Policy Events. We think it is the most appropriate way to put the issue on the public agenda and open the dialogue with policymakers.
The practical part is what allows us to influence the reality. Based on the information obtained in the research we have conducted and knowing people with expertise in the ‘day to day’ of the home, we train all those who want to learn about or want to improve, the management of their home to build a happy home little by little.

5. And why do you think a think tank like yours is necessary? Simply because the figures show the following:

– Increase in mental disorders in children
– Increase in malnutrition
– Increase in the number of grandparents living in care homes
– Reduction in families who eat home-cooked food
– Increase in the number of hours children spend alone in front of the television or other screens
– Fall in reading among the younger population
– Reduction in the time that parents spend with their children
– The difficulty of work/life balance.

This scenario could make us feel very guilty or push us to blame society in general, but it would be useless. The good thing about stopping to analyse and observe the problem is that we can diagnose it and try to solve it.

Neither the migration of women into work, nor the appearance of new technologies, nor other external factors are the problem, they are simply new actors with whom we will be living for the foreseeable future. And we should simply adapt to the circumstances, and train as well as possible, to use all those new resources in the most efficient way in the management of our homes.

And that’s why HRF is working every day. To detect problems and try to offer solutions through dissemination, training and dialogue.

Now, we hope you understand what HRF is doing. Then, if it seems appropriate, let people know, tell all those who think they may need a little help in the management of their home. And tell us what aspect or area of the home you are worried about, and we will try to investigate it, to demonstrate to the world the importance of the work involved in building a home.

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HRF gains UN recognition

In 2016 HRF launched the Global Home Index research project with the aim of finding out what people think about the work required to run a home. It was a challenging project managing a survey that countries throughout the world could take part in and we gained a real insight into how the work of the home is perceived across the globe.

We allied ourselves with strong academic institutions in research and dissemination, which in turn involved a great deal more partners to analyse the huge amount of data. Our joint efforts finally bore fruit and throughout 2017 we were able to present the results of this global research in more than 20 different countries.

Today we are very happy to announce that the Global Home Index has gained formal recognition by the UN and been included in their list of activities over the past year presented to the Secretary-General. We are delighted that an institution of this standing deliberates and takes notice of our work. We are happy and grateful and may we continue to grow from strength to strength in our forthcoming projects.

Thanks also to all those who participated because without your time and effort this would not have been possible. Here is the United Nations report.

Feel good food

With all the hoo-ha about hormones and antibiotics in our meat, it’s hardly surprising that ‘flexitarianism’ is the new vogue. ‘Flexitarians’ apparently eat a vegetarian diet most of the time but splash out on ethically sourced organic meat occasionally.

Addressing the 4th International Conference ‘The Home, a place of growth, care and wellbeing’ at the Royal Society of Medicine in London in November, Dr Timothy Harlan emphasised the proven health benefits of a Mediterranean diet. It traditionally composes of very little meat, some fish, fermented dairy, wholegrain, pulses and an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. American Professor Michael Greger goes a step further claiming that all meat and dairy are bad for us – as harmful to our health even as smoking! Others advocate a ‘paleo’ diet consisting of food that early civilizations hunted or gathered such as lean meat, eggs, fruit, nuts and seeds.

Whatever our food fads, with grocery deliveries direct to our doorstep and hosts of online recipes boasting hearty meals in half an hour,  it’s never been so quick and easy to prepare nutritious home-cooked dinners. And it doesn’t have to break the budget to eat healthily – a shopping bag full of vegetables can be bought for the price of just one ready meal. Meat and fish may be expensive but if you can stomach the alternatives such as lentils, beans and soya products they’re a fraction of the price and quick to prepare with many dried pulses not requiring any pre-soaking.

The secret is in planning ahead –  deciding menus at least a week in advance means it’s not much trouble to turn out tasty dishes in no time and sit down to a relaxing meal with family or friends.

Thank you Peter for all your support

It is with great regret that we announce the death of Peter Denis Sutherland SC, one of our patrons. Thank you Peter for all your support. Rest in peace.

We are transcribing the Announcement from the family of Peter D Sutherland SC:

Peter was 71 years of age and died at St. James’s Hospital, Dublin on Sunday January 7th in the presence of his family. He is survived by his loving wife Maruja, née Cabria Valcarcel, his children Shane, Natalia and Ian, ten grandchildren, his sisters Jill and Karen, his brother-in-law David Brennan, his daughters-in-law, his son-in-law, his wider family and friends. He was pre-deceased by his parents Billy and Barbara and his brother David.

Peter suffered a cardiac arrest in London on Sunday 11 September 2016 on his way to Mass at Brompton Oratory. He was substantially impacted by this and was in hospitals in London and Dublin since then. Despite great efforts by his medical staff and his own indomitable spirit, he succumbed to an infection.

Peter was born in Dublin on April 25, 1946. He went to school at Gonzaga College SJ which helped to instil a strong religious faith and where he formed lifelong friendships. He studied law at University College, Dublin and at the King’s Inns. He was called to the Bar in 1969 and practiced law until 1981 when he became Attorney General of Ireland. He was a member of the European Commission from 1985 to 1989. Between 1989 and 1993, Peter was chairman of AIB plc and a director of CRH plc and GPA. From 1993 to 1995, he was Director General of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and subsequently the World Trade organisation. He was subsequently a Partner at and Chairman of Goldman Sachs International and Chairman of BP plc among numerous other roles in the commercial and not-for-profit sector. In 2006, he was proud to be asked to be United Nations Special Representative on Migration by then-Secretary General Kofi Annan. He was renewed in that role by Ban Ki-moon. In 2015, Peter retired from all commercial activities to concentrate on his UN work.

Shane Sutherland, Natalia McEnroe and Ian Sutherland said:

“Above all things, Peter was a family man, totally in love with our mother Maruja from the moment they met almost 50 years ago. He was a wonderful father: loving, teaching, playful. We are consoled that in his last year we were able to repay some of his love and kindness.

“Next for Peter came his faith and his country and, finally, his belief in the European project as a route to peace, prosperity and justice for all.

“He was a devout Catholic. This didn’t make him doctrinaire. Instead, it gave him a lifelong instinct for charity and volunteerism. It wasn’t just about writing the cheque – he wanted to be with people. In the year before the onset of his final illness, he ceased his business activities and devoted himself to working with migrants, many of whom were in wretched circumstances. It was never an easy cause and rarely a popular cause. We were so proud that our father worked for the poorest of the poor.

“We were also so proud of his patriotism whether manifested through supporting his beloved Irish rugby team, his support of education at Gonzaga, UCD, Trinity or elsewhere, his formal and informal service to Irish governments of all hues and his work with the Ireland Fund of Great Britain which he was proud to chair and support.

“Others noticed his success in public life and his material success from business. We loved Papa because he was devoted to us and we to him.”

New family dynamics- the advent of the Granny nanny

There’s a quiet revolution visible across Britain, repeated throughout the world – the rise of the Granny nanny.

Grannies and Grandads can be seen pushing buggies up and down the country, meeting children from school and accompanying youngsters to sports centres or after-school clubs. While it’s nothing new, it’s certainly on the increase with many mothers finding they need to return to work to provide a roof over their heads or save up the deposit for a mortgage. Because of exorbitant nursery fees, grandparents are now stepping into the role of child minders.

Research by the International Longevity Centre UK has found that grandparents save their families an average £1786 a year in childcare costs, which equates to a national figure of £16.1 billion. Nine million grandparents spend at least eight hours a week looking after grandchildren, while 2.7 million of them are heavily relied upon to regularly provide childcare.

But there’s a win-win on all sides. Having swapped the sedentary lifestyle of the archetypal  grandparent for full-on nannying, they juggle housework with keeping the baby clean, fed and entertained.  Exuberant toddlers can be exhausting but very entertaining. Grandparents invariably find they are getting fitter and feel more contented and working parents appreciate their help and feel under less of a strain, knowing their children are being lovingly looked after and they don’t have to worry if they’re delayed by traffic on the way home.

The children benefit the most with one-to-one care, often lacking in a crèche full of infants, whereas with both grandparents helping out they receive a double dose of love and attention. A friend who used to help in a primary school said the teacher told her she can tell straight away the ones who have spent all their preschool years at nursery as they constantly distract their classmates and crave the teacher’s attention simply because it wasn’t there when they needed it from parents and siblings.

Extended family nearby is ideal for child support but I know of one middle-aged mum who commutes by train and stays a couple of nights with her daughter in London to child mind three days a week and another who makes a 20-mile round trip when needed to meet her grandchildren from school.

While some understandably don’t want to be tied to providing daycare for their grandchildren, others seek out the opportunity to become surrogate grannies. A friend with grown up children loves the company of little ones so much that she volunteers to meet them from the local nursery to save their mums the stress of rushing to be back in time. Another lady, who used to look after her two granddaughters full time, also stood in as babysitter for most of the children in her road. Now in her eighties, her neighbours affectionately refer to her and her late husband as the “grandparents of the street”.

What’s more, according to European research presented by UN advisor Renata Kaczmarska at ‘Home: a place of growth, care and wellbeing’ conference in London last week, among grandparents who actively care for their grandchildren “mortality rates are 37% lower.” And it’s across the board, whatever their socio-economic status, age or health issues.  The Evolution and Human Behaviour report states: “The neural and hormonal system – originally rooted in parenting and thus grandparenting – that is activated in the process of caregiving has been suggested as a potential proximate mechanism that promotes engagement in pro-social behaviour towards kin and non-kin alike.  Evidence and theory suggest that activating this caregiving system positively impacts health and may reduce the mortality of the helper.”

So surrogate grannies can live longer too!

“Grandparents who care for their grandchildren live longer”, says Renata Kaczmarska of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs

The Home Renaissance Foundation held its 4th International and Interdisciplinary Conference on 16-17 November in London. The event aimed to discuss the vital role of the home in health and wellbeing, both for individuals and for society as a whole.

Participants from more than 15 countries gathered at the prestigious Royal Society of Medicine to discuss a variety of topics which ranged from the benefits of inter-generational interaction in the home to the power of healthcare professionals to promote healthy behaviour in their patients.

Noted speakers included Sir Harry Burns who spoke of the importance of a nurturing family as the basis for a successful life, and Baroness Sheila Hollins who emphasized the need to change paternalistic attitudes towards people with learning disabilities as “it’s fundamental that we all have a right to a family life and this includes children and adults with developmental learning difficulties”.

Professor Elizabeth Robb OBE gave an insightful talk on the importance of healthy family relationships as the foundation for a stable life, as “relationship education is incredibly important to prevent cycles of aggressive and violent behaviour”. Dr Timothy S. Harlan (Dr. Gourmet) from the USA emphasised the benefits of a Mediterranean diet and the advantages of preparing healthy food at home. Renata Kaczmarska of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs addressed the impact of family policies and the need to support parents in the home, including the thought-provoking finding that “grandparents who help care for their grandchildren have a 30% lower risk of mortality and better physical health than those who do not participate in giving care”.

These matters are especially relevant in a world that has seen rapid change and an increasing prevalence of mental health issues. Despite the great variety of topics discussed, a common theme emerged: the importance of a stable, safe home that provides emotional support, empathy and respect. The home is not simply the physical space where we live, but a complex concept that has an incalculable impact on our physical and emotional health and on society as a whole. A home should be safe, nurturing and valued, and governments have a huge responsibility to implement policies that support this.

Home Renaissance Foundation works to raise awareness and recognition of the work of the home and the benefits of stable homes for society.

International lawyer Miriam González Durántez has called for greater recognition of the invaluable work of the home

Home Renaissance Foundation and its UK-based partner, Mothers at Home Matter, launched the results of the British Report of the Global Home Index at the House of Commons.

The guest speaker, Miriam González Durántez applauded the fact that a very substantial amount of our GDP is generated through the support network of the home but said “historically the home has been run by women who didn’t have any power in society. Their contribution has gone therefore unrecognised.”

Following the idea of British journalist Colin Brazier, of Sky News UK, the survey is a comparative study measuring perceptions on the work of the home in 20 countries.

According to the study, answered by over 9, 000 people worldwide, around 60% of participants strongly agreed that homemaking can teach skills applicable to other areas of life. However, at present few families appear to be regularly distributing tasks amongst themselves (15-25% of those surveyed).

One of the lessons to be learnt from the home study includes healthy eating. With almost half of participants claiming to routinely cook homemade meals, many clearly recognise that the home is a critical source of nutrition and paves the way for future dietary awareness. Miriam González relates strongly to this since she feels absolutely satisfied being a homemaker and having built her own home. Her greatest recognition comes from their boys and she joked:  “I am a Spanish Mum so I find myself doing the same things my mother did and with the same ruthlessness. My boys will recognise that, as far as they are concerned, no-one cooks as well as their Mum!”

One of the things that was discussed when the dialogue was opened was the meaning of success. “I am not more or less feminist for following my husband and leaving my job in Brussels because the decision was born from my freedom of choice”, Miriam González Durantez said.

According to Miriam González Durantez, the concept of success is changing. She would not be a successful woman if one side of her life failed. Both family and professional lives should come together to consider that it is a success. She recognises that her success comes not only from her effort and hard work but the environment where she grew up.

The research points out that the home must be considered in the design of future public and corporate policies. And it should serve as a reference point when considering the societal benefit of a new policy.

Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton, who hosted the event, confirmed that she and David Burrowes have lined up a meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss future policy that puts the family first.

Event at the House of Commons

The launch of the Global Home Index results will take place on November 6th at the House of Commons in London. Due to the General Election, the event had to be rescheduled and we would like to thank MS. Fiona Bruce, member of Parliament for her hosting and giving us this opportunity. It will be an honour to present the findings of this international research in order to show the reality of the work of the home in the United Kingdom and around of the world.

So far, United States, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, El Salvador, Portugal, Italy or Spain are only some of the countries where HRF and our two main partners have presented this first report.

We are very pleased to announce that the lawyer Mrs. Miriam González Durántez, Mr. Nick Clegg´s wife, will be our honorary speaker. She is co-chair of the firm’s International Trade and Government Regulation practice at Dechert.

More than 9,000 people from 94 countries across 5 continents participated in this Global Home Index study which you can find here. This first report is a comparative study of 20 countries on the recognition of the work of the home. Please click here to participate, your view makes a valid contribution to society.

Agenda

  • 1.30-2.45pm.: Light lunch refreshments

Jubilee Room at House of Commons

  • 2.45-4.14pm.: For Presentation & Discussion

Committee Room 16 at House of Commons

Less is more, or not!

The more children you have, the less quality of life? Think again!
I have a friend who is something else. I don’t usually brag about friendships but I can’t help giving this dear friend a special mention.  Regardless of the particular country where I happen to be working or visiting, the circle of friends in which I find myself – be it a family reunion or a discussion about children and family life – my friend immediately springs to mind. Some people call her and her husband crazy but I haven’t noticed a constant stream of what might be classed ‘sensible’ people in my travels.

Each time she says she has a big announcement to make, you know in your heart it must be the news she has been sharing with us for a number of years – that they are expecting another baby. They now have 9 children – and as you come to get to know each child, your whole perception of what it means to be part of a large family changes.

The first comment people usually make when I talk about the family is “Of course they will surely be from some radical religious group?” And I am amused because my answer is, “I don’t know or care, but what I do know is that they belong to a group of people who possess a quality we should all imitate -generosity.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean that their like-minded group of friends have equally large families but, economics aside,  they are all generous and give of themselves completely. I might not pass that test of sheer selflessness.

When you walk through their front door it immediately feels like a home. The first thing that hits you is the buzz and vibrancy of children offering to help. The disorder expected is non existent as everyone has a designated role to play, something they’ve been taught from a young age. Their five-year-old was setting the table, taking dishes from the cupboard at his height level and carefully arranging the knives and forks on the table. I could have offered to do it for him but I thought better of it.

There’s no need to speak about equality in this house because clearly, their home belongs to everyone. Their sons and daughters divide the chores equally and both parents manage to work outside the home, neither having to give up their chosen profession.

People often ask me if they have lots of nannies and are rich to afford so many children. The answer is negative to both those questions. But sometimes I don’t even bother to answer as it’s clear that, even after explaining everything, they still don’t understand that a team of 11 is much stronger than a team of just 3 – for prejudices of this nature are hard-wired into the human brain.

 

The rise of the plastic home

plastic-bottles-photo

By Joanna Roughton.

I recently recorded a video diary for a TV news item.

It involved a week in which my family and I would try and cut back on the use of plastic in our home.

The TV producers wanted to underline to viewers just how much single-use plastic we throw away.

Because, when things like plastic bottles, containers and wrapping end up in the bin, they often find their way into our seas.

Once in the ocean, the plastic enters the food chain. On current trends, by 2050, the amount of plastic in the sea will weigh more than all the fish.

So a problem then.

How did we get on?

Well, the first thing to say is that when you try to abstain from using something, you recognise the scale of the problem.

It’s a little like giving up wine for Lent. You might not succeed, but at least you acknowledge how much you’ve been getting through.

Perniciously, the amount of single-use plastic we use grows year on year.

When I was a child, the milkman delivered our milk in bottles. Now it comes in plastic. Years ago, when you bought a soft drink you paid a deposit on the glass bottle it came in. Now it comes in throwaway plastic. Plastic straws have supplanted paper straws. Plastic cups have taken the place of paper cups. On and on it goes.

But it’s only when you make a conscious effort to notice that you realise how much plastic has rendered itself seemingly indispensable to our everyday activities.

There is an alternative, of course. It is possible to ignore the supermarket and use a market. You can buy fruit and vegetables from a stall. They are wrapped in paper bags, or you can tip them straight into a ‘bag-for-life’.

And, because most plastic-wrapped food is processed, by cooking more food from scratch, the plastic burden falls.

Much of the plastic in our kitchens is there for our convenience. It speeds things us up. Reducing our dependence on it is time consuming.

When women like my mother ran a home, they had time to return bottles for a deposit or to chat amiably to stall-holders in the town centre market. Now we all work, the scope for such time-consuming, environment-protecting activities has withered.