Sophie Blake

Sophie Blake has 8 articles published.

Electronics: The fastest-growing toxic waste stream in the world

in Environmental Insight

How much IT equipment do you have gathering dust in your office? Do you know what happens to it when it’s removed or thrown out? We spoke to Dave Williams (Head of Operations) from electronic waste recyclers and sustainability champions Reconome to figure out all the plus points of applying the circular economy to IT hardware.

Reconome, a certified B Corp (Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose), was set up to help solve the headache of dealing with unwanted electronics. In 2017 Nick Rawkins (Founder and CEO) quit his job in the City to follow his dream of running a company that solved an important global problem. Working for banks, he saw expensive IT devices being replaced and upgraded daily, with no idea of where it was all going. 

Data security concerns, a fragmented market of service providers, and poor messaging all contribute to the world’s dreadful performance on electronics recycling. With the rapid digitisation of our planet this is only just beginning. Thankfully, consumers, businesses, and governments are beginning to take notice.

“A recent UN report stated that a whopping 53.6 million metric tonnes of e-waste was generated in 2019, that’s the weight of 350 cruise ships the size of the RMS Queen Mary 2 – think about that for a second. The figure has increased by a whopping 21% in 5 years making it the world’s fastest growing toxic waste stream – we have to do something and we have to do it fast,” says Dave

Reconome provides businesses and consumers with an easy to use, sustainable IT disposal service that diverts 80% of devices from landfills and redeploys them as refurbished, affordable devices to new owners such as schools, charities and SMEs. Their process extends the life of useful and valuable equipment, fulfills an underserved need for affordably priced technology, and prevents hazardous materials from ending up in landfill or in the hands of illegal exporters. 

Incredibly, a recent study by Yokohama Metal Co in Japan found that a tonne of ore from a gold mine produces just 5 grams of gold on average, but a tonne of discarded smartphones produces 150 grams and new technologies mean this can be done with a vastly reduced impact on the environment. The traditional mining process has catastrophic effects; ravaging landscapes, contaminating water supplies, poisoning wildlife (and human beings) whilst leaking huge amounts of toxic materials into the earth and systematically destroying ecosystems.

“As an example, when you start looking at the real resource cost on the planet for a single laptop, it’s very different from what the manufacturers say,” Dave explains. “It takes 191,000 litres of water to make one laptop. That’s all the contaminated water from the machinery required to process all the precious metals and plastics from the earth. To help picture that, it’s the equivalent of 733 bath loads of water. In addition, 1200kg of physical waste is created. Think about digging up a 1200 kg pile of rock and soil from your local park, that’s the mass of the waste material created for one single laptop – these are incredibly frightening facts.”

Reconome is investing in its platform to generate positive impact at scale. At its core sits a lifecycle emissions calculator that measures the carbon and waste impact for the IT departments it works with, including granular detail on the impact of Reconome’s sustainable procurement and recycling programmes, plus transparency on the final destination of processed equipment, all of which can be used for Streamlined Energy and Carbon (SECR) reporting.

Their renewal process is hugely effective. Working with some of the UK’s fastest growing companies, such as WeWork and Bulb Energy, in 2 years it has collected 3500 devices otherwise bound for waste, and put 2780 renewed, functioning devices into the hands of new owners. 

“We have proudly prevented nearly 200,000 kg of CO2 emissions and developed a data-driven process for sorting and identifying devices of high reuse value. Early in the process, multiple factors are calculated for each device, determining its route along refurbishment, parts harvesting, donation, and recycling. The business model is proven and now it’s time for us to scale” Dave says.

During the lockdown period in London, Reconome teamed up with O2 and Hubbub to further their impact. In an effort to keep the disabled, less fortunate and elderly close with their loved ones, the Community Calling Project was created. It’s a smartphone donation scheme where you send your old iPhones and Androids via freepost to be refurbished and sent out to community leaders in London boroughs who then distribute them to those in need. They have also been working with large enterprises to repurpose laptops for digitally disadvantaged school children who need hardware to learn remotely.

“There’s a real feel-good factor around making positive decisions that support the environment and you don’t have to be an eco-warrior to feel that benefit. It feels great to be doing something impactful for the planet and your community, especially in the backdrop of Covid-19” states Dave.

Reconome is currently looking to branch out to help governments and businesses in UK and  overseas territories who lack the infrastructure to effectively recycle, reuse and donate IT equipment, in compliance with regulatory guidelines and full certification provided. With its vibrant and thriving commerce sector, Gibraltar is firmly on the radar. If you work at a company that could benefit, you can contact Dave directly ( to discuss a strategy to reduce the cost of IT equipment by 30-50%, dramatically cut CO2 emissions (in some cases by 1.5 tonnes of CO2 per employee) and give back to your community using a fully circular economy model.

What a waste. On the trail of recycling in Gibraltar

in Features

The Environmental Insight column is new to Gibraltar Insight this month and will give information about environmental issues in Gibraltar and further afield, and share ideas and resources to help us live more sustainable lives and engage with continuing efforts for change, for lots of little bits of effort add up to a significant impact. Gibraltar has an amazing and unique ecosystem, and we want to help protect it in any way we can.

Recycling in Gibraltar

I’ll be honest, when I came to Gibraltar I was surprised to learn that recycling isn’t collected door to door, though when you spend time here you realise that this may not be practicable with largely apartment living. However, only a small percentage of the population actively recycle, and otherwise environmentally aware people confess time and again that they don’t. Delving a little deeper into this, (and it is anecdotal evidence) you hear lots of resistance seems to be because the bins are not accessible and there’s a widely held belief that recycling in Gibraltar isn’t actually recycled.  Now this isn’t about guilting people, but I was curious to learn if I was actually just wasting energy, bagging up recycling and walking it to the nearest recycling bin and keen to learn what happens to our recycling. So, I popped down to the Eco Park just off Devil’s Tower Road, and was pleasantly surprised by what I found there and to see the wide range of recycling of almost any materials that goes on…

The ECO Park

The 5 brightly coloured recycling bins that are dotted in groups around Gibraltar are emptied by Britannia on a daily basis and they bring all the waste to the Eco Park, where it gets put into its respective areas and broken down. Items are sorted in Gibraltar and then they go off to their respective places, for further separation and processing. David Drury, Foreman kindly downed tools and gave me tour of the Eco Park, which is a hive of activity. It was striking how every item gets broken into its materials. For example, copper is stripped out of cables and pipes and cut into chips; their ‘gold’ as David says, as copper fetches the best return. Items are sorted into respective areas and then treated and taken out. A criticism I have heard levied against recycling in Gibraltar was that the bins are collected into one big trough, so there was no point in bothering to post tens into the correct coloured bin when you drop it off. However this is not the case; it is collected by materials type and as the photos here show, kept in its respective groups until being taken away for deeper processing. As David says, “Why would we make so much more for work for ourselves in having to sort the waste again?” Anyone who sees collections not happening correctly is urged to report it. 

Accessibility of recycling bins in Gibraltar 

There are around 300 recycling bins on 70 sites in Gibraltar. It seems there could be more bins in more locations in Gibraltar and this could remove the barriers to many in partaking in recycling. When asked about this HM GoG stated: “Plans have always been to continue increasing though we believe recycling bins are quite accessible to the majority, and that whoever wants to recycle is able to. Having said this, we are continuously working towards improving the service we provide, and always happy to take recommendations from the general public on board. Note however that there are constraints in respect to areas for the positioning of these, as well as that of accessibility to the locations for the servicing trucks.” It would be great to see more bins and we hope this will happen in future. It is encouraging to learn from the Department of the Environment, Sustainability, Climate Change and Heritage that there is already a requirement as part of the Building Application process for new builds to supply their own recycling bins, which would in turn be serviced by HM GoG. However, it is unclear as to when it is going to be enforced that recycling bins will be installed in bin stores within new buildings. 

Why bother to recycle anyway?

The best thing is of course to avoid single-use plastics and items if you possibly can, by making the switch to reusable drinks bottles and containers and so on. If you do use single use items, then the next best thing is to recycle them. 

If you just throw your rubbish into the usual trash, it will go into landfill. From there it will take between 400-1000 years to degrade. In the process of doing that, it break down into methane-releasing waste which will make its way into the ground water; so we will gradually pollute our waterways in addition to the micro plastics that are already infecting the water supplies. 

Also, much of the waste doesn’t actually stay in the ground as the landfill sites become eroded over time by rain, animals or birds, and items get blown away and ends up hundreds or thousands of miles away, polluting coastlines and waterways and becoming a problem for everyone. According to the World Economic Foundation, “32% of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually is left to flow into our oceans; the equivalent of pouring one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute. If we carry on as usual, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050, meaning there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans.” These are horrifying projections and the fact that only 14% of global plastic packaging is collected for recycling presently, make it clear that we all need to do more. 

In addition to this, the natural resources of the world are of course finite, so recycling items such as plastic metal, glass or paper means that less of these are used. Not only that, raw materials have to be extracted (mined, quarried or logged), refined and processed all of which creates substantial air and water pollution. Recycling on the other hand saves energy: producing new aluminium from old products (including recycled cans and foil) uses 95% less energy than making new ones. The amount of energy saved from recycling one glass bottle could power an old 100-watt light bulb for 4 hours and a new low-energy LED equivalent for a lot longer, Greenpeace report. A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions helps to tackle climate change.

If we all did a little bit, that would add up to a heck of a lot, and mean that the planet will be there for our grandchildren to enjoy. The situation really is that stark. We have ten years to change things or the climate will be irreversibly changed. As General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (Ecuador) warned the UN last March: “we are the last generation that can prevent irreparable damage to our planet.” 

We would be interested to hear any of your comments or feedback about recycling, so please do get in touch:

Call of Duty: working on the NHS front line during the Covid-19 pandemic

in Features

Whilst the world was being ravaged by Covid-19, and we in Gibraltar prepared for a mass outbreak that did not arrive, one local GP decided that she wasn’t going to wait out the worst of the pandemic in the relative comfort of Gibraltar. So April Nilsen Nunn moved herself and her family of five back to the UK and worked solidly for
almost 2 months.  Here she tells her remarkable story of being on the frontline of the pandemic. 

Whilst the world was being ravaged by Covid-19, and we in Gibraltar prepared for a mass outbreak that did not arrive, one local GP decided that she wasn’t going to wait out the worst of the pandemic in the relative comfort of Gibraltar. So April Nilsen Nunn moved herself and her family of five back to the UK and worked solidly for
almost 2 months.  Here she tells her remarkable story of being on the frontline of the pandemic. 

“When the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, I signed up for helping the GHA, but never got the call as the health system here wasn’t overstretched. I work at the Specialist Medical Clinic in Gibraltar, but I’m also a UK registered doctor having trained and worked there for 11 years before coming to Gibraltar. The NHS trained me and made me the doctor I am today so I owe it a great deal. As I am General Medical Council registered, I do a certain amount of weeks a year practicing in the UK, to maintain my GMC status and keep up with current guidelines. In early March I went and worked for a week in Leeds, and was shocked by how little normal life had changed, given Spain had just gone into a strict lockdown, and it was worrying to see people still going to bars, shops and supermarkets as if there was no risk out there. I thought, if the UK is like this now and hasn’t shut down like the rest of the world has, it is going to be so baldly hit. I could see the strain starting to show on my colleagues, so I flew back and said to my husband ‘pack your bags, we are going back’; after all, the GHA didn’t need me and the children were off school and I am lucky that David Deardon, my boss fully supported me going back to support the NHS.

It started to kick off the week we got back to the UK. My friend found us an apartment in Leeds city centre, they were doing lots of rental deals. The UK went into lockdown on 23 March, but it felt like by then the damage had been done. I work in emergency care when I go back to the UK, on the 111 service in North Manchester, Yorkshire & Norfolk. The 111 is the out-of-hours GP service, non-emergency helpline. Depending on the location, Doctors in this service either see patients in the 111 treatment centres, home visits, or give telephone consultations. 

After a few weeks in Leeds we moved to Norfolk. April was a brutal time, I struggled and broke down from what I saw there. Norfolk has a lot of elderly people and Covid doesn’t like elderly people. I covered the roving car doing house visits, as well as working in the treatment centre and a lot of our work moved on to the phones, as far fewer people came in person; people did listen to the government advice to stay home.”

Despite many news reports from the time, fortunately April did not experience a lack of PPE in her area and as an acute doctor she had to be well kitted out as was visiting multiple residences in a day. However April found going into care homes surreal, as she would go in wearing full PPE, but was shocked that staff in the homes were just dressed in their normal uniform without any PPE. This made April feel uncomfortable and concerned for the care home staffs’ welfare. If there had been a Coronavirus outbreak in a residence it would be certified as Covid – positive and April wouldn’t be allowed in, so would instead consult by phone and leave any required medicines on the doorstep, such as steroid medicines or inhalers. 

“It was difficult as a doctor because your every instinct is to help and be able to treat patients. This is why it hit a lot of healthcare professionals so hard; you have all these machines to help patients breathe, but you cannot fight the virus for them. As a doctor, I was powerless against the virus; if you break your leg I will help you mend it, if you have an earache, I can help you, against this virus we had nothing, so that’s way we wanted people to not catch it in the first place.” She also mentions it’s worth remembering that 85% of people who caught it recovered well from it.

“A lot of our work was managing Covid anxiety at the beginning, and then as things developed, many people did have Coronavirus, we were supporting them at home. We got very good at telephone triage very quickly. If people needed an ambulance we could work out from their symptoms what was needed. We also had the usual emergency calls coming through, because children were still falling over, people were still having heart attacks so we were still attending to these patients, albeit it to a lesser degree.

In her typically self-effacing style though, April asserts that the real credit should go to the paramedics, as the ambulances were still going out no matter what and they took the brunt of the cases. “They were the heroes; and would often go out where GPs wouldn’t be allowed to, and have to enter Covid – positive homes. The ambulance crews have to respond to every call. Also the intensivists probably had a horrible pandemic; knowing that 70%if patents wouldn’t get out (which is the case for any intensive care not just Covid) they also had to wear those uncomfortable suits for long shifts.

April knew that the necessity for her to be in the UK was starting to come to an end when the calls started to be about anxiety and people saying they didn’t feel right, having had Covid, or were surprised at how long it was taking them to recover. As she says: “it is a very nasty respiratory virus and it can linger for a long time.”

Incredibly, April worked 51 out of the 56 days she was back in the UK, having told her husband that they would be there for 4 weeks. She is so grateful for her families’ support: “I couldn’t have done it without my family, I needed that normality and on the shifts I wasn’t working we were just in our little bubble; we would go for walks (we were staying in small villages in remote areas, near the sea). It was just like Covid didn’t exist, and then 24 hours later you were back in. It was pretty brutal, but at the time you just got on with it.”

Bizarrely when staying in a Norfolk village within a day off arriving April’s family had a note posted on their door saying ‘Go Home!’ – police later confirmed all NHS staff in the village had received one, from an elderly resident who was concerned about the influx of potentially lockdown rule flouters in the village; little did he know they were healthcare workers there to help, in an area that was short of doctors. Another of her colleagues even had their tyre slashed.

When she came back to Gibraltar, April had to take some time to herself, to decompress.  “I had to let go of the badness. I saw enough death (in the elderly) to last me a lifetime and I hope I never have to see that again. There was a lot to process but I have dealt with it. Also with so many healthcare professionals having died, it’s very sad to lose colleagues.” The frequency of BAME healthcare workers dying was massively disproportionate and recent figures from the BMA state 95% doctors who died were BAME. When April was on the nightshift, she and her (caucasian) coworker, an advanced nurse practitioner would ensure they were the ones to first treat the patients coming in,  so patients wouldn’t see the BAME staff if at all possible, as they assumed everyone had Covid until proven otherwise. “I wanted to protect my BAME colleagues, I worried about what would happen to them when we finished our shifts and every night I was terrified they’d catch it and I’d never see them again. For me, they are the brave ones and I’ll never forget their heroism during the pandemic. They were quite literally risking their life to go to work and serve the general public. I would like people to know how brave some doctors were and their bravery should  never be forgotten. Personally I didn’t feel especially threatened because I am relatively young and don’t have any health predispositions to make me higher risks and I was always in PPE.” April wants to pay tribute to all of the healthcare professionals who have died in the pandemic, especially so many of BAME origins. She cites a shocking statistic she heard which is that more healthcare professionals have died in the Covid pandemic than British soldiers died in 8 years of the Iraqi war. 

Asked if she sees herself as a hero, April shrugs, “there was no way I could have stayed home during this pandemic. I am a doctor, it’s in my training and my blood. The positives I take from this are it has given me a new perspective on life: we only have one life, go live it; remember to see and hug the people you love often. This experience has shown us all how precious life, family and friends are, don’t take a second for granted. Let’s all remember that going forward and just be kind.” 

Keep Calm and Carry On

in Mum on the Rock

That’s what we have been trying to do here at PACS since Lockdown began. Our Facebook page has been awash with ideas on activities you can do with the children. Our sensory table at Playgroup is always a firm favourite with the little ones and pre lockdown we had a term of activities planned. We would love to share some of these with you as they would also work at home:

  • First up is planting fun. All you need is a tray, some chocolate cereal for mud, some small pots that would work as plant pots, a spoon for a spade and some flowers if possible! Your little one can dig and plant to their hearts content! 
  • Another favourite is “what’s in the bag?” Gather up some items from around the house: socks, duplo, small toys, kitchen items that are safe and place them in a drawstring bag. Ask your little one to put their hand in the bag and guess what’s inside. 
  • And lastly, why not try messy play with Cornflour. Mix Cornflour with water in a bowl and wait for it to form a gloopy mixture. If you have food colouring add some to the mixture. Then let your little one play. It’s great for your little child’s sense of touch and easy to do. 

And don’t forget that Story-time, Cooking and Song-time and other fun videos continue to be delivered virtually via our Facebook page. But, don’t forget to look after yourself…

As the days have turned into weeks, weeks into months, we’ve realised how important looking after our own wellbeing has been not just for us but also for our children. We all have bad days, we’ve all had days where we want to cry. That’s perfectly normal. One of the messages we’ve tried to spread is that parents and carers shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting time out. Have that cup tea, read that magazine, hide in that bedroom. Your mental health is also important. 

Craft Corner Potato Prints

Potato prints are quick and cheap to make, and the patterns can be as basic or as sophisticated as you like, so it’s a good craft for all ages.

Step 1
Choose decent sized potatoes. Cut potato in half and then at a 0.5cm depth, scour just through the skin surface, not cutting through too much. Always ask an adult to do the cutting.

Step 2
Insert cookie cutter, a good depth then cut around the edge of the cutter, taking away the potato on that level.

Step 3
Ease cookie cutter out of the potato and voila your stamp is ready.

Step 4
If you wish to freestyle it with a shape you don’t have a cutter for, I scoured out the pattern on the potato first and overlaid a paper template, then punched through into the potato, and carved it out with knife. Thanks to Molly Mahon for the forget-me-not inspiration! 

Step 5
With a paint brush apply paint then get stamping. 

“In January it was like seeing a tsunami coming that no one else could really see yet”

in Features

Interview with Dr Sohail Bhatti, Director of Public Health, Gibraltar

We are grateful to Dr Bhatti for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about his work and the current pandemic and why he loves Gibraltar…

How did you get into Public Health?

I wasn’t clear exactly what I wanted to do but I was clear that I was good at public health and there had been a significant change in government policy after I graduated and  public health was expanding, so I applied to join the formal training programme in the North West of England; obtaining an MSc in Public Health in 1994 from Manchester University, having previously qualified in Medicine from Glasgow University in 1985.  Public Health is subject to political influences. When I joined, the speciality was expanding but when I finished training it was contracting because a new government had come in and introduced new policies, so I had a longer training period. 

Do you think medical science was simpler, in the sense of the number of threats in the past?

The threats have always been there. Global travel and connectivity have made more of the population subject to them. If you go back to the Spanish conquest of South and Central America, syphilis and measles were introduced and it decimated the population; some estimate ninety percent were wiped out. If you introduce infections into a new population, there can be a big impact if they’ve never been exposed. This has been within human beings throughout history. In fact most infectious diseases have a counterpart in animals, called zoonoses. These are very similar diseases, making us think that they transferred to humans some time ago. For example, canine distemper is similar to measles and bovine TB is similar to TB. The only diseases that are specific to humans are Smallpox – which is why we have eradicated it and also Polio, which we have nearly eradicated.  

The North of England made an impression on you. What was your moment of greatest satisfaction when you look back on your time in Manchester, Huddersfield and Lancashire?

I did some pioneering work whilst I was there. When I was training, my thesis was on focus groups as a method of consultation; in those days nobody had heard of them. I also did a lot on geodemographics which links geographic and health information, with deprivation; also pioneering work at the time. Our work in Huddersfield compared information in a novel way that illustrated how bad deprivation was. I wrote about how ethnic minorities were paying a disproportionate price in terms of their ill health. I had a broad set of interests and worked voluntarily supporting charities which was enjoyable because I was able to use my skills and knowledge in helping others which revitalised my batteries. I am vocationally driven and want to help our communities and leave them better off from where I found them. The nature of change is such that if you wish your change to stick you have to make others the custodians of it; they have to own the change and believe they were the authors of the change, even though you know you had introduced and implemented the concept. I would like to think that things I started carried on after I had left. That is one of the things that would make me feel warmest. For example, I helped set up a primary care resource centre in Manchester’s Moss Side, which was handed over to the community to run. Its greatest credit was the way people took it up. It was a vibrant, thriving centre when I revisited it 10 years later, which was great to see in the heart of a deprived community. 

You took up your current position as Director of Public Health (DPH) in Gibraltar in 2008, having previously held the same position in Huddersfield, East Lancashire, City of London, the London boroughs of Hackney and Hounslow, as well as the City of Bristol. What made you think of Gibraltar as your next work destination?

I spent a long time in the NHS and felt wedded to it so when latterly my speciality moved into local government, I felt this a bridge too far. I wanted to help people and see my work have impact.

I had visited Gibraltar and it intrigued me: a community that was self-contained, somewhere I might be able to leave a legacy and make a measurable difference to a community; it had all these wonderful hallmarks. I am a great believer in diversity and that is Gibraltar: a polyglot community, multigenerational, multiracial, in fact it is a model for the world. When one goes back historically and looks at Andalusia and Cordoba, they were multicultural societies that promoted learning. Gibraltar inherited that model; built on trade, people spending a lot of time and effort acquiring knowledge, a legal framework, medical infrastructure. 

This is one of the greatest medical emergencies the world has faced in recent times. What’s your take on it and how the world’s healthcare systems are coping?

Pandemics of this nature happen rarely. The last one was in 1918. In some ways my entire training has been for this moment. I am privileged that I am able to utilise all of that training whilst still professionally active.

This pandemic is unique because it challenges our healthcare systems with overwhelming demand. No healthcare system created sustainably could withstand this kind of attack. This is a war and all wars by their nature are unexpected and aren’t fought like the previous war. Gibraltar has shown a huge entrepreneurial flair to expand its healthcare system, such that our modellers suggest that if we had the worst-case scenario – and we won’t – that our healthcare is sufficient to allow us to cope. However this has come at a huge cost and relies on workers coming here and PPE brought from abroad etc., so we can’t relax too much and think we have it made; we haven’t. 

The best system promotes prevention because this virus is a bad lifestyle virus. It targets people who modern healthcare has kept alive because they have had a bad lifestyle. The best cure is not to fall ill. Bad lifestyles abuse the free good, the asset which most – though not all of us – are given; a body which functions. Over time through alcohol, smoking, eating too much, not exercising enough, our bodies pay the price of decades of abuse. The human body is designed for persistence running; our ancestors survived by hunting game. The great strength we had was the ability to store glycogen in our liver and so effectively run prey into submission. If you keep a car and never run it, it will cease up; indolence is abuse for the body. Smoking exposes the body to 3,000 chemicals including dioxin, arsenic, cadmium. Alcohol is a toxin and we can lose control with it. It is not the natural state of our body to live in an environment of plenty all of the time; these are all metabolic challenges and that is how we lose the greatest asset we have, which is our well-being. 

“this virus is a bad lifestyle virus. Alcohol, smoking,  eating too much, not exercising enough, our bodies pay the price of decades of abuse”

Is the COVID-19 situation something that could have been prevented? Or have lifestyle choices made something like this inevitable?  

Humans are first and foremost social creatures; we thrive through joint enterprise: we hunt together, squabble together, but build civilisations and societies together. Touch is important to us; it releases endorphins in our brain and affects our dopaminergic system (the reward systems in the brain). We thrive on relationships and touch. This virus targets us because of this; it spreads through close proximity, the very things that make us human beings – it is our Achilles’ heel. Other viruses came and went because we developed immunity or a strategy to cope with them. 

Gibraltar has efficiently contained the virus so far; can we continue in this vein with correct measures in place or are we delaying the inevitable given the global impact? 

Our problem is that we are part of the Iberian peninsular and we thrive on trade, human interaction is a core part of our being. We live in extended families and thrive on those relationships, living in a tightly packed community. We are always going to be subject and vulnerable to a virus that attacks our sociability. It is asking us to change who we are. We are a very adaptable species, so we will change who we are, but it takes time. The great blessing of this virus is that young people – our investment in the future – by and large are protected. 

The issue is whether there will be a vaccine and how we are going to live with it if this persists: they are big questions. The challenge for a vaccine is that, if this virus is anything like the other corona viruses, immunity may be weak and not persistent, so a vaccine may not be as successful as we hope. In fact, the vast majority of people have such a minor illness, that they don’t even know they have got it, hence it has thrived. My great hope therefore is antivirals, to give us ways to protect ourselves, minimise the harm or successful treatments for those older people who have more severe reactions. There are many trials underway. These drugs are being repurposed from drugs that have already been tested. There may be a long-term goal to develop an entire new class of antivirals to target this one. If it was easy, we would have a vaccine against the common cold. 

What is it you like the most about Gibraltar?

It is easy to fall in love with this place. It is a concentrated piece of heaven: the people are warm and lovely, and people make a place. They squabble but that is part of their charm; they feel passionately for each other. They have many languages and nationalities and they all get along fine with each other. This is an asset that is difficult to replicate anywhere else. The environment is lovely; you just need to go up the rock to feel like you are in a different place, and where else can you stand and look across at two continents. Gibraltar has invested in its young people; the level of knowledge and education is superb and that Gibraltar manages to attract its young people back is testament to this. It is a safe environment to bring up children. There is commerce and some industry, it is full of entrepreneurs that bring opportunities. It has the hallmarks of becoming a new Singapore or Hong Kong, but it would need more space for this. I am a great believer in empowering others. The quality of the politicians both in government and in opposition is another quality it should be proud of.  

If there was one medically beneficial behaviour you would encourage everyone to adopt, what would it be?

The number one issue for Gibraltar is smoking. For those that smoke, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE give up and if you can’t give up then vape; it is 90% safer than smoking. What made our ancestors thrive was having days without feeding and doing exercise to catch their food, so we also need to exercise more. 

Gibraltar Military Wives Choir

in Features

Gibraltar’s Military Wives Choir was started in November 2019 by a member of another choir who missed the singing, support and camaraderie of choir while in Gibraltar, and felt the community would benefit from it. Gibraltar MWC is part of the Military Wives Choirs, a registered charity and network of 75 choirs in British military bases across the UK and overseas, with over 2,200 members. There is a big focus on their ethos of ‘Sing, Share, Support’. The choir’s primary focus is of course to sing together but we also hope to be a source of support. Being a military wife can be incredibly lonely and difficult; the network provides a place for support and friendship as soon as any woman arrives at a new draft location.

Singing is wonderful for sustaining good mental health. Being a part of a choir and singing improves health, happiness and is a perfect ice breaker, according to research by the University of Oxford. It also helps to improve breathing, posture and muscle tension. Above all, song is a powerful therapy tool. Meeting once a week online during lockdown helps the member’s mental wellbeing. 

Gibraltar MWC currently has nine members; a small choir as only recently formed. We welcome any women within the military community, regardless of position or rank as this is not what we are about.  Anyone who fits the membership criteria can join regardless of experience or even if you would like to come for the atmosphere and to learn about music and harmonies, etc. Most of our members haven’t been in a choir before and enjoy the uniqueness it brings each week. Membership criteria is broad as all MWCs exist to support women whose lives are impacted by their military connection. We welcome any women in Gibraltar who are:

wives, partners, fiancées or cohabiting partners of a serving member of the UK Armed Forces or UK Armed Forces veteran (including Reservists and Gibraltar Regiment)

– serving UK Armed Forces personnel or veterans

employed within the military community for an organisation that provides a direct service to serving military personnel and families

If you would like to join then please email us at or message us via our Facebook page ‘Gibraltar Military Wives Choir’.

Gibraltar MWC has access to a library of music available for the whole network. Choirs across the network including Gibraltar MWC are currently learning music from the recently released film Military Wives, to be featured in a series of concerts around the UK in 2021, which we hope to be a part of. We have just started learning a new song Together, written by Hilary Davan Wetton, which uses lyrics formed from different choirs in the network. Learning core songs with the same arrangement means members can quickly fit into a new choir when they move location.

We normally rehearse once a week. Our rehearsals are two part: a social part where we chat, have a cup of tea, eat cake and support each other and the second part is singing. We do the same now when we meet online, and it’s brilliant to keep in touch and have that couple of hours of ‘normality’ and see our friends. We are lucky enough that our current MD (Musical Director) is another military wife. Everyone is proud of all of our members across the network who have continued music-making in these challenging times.

Life in lockdown for choir members is the same as everyone else. We join in with the clapping for keyworkers especially as two of our members are healthcare professionals, but not forgetting all of the work that has been done by the military behind the scenes to help Gibraltar during this pandemic. One of our talented members has been performing each Thursday from her balcony in support for the NHS and GHA, by singing beautifully You’ll Never Walk Alone as well as a trumpet rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Morale is generally high and everyone is supporting each other. Some have been providing random act of kindness deeds to families across the base, with cakes, flowers and drawings to remind us we are all in this together and have one another. We have lots of beautiful artwork displayed across the base from the children to remind us to keep safe, it’s very welcoming. 

Gibraltar MWC would love to perform publicly in the future. The aim of the choir initially is to provide welfare support for its members, so performances are the choice of each individual member but they are also great fun. We had an idea to perform songs for VE day in Casemates Square but unfortunately this has had to be cancelled. 

Gareth Malone’s episode of the Great British Home Chorus on 22 April is on YouTube and featured a Military Wives Choir Musical Director, and actors from the recent film, Military Wives.

Hosting a child’s party in lockdown

in Health & Beauty

So, we are still staying in, but when it comes to birthdays especially children’s, the show must go on. They wait all year for this day, so here’s how to still make it special.

Have a plan

Tailor your day around what your child loves doing, talk to them beforehand about how it will be a bit different this year but they get to choose their day.

Set the scene

Decorate the room with balloons, banners, bunting, streamers, whatever you can get, to inject some birthday magic. Charlotte at My Party Perfect swears by a main cake table, where the cake can rest safely also giving a fantastic photo opportunity as a back drop. She suggests making decorations to keep little ones busy in the lead up to the party, and getting lots of balloons to fill the house, or their bedroom. AJ’s Fiestas provide packs of party plates, cups, banners in a range of themes and are offering 15% off purchases until end of May. Party Away have lots of party accessories and deliver these as well as balloons. 

A virtual party 

Set up a video party, and get a crowd of friends ‘in the room’ to help celebrate. WhatsApp an invite to the people your child most wants to spend his or her party with, and test it beforehand so make sure that on the day you can all see each other; don’t let tech be a buzz kill. For a younger child, a big group call might be overwhelming, so you can always make individual calls throughout the day. Set a time, duration (half an hour should do it) and anything guests need to prepare in advance; you can even include a theme for dressing up on the invite. On Zoom you can set your backdrop to be a movie scene etc.  On the plus side, they may be getting the chance to celebrate with people from all over the world who they wouldn’t usually have there.  

Get the party started with a brief round of hellos, intros and happy birthday wishes then get things going with party games, such as musical statues/chairs; prepare a playlist beforehand. My Party Perfect suggest the limbo, the Chu Chua and the hokey kokey. You can do a talent show where the parents get involved too, or Opposites, where everyone has to do the opposite of what you say (e.g. “stand up!”); or Guess the Number, using a jar filled with bouncy balls or sweets. If the child is into playdough or lego, you can set challenges to see who can make what in a set time. Other activities could be a simple craft; make a silly party hat (search for a downloadable free printables); a mask from a paper plate or disc. Let the parents know what you are planning in advance so they can have stuff prepared or cut out for their child to join in and keep it simple. Older children might like a karaoke app, or a movie party so they can watch and chat together on Netflix Party (Google Chrome extension download). Finish the party off with a good ol’ happy birthday song, cake and candles. Guests can get cake in too so that everyone has a treat to munch on. You could even have a birthday tea together with similar food for all, such as pizza. 

If you don’t fancy being the MC for the shindig there are companies that provide online interactive parties, such as Making Kids Parties, Puddles London, Jojo Fun and Captain Fantastic are a few we found in the UK, but lots out there. 


Lots of the local shops including toy shops in Gibraltar are still delivering, or you could try one of the freight companies such as Eastgate/Skynet, O2O Logistics to get things shipped in. Make like Elsa from Frozen Fever and give the birthday girl or boy a piece of string to follow, which leads them to their presents, tucked around their home. Or, arrange a pirate-esque treasure hunt based on clues if children are older. Get creative with it and make it a fun game for them. 

The Cake

Your child might like to be involved in making the cake and help decorate it; give them the option. Jane at The Crafty Cupcake is posting daily recipes on their Facebook page which have been tried and tested at their workshops so are really child friendly. As for decorating, she suggests using a piping bag and always squeezing from the top; otherwise the icing will over flow out of the top, or if squeezing from the bottom it will block the icing flow. There are no rules, so Jane says be as creative or as minimalist as you like, take your time and think about what you would like your cake to look like before you begin. There can never be too many sprinkles and most of all have fun! Jane also is a big advocate of letting kids do as much as they feel they can, unaided, even if it does get a bit messy, parents are often surprised how much they are capable of with just a little guidance and a stand back approach.

What Is A Virtual Playgroup?

The Parent And Child Society’s (PACS) role within the community is to offer play group sessions for babies, toddlers and their families in Gibraltar four times a week, face to face. However with the current social restrictions in place, PACS has had to find a new way of offering the charity’s services. Playgroups offer parents and children support in children’s learning, health & well-being, relationship building and making people feel less isolated. To continue to meet Gibraltar’s needs in these unprecedented times, PACS has come up with “virtual playgroup”.

Virtual playgroup has been developed to continue supporting playgroup families by connecting through online song time, story time and craft activities. Via our Facebook page, PACS has been posting videos of our volunteers engaging in activities in line with our normal play session times. Therefore, our families know that on a Monday we have Storytime and Song time will be on Wednesday and Fridays as well as Friday’s cooking session. Offering support and sharing information is an important part of our playgroup sessions, in addition we have been sharing play ideas and important government messages via our page. We also have a WhatsApp group set up for our bumps and babies’ session, that allows this group of new parents to stay in touch and support each other through this time. In the future this virtual playgroup might expand to offer ‘live’ virtual sessions.

So, if you’re a parent who is struggling for some new ideas for your little ones or just looking for some fun activities to do then head over to the Parent And Child Society – PACS Gibraltar Facebook page.

International Women’s Day

in Community Insight

‘Harness Your Power…the Journey is Yours’ Conference Report

On Thursday 5 March, Gibraltar’s International Women’s Day celebrations got into full swing with the conference, ‘Harness Your Power, the Journey is Yours’, hosted by the GFSB & WIB (Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses & Women in Business (now united). This was the first IWD conference Gibraltar has seen and was a hugely successful day, attended by 150 people on the Sunborn. A much wider audience than originally anticipated was reached due to the event’s partnership with GBC and a Viewpoint broadcast and much buzz in social media. Attendees enjoyed a packed programme with discussions that ranged from ‘Women and Financial Empowerment’ to ‘Change Management’ and ‘Advancing Your Career or Business’.

There was an international array of panellists that also pulled from Gibraltar’s talent pool to highlight some hidden gems.  Delegates appreciated the energy and advice of keynote speaker, Nina Vaca (Chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Group, listed as the USA’s fastest growing woman-owned business in 2015 & 2018) to use its assets to its advantage:  small = mighty and nimble.  The second keynote, Catherine Hankinson showcased how in the UK women in policing had ‘broken the glass ceiling’ since policing’s establishment in 1829, with Peel’s rules encouraging the ‘wearing of beards’, to the top two police jobs in the UK now being held by women: the Met Commissioner and the National Crime Agency. There was a palpable positivity and energy in the room, a recognition of how far issues that women face have come and yet the continued journey. The event was sponsored by Hassans, EY, Ince, PlayTech and The Parasol Foundation, and was officially opened by Minister for Equality, Hon Samantha Sacramento MP.

Nina Vaca – Chairman & CEO, Pinnacle Group

  • One single idea: be crazy good.
  • I started my business to help my family: this is the no.1 reason that women globally start businesses.
  • Women have 85% purchasing power in the home and corporations are starting to realise this. Having women at the table isn’t just about doing good; it’s about doing good business.
  • The perspective you have of yourself and how you view yourself will be who you will become.
  • Gibraltar is small but mighty! If you are small, know your assets (small businesses have the advantage in personalisation, localisation, and superior customer service).
  • Always believe better days are ahead of us.
  • Networks are important: use social media, and local programmes such as WIB/GFSB.
  • Raise your hand, applaud yourself, have no fear.
  • Finding the right partner who will support your dreams and do 50% of the work is the most important decision we will make.
  • Women try to be so many things. Be a strong example to our children.
  • Be clear on your why – in life and in business. If your why is not clear you could fall into a negative outlook. When you find out what your why is, you can find multiple paths to get there.
  • The hardest moments can bring out your biggest strengths.

Michaela Rees – Director, Knightsbridge Incorporations

I have always worked flexibly around my children and feel that being a mother shouldn’t be a barrier to entrepreneurship. We need to make daughters robust, and our sons part of this and supportive of women at work. Children don’t see these differences that we do. I have always tried to involve my children in my business and they help out in the office. They have been given small budgets to manage from an early age. We deal with a lot of women needing financial planning and can’t stress enough the importance of having the education in the first place. Another issue is that women are not big risk takers and so obtaining finance is barrier as women don’t want to take a loan to get business off the ground. NatWest offer the ‘Back her Business’ programme which allows an individual to raise up to £10,000. If you have an idea, work out the forecast and try to get investment to make dream a reality.

Dineen Garcia – Diversity Global Consulting, LLC and co-organiser of the conference 

  • Embrace lifes pivots.
  • Be kind to others and yourself.
  • Better to try and not succeed than not try at all: noble failures (attributed to former Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren).
  • Having it ‘All” is subjective; my “All” doesn’t equate with yours.
  • Perfection does not exist.
  • Challenges are stepping stones: they aren’t drawbacks they are opportunities.
  • Remember the Madeleine Albright quote: “there is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women”.

Catherine Hankinson – Assistant Chief Constable, West Yorkshire Police

  • Dont underestimate the value of a mentor: be careful not to pull up the ladder behind you.
  • Ask for help: it helps with learning and helps other people to share their vulnerability too.
  • Flexible working discussion is not just a female issue, it’s a parenting issue and it needs to move away from gender.
  • It will be 170 years until women have full economic equality with men: as estimated by World Economic Foundation .
  • I particularly notice a lack of confidence when talking to female colleagues. The little voice inside tells you that you can’t do something, then it’s reinforced in everything else you do. 
  • I focus on being a role model for the types of behaviours I expect my team to exhibit and meet directly with junior colleagues to talk to them about expectations.
  • A woman is like a teabag. You never know how strong it is until it is in hot water.” Eleanor Roosevelt 
  • Be kind: nobody cares what you know, until they know you care. People will always remember how you made them feel.
  • Build your resilience before you need it. Make time to indulge in the things you like so you are physically and mentally strong to build for when you need it.
  • FAIL is merely an acronym for First Attempt In Learning.
  • Know yourself – really know yourself. What are your stakes in the ground? 

Mandy Gaggero – Marketing Director, MH Brand 

Is there a double standard between the vocabulary used to describe the character traits between men and women?

A man is commanding; a woman is demanding.
A man is forceful; a woman is pushy.
He’s assertive; she’s aggressive.
He strategizes; she manipulates.
He shows leadership; she’s controlling.
He’s committed; she’s obsessed.
He’s persevering; she’s relentless.
A man is a perfectionist; a woman is a pain in the ass.  

So, to the women who are labelled: 

Aggressive: keep being assertive
Bossy: keep on leading 
Difficult: keep telling the truth
Too much: keep taking up space
Awkward: keep asking hard questions

There are kind people (of both sexes) who are positive, reliable and supportive.  Find them and align yourself with them, use them as role models and ask for help when you need advice.  Asking for help is not giving up, it is refusing to give up.

Kathryn Morgan – Previously Director of Regulatory Operations at Financial Services Commission

The local gender pay gap in Gibraltar is just over 19%, compared to 17% in the UK.  About 12% can be explained by the “mummy tax” – having two kids and taking a year off for each one will reduce lifetime earning by about 12%.  And that doesn’t allow for missing out on promotion opportunities, or working part-time.  

Divorce is a time when it’s important to think about money – not just for the short term, but longer term.  Sharing of pensions is difficult and divorcing couples should get proper advice from a pensions expert, not just their lawyer.  Interestingly, it costs about £3,000 to divorce in Gibraltar.  This could be a barrier to women leaving abusive relationships.  

Make sure you pay yourself before other bills, for example, by putting money into a pension and building up a fund for rainy days.

0 £0.00
Go to Top