By Chris Crowstaff, founder of Safe World for Women.
In case you hadn't noticed yet, I'm a tree-hugging hippie at heart - and happy to say so.
Escalation of conflict, hatred and fear, the constant struggle of asylum-seekers and refugees fleeing war-zones and poverty, the spread of life-threatening illnesses, climate change, increased polarisation of wealth, the poisoning and mutation of our food supply with toxic sprays and genetic modification, the destruction of our planet through careless use of rsources - particularly by big multi-national corporations and, here in the UK, right-wing politics hitting the headlines, the list goes on...
Sometimes we all need a dose of something positive. Especially when the seasonal changes make us feel a bit run down and 'under the weather'.
For me, my pick-me-up is to be with nature and positive people who are doing something to help make a healthier planet.
I'm lucky that this came to me recently in the form of visiting some WWOOFers, high up in the wooded Gloucestershire hills close to the Welsh border.
WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
I first came across WWOOF back in the days when it stood for Weekend Workers on Organic Farms, several decades ago. My aunt was involved with WWOOF for many years in the early days, I think as the secretary.
I first went WWOOFing when I was 31, on a veganic farm in south-west Ireland with my three dogs!
WWOOFing again came into my life 13 years later, shortly after the loss of my baby son. I was homeless with two small children and, this time, one dog. The other option, at that time, would have been to go into a refuge, which could have been stressful for the children and would have meant parting with our puppy, who I'd basically aquired to help the children cope with bereavement.
So, instead, we made ourselves useful helping out on organic vegetarian farms in Cornwall and Devon, living in caravans, breathing fresh air, eating healthily and going for long walks together on our days off. Or, more precisely, I was helping on the farms and home-schooling the children. Though we did find that our dog developed a new skill in digging holes for planting apple trees! So I think we can say that he helped, too.
Basically, what could have been a very dark time for the children, instead turned into a time of happy memories. They still think of our WWOOFing days together as some of their happiest childhood memories.
It's no great surprise to me that my son has chosen to spend his gap year WWOOFing around the UK. He was born in a caravan in Ireland and his first accommodation, on leaving home, was a caravan on the Welsh borders!
WWOOF has really expanded since those early years when my aunt was involved. It is now a global organisation with a presence in many countries - from Australia and New Zealand, to Japan, South Korea, and Mongolia, to Serbia and Bulgaria, to Uganda, Kenya, Cameroon and Nigeria, to Mexico and Brazil, to name just a few...
It is wonderful to arrive in a remote part of the English countryside and find a multi-cultural team of volunteers, working to help Mother Nature and the future of our global home.
I spent two happy evenings recently, with the family, visiting our son - and feeling inspired and recharged high up in the beautiful Forest of Dean at Crooked End Farm, overlooking the Welsh Hills.
If you don't know about WWOOF, I suggest you check out the website!
There are also several WWOOF Facebook pages for the various countries. You'll find links to them from the main WWOOF Facebook page or search the hashtag #WWOOF.
The idea is simple and it works! Through volunteering on an organic farm, you receive food and lodging, meet new people - and gain experience and knowledge relating to organic farming and alternative technology. No money changes hands between the WWOOFer and the host farm.
There is an annual membership fee payable to WWOOF, an educational not-for-profits, which helps WWOOF to ensure that standards are kept up - both for the volunteers and for the hosts.