Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Twitter For Good: Why ‘The Big Tweet for Missing Children’ Can Make a Difference

Today, Wednesday, May 25, is International Missing Children’s Day. A day to remember the hundreds of thousands of children that go missing around the world every year, and their devastated parents who will never stop searching for them. But how does a charity like Missing People get the word out? How do you make members of the public stop for a minute, think about your call to action and then do something to help? It’s a challenge faced by every charity: how can you best catapult your organization’s good works to the world?

As the lead of social innovation and philanthropy at Twitter, it’s my job to show non-profit organizations how to use Twitter to effect social change. Today, I reflect on the question of how a platform like Twitter can help in the effort to find missing children the world over.

Enter the “Big Tweet for Missing Children.” Beginning at midnight last night, Missing People has been tweeting an appeal for a different missing child every 30 minutes for 24 hours on their official Twitter account (@missingpeople). All you have to do to show your support is retweet one, some, or all of @missingpeople’s appeal tweets using the hashtag #imcd. Celebrities including Stephen Fry (@stephenfry), Victoria Beckham (@victoriabeckham), and many others have already lent their voices and rallied their own contingent of followers.

The viral nature of Twitter means that awareness around a cause can snowball. So whether it reunites a family, or simply spreads the word to a million people, ‘The Big Tweet’ proves that tools like Twitter can be immensely powerful for organisations eager for wide-scale social change.

Kerry Needham’s son Ben went missing 19 years ago at the age of 21 months. As she poignantly says, “Every morning and every night I look at his picture and it gives me strength. I am his Mum and I will never give up hope.” Missing People has organised ‘The Big Tweet’ for Ben, Kerry, and all the other missing children and parents who will never give up the search.

Today, I encourage you to show your support for The Big Tweet and retweet one, some or all of @missingpeople’s appeal tweets using the hashtag #imcd as they go out. In this way, individual activism can change the world.

By Claire Diaz Ortiz
Author of Twitter for Good
Social Innovation and Philanthropy Lead at Twitter, Inc.
For more information about The Big Tweet, follow @missingpeople on Twitter or visit: 

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Rock Choir: Singing for the Missing

Singing is amazing. It’s a universal language and has the power to make us smile or move us to tears. And those of us who sing with Rock Choir know better than most just how powerful a song can be.
Almost 10,000 Rock Choir members, from all corners of Great Britain, gathered at Wembley Arena on Sunday 15 May for a mass sing, a gathering of like-minded choir members, thrilled to be performing at the UK’s premier music venue.
Rock Choir members don’t just sing, however. We are passionate about supporting two amazing British charities: Refuge and Missing People. Four hundred of us sang at the recent Miles for Missing People 10k Run in Regent’s Park and met and heard from the suffering parents, friends and families of the missing. It verges on the impossible to imagine your child, sibling, friend or classmate going missing; seeing that empty chair at the dinner table, the abandoned desk in the classroom or the jacket gathering dust by the door. So perhaps it’s up to us, those that are lucky enough never to have experienced this kind of suffering to support those who have.
Among all the high-adrenalin excitement and fun at Wembley we shared a quiet moment for Missing People. Posters featuring missing children were handed out to everyone in the Arena. Mine showed a schoolgirl smiling at the camera, a lock of brown hair escaping from her ponytail. The information on the poster explained that she was Carmel Fenech, sixteen years old, missing since 1998. With a jolt I realised that this pretty teenager would now be a grown woman, perhaps with children of her own. Other posters showed the familiar face of Madeleine McCann, another a curly-haired toddler and another a boy with a haircut you'd recognize as popular 5 years ago.
As we held up our posters, silence fell over the huge crowd leaving us all with our own quiet thoughts. Perhaps we thought about our own families and vowed to hug our children tighter that evening, to tell our partners that we love them or to contact an old friend.
With that thought in mind, the 25th of May marks International Missing Children’s Day and Missing People is urging Twitter enthusiasts to take part in “The Big Tweet for Missing Children.” The charity Missing People will be tweeting an appeal for a different missing child every 30 minutes for 24 hours on their official Twitter @missingpeople account. All you have to do to show your support is retweet one, some, or all of @missingpeople’s appeal tweets using the hash tag #IMCD as they go out. If you have a Twitter account you can join in over the 24 hour period and if you’re not on Twitter yet, think about setting up an account in time for the 25th. It’s fun and easy to do. Let’s make #IMCD trend!
When I got home on Sunday evening the voices of thousands of voices in ringing in my ears and the memory of singing with special guests Debra Stephenson, The Soldiers and star of the Go Compare adverts, Wynne Evans, I found a crumpled poster at the bottom of my bag. A dark haired teenager smiles back at me and I’m reminded that there won’t be a homecoming for many of these missing youngsters.
There’s a line in one of my favourite Rock Choir songs, Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me”:
‘These cuts I have, they need love to help them heal.’
If singing can help to heal the wounds of those left behind in any way, then I’m proud to be a member of Rock Choir supporting Missing People.
By Sian Rowland
Member of Rock Choir
Supporter of Missing People
For more information about The Big Tweet for Missing Children, visit

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

A different definition of 'good news.'

Age-progressed photo of Andrew

My son Andrew went missing on 14 September 2007. He was 14 years old at the time. His mother and I still have no idea why he chose to leave and have subsequently worked on many theories. All we know is that one Friday morning he emptied his bank account of £200 and took a train from our home town of Doncaster, South Yorkshire, to London Kings Cross. There has been no confirmable sighting or evidence that he is alive since then. We think it most likely that he planned a short term adventure but that something went wrong.
Around Christmas time of this past year, my wife and I learned that a new piece of sonar scanning technology could be used to scan the River Thames to see if Andrew might be found there. It was a friend who pointed out to me that when the good news for your family is an opportunity to perhaps find your child’s remains and therefore some sort of closure, it places the rest of your life very firmly in perspective.
Certainly it speaks powerfully of the never-ending nightmare that life becomes for those missing a loved one. Could they have been suicidal and hidden it from you? Could your child have been abducted, murdered, or trafficked? Could some terrible accident have befallen them? These possibilities are the ones that remain in the minds of the parents of a missing child, try as they might to push them aside.
And so it came about, through the efforts of a friend and the generosity of a firm (Liquavision) specialising in underwater search methods that we were the first parents of a missing child in the UK to carry out a search of this sort. For the technologically-minded we used a Starfish 990F 1.1MHz side sonar scanner - the first to be specifically developed to enable sufficient resolution to identify bodies. The team scanned the river from The Woolwich Barrier to Tower Bridge. They found a sunken boat, an upturned car, and many other things that do not belong, but not Andrew. We now at least know that Andrew is not a body in the Thames – it does not resolve the ongoing question of where he might be, but we can take encouragement from the idea that he is more likely perhaps to be alive. 

From left: a sunken boat & mast, a fish (white) and an upturned car (left side of image).
Often when people go missing any underwater search involves divers struggling with tides and currents, zero visibility, extreme cold, limited time frames and much personal risk. All these problems are avoided with a scan and unclear targets can be examined more closely by deploying a ROV to take video footage and further scans of the target at close proximity, minimising the need for risk and maximising the chances of successful identification of a body.
I discussed this technology in more detail on BBC Missing 2011 yesterday morning. You can watch the episode here, and catch the one remaining episodes of the show tomorrow at 9.15 a.m..
On top of the emotional nightmare experienced by families of missing people, there is a great deal of practical frustration, with feeling like you don't have the resources or tools to move the situation forward in any way. It is a position of great helplessness. So while this pioneering sonar technology did not bring my family the answers we're so desperate for, I'm keen to promote it as it may prove the key to closure for other families left in limbo.

By Kevin GosdenFather of missing Andrew Gosden
For more information about Andrew, visit
To leave a message of support for families of missing people, visit

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Louise Minchin: Casting a light on the missing issue

Did you know that a child goes missing every five minutes in the UK?

As a mum, I find that a shocking statistic, and had no idea it was that many until I began presenting Missing for BBC One.

Through the programme we try to help find some of those children and well as some of the estimated 60,000 adults who go missing in the UK each year. The good news is that with the help of our viewers 17 of the missing people cases that we featured during last year's series were resolved.

But the search goes on for many more and Missing 2011 will be on at 0915 every morning next week on BBC One with more families that need your help.

Over the years I have spoken to mums and dads, husbands and wives, and perhaps most heartbreakingly of all, children, desperately searching for news of their missing loved one.

This year I have met an eight year old girl who can hardly speak about her dad without bursting into tears, and is still writing him letters and poems even though he has been missing for months.

What strikes me is that it doesn't matter where you come from, how old you are, or how much money you have - you are almost helpless when someone you love goes missing, and everyone feels the same sense of desperation.

200,000 people run away or go missing every year in the UK. That's more than the entire population of Newcastle. And it doesn't just happen in big cities like London or Manchester. People can disappear from every corner of the UK; every town and city. The missing issue can affect us all.

Through my work on the 'Missing" series, I have come to know the people who work at Missing People - a charity that can help those families when a loved one disappears. And while the Missing series puts a spotlight on the issue once a year, the charity does that 24 hours a day - every day of the year. They are there all year round - a lifeline when someone disappears.

The stories featured this year are just as heartbreaking as those in years past, and with each new season I find myself increasingly struck by the ripple effects of 'missing' on the family, friends, colleagues and community around that person. I only hope that by casting a light on the people affected - even for just one week - we can help raise awareness and call needed attention to this incredibly important issue.

Please watch us at 0915 on BBC One from Monday 9 May. If you can help please call Missing People on 0500 700 700 or visit

By Louise Minchin
Presenter, BBC Missing 2011
Follow Louise on Twitter @louiseminchin 

Around 250,000 people go missing in the UK each year. The Missing Blog aims to give a voice to all those affected by this issue.

Written by families and friends of missing people, supporters working to raise awareness of the cause, and volunteers and staff at the charity Missing People, we hope that this blog will offer a window into the issue of missing.

The charity Missing People is a lifeline when someone disappears. To find out more about Missing People and ways that you can support the charity visit

Call or txt the charity Missing People for free on 116 000, 24/7 if you or anyone you know is affected by a disappearance.