All posts by Emma Harris

It’s Good to Talk…


Have you ever stopped to think about how many conversations you have had in the last year?

In 2013, designer Nicholas Feltron decided to find out the answer to exactly this question and the results are staggering.  For an entire year, he painstakingly logged every single conversation that he had with another human being.  He included face-to-face conversations, telephone calls, text messages, letters, emails and Facebook messages, the results of which can now be viewed in the 2013 Feltron Report. The result? Over the course of a year, Nicholas had an incredible 95,000 conversations.

Speech bubbles above the city - Modern communication concept
Speech bubbles above the city – Modern communication concept

These days, it is easier than ever to communicate with those around us.  As well as the face-to-face conversations we’ve always had, technology has now broken down the barriers of distance and time, allowing us to have conversations with anyone, anywhere in the world and at any time of day or night.

Yet despite those 95,000 conversations we are each having a year, half of us never talked to our loved ones about being an organ donor after we die.  Why does that matter? Because it would be their consent that would be needed if organ donation were an option.  Last year, 90% of families who knew their loved one’s wish to donate gave consent. But where families were unaware of their relative’s wish, 42% refused consent.  And with the numbers of people donating organs falling and the numbers of people needing life-saving transplants is rising, that’s a really big problem to resolve.

Jo Griffith with her yellow ducks
LYDP supporter, Jo Griffith, with her yellow ducks

This week is National Transplant Week in the UK and people all over the UK are being asked to get behind it’s key message of “7 DAYS TO SAY YES I DONATE”.  It’s about asking people to have one simple conversation with their loved ones to ensure their wish to save lives through organ donation is known.  It doesn’t take a lot of time and it doesn’t matter how you have that conversation, it just matters that it happens.  By doing this, we can all do something positive to change the fact that 3 people die each day in the UK due to the desperate shortage of organs for transplant.  Each donor can save or transform the lives of up to 8 people through organ donation and countless more through tissue donation. But if we don’t have that conversation with our loved ones, we may never get that option.

According to Nicholas Felton’s report, each of us is likely to have over 1,800 conversations this week.  Please make just one of those one in which you let your loved ones know your wish to be an organ donor in the future.

Thank you.

Australian ‘Donate Life’ Week

Australia Donate Life Week

Many of you may recall that last August, the Little Yellow Duck Project launched in a rather spectacular way in South Africa. Throughout August 2014, South African members of the knitting website ‘Ravelry’ battled to get as many little yellow ducks as possible across the country and members from the north and south of the country even ran a competition to see who could get the most ducks on our world map!

Duck in Sydney Harbour
50-ft high rubber duck in Sydney Harbour 2013 (designed by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman)

This August it’s the turn of Australia to take on the challenge! This week is ‘Donate Life’ week in Australia and so our wonderful Aussie LYDP team has decided to use the whole month to get as many yellow ducks as possible across their country.  I am so grateful to Katherine and her team for making this possible, and to the Donate Life team for getting involved too and promoting little yellow ducks as a symbol  to encourage people to discuss their wishes regarding organ donation. The Australian Government OTA is also advertising the campaign HERE.

There are a couple of special requests for those making ducks in Australia this month:

1. On the back of the normal tags, please write ‪#‎havethechat‬.

2. So we can trace them on the map, please name them Austen (or [chosen name] Austen).  Austen is a unisex name that means “dignified” (like the gift of life), has the same origin as the month’s name August, and shares four letters with Australia.

Mathskat for Australian Donate Life Week
‘Austen’ ducks ready to be released!

You can read the incredible story of how an organ transplant saved the life of Australian LYDP supporter, Kate Rootsey on our website home page here.  Kate’s life was saved because an incredible family said ‘yes’ to allowing their loved one’s organs to save lives after their death.  Very few people ever die in circumstances in which they could be a potential donor, so it is vital that those who would want to save lives in this way ensure their family know of their wishes.

Kate Rootsey and
Kate Rootsey and daughter Molly

If you haven’t already made your family aware of your wish to be an organ donor, please follow the message of this year’s Australian Donate Life Week and #havethechat.

It’s Yellow Duck Day 2015!

So here we are! 12 months to the day since we launched the Little Yellow Duck Project with a cute idea and a lot of dreams.  Not only did we make it to our first Birthday but we have done it in style.  There have been over 3,000 ducks logged onto our world map in 61 different countries and on all 7 continents of the world.  Here’s how the ducks spread across those continents:

15th April 2014 – 1st ever duck logged on the website! The duck was named Donald and he was found in Stockton-on-Tees, UK.

16th April 2014 – 1st duck outside the UK was logged in Guernsey, Channel Islands.

23rd April 2014 – 1st duck on the continent of North America (Bluffton, Indiana).

11th May 2014 – 1st duck logged on the continent of Australasia (Melbourne in Australia)

10th July 2014 – 1st duck logged in the continent of South America (Lima, Peru).

28th July 2014 – 1st duck logged in the continent of Asia (Phi Phi Islands, Thailand)

1st August 2014 – 1st duck was logged in the continent of Africa (Johannesburg, South Africa)

30th November 2014 – 1st duck logged on the continent of Antarctica (Port Lockroy).

14th April 2015 – Almost one year to the day the first duck was found, the 61st country was added to the map with the addition of the Dominican Republic!

Today marks the first anniversary of the project but the second anniversary of one very special person who is – and will always be – at the very heart of the Little Yellow Duck Project …Clare Cruickshank.   Clare was my best friend, my soul-sister and the godmother to my little boy. She was the most wonderful, funny, thoughtful, giving and simply wonderful person you could meet and it’s been hard to get through two years without the sunshine she brought to every day of life for those around her.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Clare’s wonderful Mum – Ann Rowcliffe – for sowing the seed in my mind that grew into the Little Yellow Duck Project by choosing to remember the first anniversary of Clare’s death in a positive way – by doing random acts of kindness for the day.  It was whilst trying to think how I could join Ann in this mission that the idea of the LYDP was conceived…and the rest, as they say, is history. She has also been a huge support to the project throughout the whole of the last year.

Over the last 12 months I have seen the project flourish into the most beautiful, perfect and fitting tribute to Clare, her life and her personality.  Although Clare never got her second chance at life due to the shortage of organ donors in the UK, she chose to donate her corneas, the result of which is that two other young adults can now see.  One of the things that Clare liked to see most was other countries – she simply loved to travel and was always at her happiest when exploring the world.  The fact that Clare’s spirit still travels on across the globe through the little yellow ducks that she so loved, is a beautiful legacy to have watched grow and develop.

Thank you to every single person who has made just one (or more!) yellow ducks in the last 12 months and set them off on a journey to spread smiles and to save lives. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be trying to blog regularly to showcase some of the stories, photos and messages we have received over the last year. Watch this space!

But for now…

Happy Yellow Duck Day and here’s to the next 12 months!

Thank you to Karen!

Photos (clockwise from left): Karen's Anniversary cake, Karen on her wedding day, Karen's handmade duck in memory of her "donor angel"
Photos (clockwise from left): Karen’s Anniversary cake, Karen on her wedding day, Karen’s handmade duck in memory of her “donor angel” 

I’ve been wanting to showcase some of the tiny-but-fabulous team of people behind the scenes who help me make the LYD Project work and have finally had the ideal opportunity today to begin!

Karen Mills is the wonderful person who, many months ago, volunteered to take on the time-consuming task of logging every single duck that is reported as found from around the world. Karen logs each one onto the world map, along with any message received from its finder. She also helps out as a second admin on the LYDP Facebook group, which is also a big help to me!

Karen become involved with the project when she heard about it last summer. She had been online friends with Clare Cruickshank (in whose memory it was set up) and they both attended the same specialist hospital for cystic fibrosis treatment.

Karen’s life was saved on 23rd February 2014 as the result of a wonderful lady who had signed the organ donor register – and her life has been completely transformed as a result, including getting married to her husband, Glen, just 3 months after the surgery. You can read more about Karen’s life-saving transplant in an online article from the Colchester Gazette.

Karen's handmade ducks ready to visit Colchester Zoo and find new homes!
Karen’s handmade ducks ready to visit Colchester Zoo and find new homes!

Yesterday Karen celebrated her second chance at life, and remembered the person who made it possible, by releasing a flock of her hand-made felt ducks, including one dedicated to her “donor angel”, at Colchester zoo. You can read today’s newspaper article about this below:

Article in the Colchester Gazette - 24/2/15
Article in the Colchester Gazette – 24/2/15

Thank you Karen for all your hard work and here’s wishing you a wonderful year ahead xxx

Happy Shrove Tuesday!

Pancake Day Duck by Dinah Owen
Pancake Day Duck by Dinah Owen

Check out this amazing ‘Pancake Day Duck’ by one of our simply awesome knitters, Dinah Owen!

We hope you are all enjoying pancakes wherever you are in the world today.  Please keep the themed ducks coming, they make us smile so much here at Yellow Duck Towers!

Loving Gifts for Valentine’s Day


This Valentine’s Day we are asking everyone to do one simple loving act by choosing to save someone’s life. You could sign up to donate blood, stem cells (bone marrow) or organs/tissues or even all three. Or perhaps simply use this day to remember to tell your loved one that you’d like to donate to save lives when you are no longer here.

Our volunteers all over the world have been busy making Valentine-themed ducks ready for today.  These ducks will be going out into the communities where they live to be left for others to find.  They will brighten lives of today, and hopefully save lives of tomorrow.

Love Ducks by Dinah Owen
Love Ducks by Dinah Owen
Lisa Dickenson Brand Valentine Ducks
Valentine Ducks by Lisa Dickeson Brand
Ursula Hulme
Loving Ducks by Ursula Hulme
Jacqui Blonstein
Heart Duck by Jacqui Blonstein

Thank you to all who continue to make and distribute these ducks and to all our volunteers, supporters and blog-readers – we love you all!

Star of the Week – Ogres, Dogs and Ducks!


Star of the Week Icon


Our second ‘Star of the Week’ Award is another joint one – but this time it’s a rather different award as it goes to… a cuddly green ogre and a dog who live on opposite sides of the world!

Jeff enjoying a spot of knitting in his garden
Jeff enjoying a spot of knitting in his garden

Jeffy Green (a cute and cuddly toy ogre who runs Will Knit for Syrup) found out about the Little Yellow Duck Project last year and decided to knit some ducks to leave around the area he lives in the UK.  One of his Facebook friends – an Australian dog called Devo – saw photos of the ducks and asked Jeff if he could knit him some to take on his around-the-world trip later in the year.

Devo Maxwell - one seriously cool dog!
Devo Maxwell – one seriously cool globe-trotting dog!

Now Devo isn’t just an ordinary dog.  Oh no. Devo is an assistance dog with a love of travel who has now accompanied his Mum on her worldwide travels to multiple countries on planes, trains, trucks, cars, buses and ships, making friends all over the world as he goes. Not only this, but Devo is also a published author!

So Jeff made 16 ducks and off they went on to Australia to begin their adventure…

The ducks knitted by Jeff Green, ready for their global adventure!
The ducks knitted by Jeff Green, ready for their global adventure!

Incredibly, in just 8 weeks, Devo managed to get LYDP ducks into 6 different continents and a whole list of countries including Chile, Singapore, USA, Canada, Germany and a British Science Base in Antarctica! He even managed to leave a duck on both Easter Island and Christmas Island (well you couldn’t have one without the other could you?) and to achieve a quick stop-off in the UK for a visit to his good friend Jeff to thank him for all his knitting.

The two friends finally get to meet when Devo stops by on his round-the-world trip
The two friends finally get to meet when Devo stops by on his round-the-world trip

One ‘Jeff duck’ even managed to notch up a grand total of 87,000 km (55,000 miles) after returning to Australia to be placed back where he left off. Is this the most well travelled duck ever?!

Jeff Ducks
(Clockwise from left) Jeff Duck who travelled 87,000 km arrives back at Melbourne airport, Singapore, Port Lockroy British Science Base in Antarctica, Easter Island

A huge thank you to Jeff, Devo (and their Mums) who helped make this happen!  Enjoy being our Stars of the Week!

Stars of the Week 2015

Star of the Week Icon

New for 2015 – Star of the Week Award! This week’s award is a joint one awarded to Tina Thomas and Emma Pattullo.

Mr Men and Little Miss Ducks Ready for Release
Mr Men and Little Miss Ducks Ready for Release

Tina, from Deeside, has now made and distributed 150 ducks in Scotland (including the amazing Mr Men/Little Miss series! She has also been amazing at helping to raise awareness of the project through her local newspaper and by putting up posters for the project.

Emma and David Pattullo from Platform 22
Emma and David Pattullo from Platform 22

Emma found one of Tina’s ducks and pledged to give blood as a result. Having found that she is not able to donate herself, Emma has got 72 people to pledge to donate blood when a mobile unit visits her business, Platform 22, which she has also worked hard to arrange.

THANK YOU to Tina and Emma, as well as all of you who make this project happen and save lives!

It’s Not About the Money….

Money, what is it good for?

“It’s not about the money, money, money,
We don’t need your money, money, money,
We just wanna make the world dance,
Forget about the price tag”

So sang Jessie J at the closing ceremony for the 2012 Olympics. They are the same words that have been running through my head since I got a notification through yesterday evening that the Little Yellow Duck Project (LYDP) had hit the news headlines.

I was on the long journey back from London after my little boy’s hospital appointment and he had just fallen asleep in the car. My husband was driving and I finally had a chance to check up on my emails and text messages. I think it’s safe to say that the last thing I was expecting was to find that the LYDP was making news headlines around the world!

Read all about it

However as I read on, my excitement quickly turned into concern as I quickly realised that we seemed to be in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

“Thousands of rubber ducks stuffed with cash are sent around the world!

Mystery of Cash Giving Yellow Ducks Has been Solved!”

Hold on a minute….rubber ducks stuffed with cash? Mystery donors?  Was I actually reading about the Little Yellow Duck Project here?  Yes, I must be, I realised, because my photo of Clare – with the duck I gave her one Christmas – is smiling back at me in all the articles. And as I read on, I recognised more extracts from the website, this blog and quotes from articles that her wonderful Mum, Ann Rowcliffe, had given in the past were appearing. What was going on?

Photo from
Photo from

As I read on, the penny dropped.  A few weeks ago someone had shared a link on our Facebook group to a local newspaper article from Kent that was reporting on how various plastic bath ducks had been found in the area with a typed note and cash attached to them. No one knew who had left them but it had been suggested that there might be a link to the LYD Project at some point.

Photo from Kent and Sussex Courier
Duck found in Tonbridge with £50 note. Photo from Kent and Sussex Courier

When I had first seen that article I had wondered the same thing myself. There did seem to be similarities in that yellow ducks were involved along with random acts of kindness. But, unlike the LYDP ducks, these ducks were not handmade by volunteers, they did not carry our official tag and they made no mention of the real message behind our campaign – saving lives through blood and organ donation.  None of our supporters knew anything about a link and so I assumed that it was either a co-incidence or that someone had read about the LYDP and decided to do copy the idea to promote some seasonal goodwill.


If you’ve ever wanted to see an example of how fast a less-than-accurate news story can circle the globe, this is it. Within hours the story went from a suggestion of a link in a local newspaper in Kent, to a confirmed “revelation” in a British national newspaper, then becoming a headline on one of the top USA news websites and newspaper websites around the world.

Having spent years working on projects to raise awareness-raising of organ donation and spent day after day sending out press releases and contacting journalists, I’m only too aware that money can’t buy this kind of media coverage. The value of worldwide publicity like this can not be overstated, and to have journalists choosing to promote your cause is just priceless.

Michelle Harper and Keely Tomlinson. Photo by J. Raynor, Nottingham Post.

However the part that saddens me about all this is that the real message about the LYD Project has been somewhat buried under a story about cash. For  months generous, kind-hearted people around the world have put hours into handcrafting little yellow ducks as gifts for strangers. They have given these gifts expecting nothing in return, other than to brighten someone’s day and to encourage more of us to save lives through blood and organ donation. They never usually know where their painstakingly crafted gifts end up or if they are appreciated. But they live in hope that they will have lifted someone’s spirits and saved a life or two in the process.

Members of Harbourside WI in Portiswood, UK. Photograph courtesy of North Somerset Times
Members of Harbourside WI in Portiswood, UK. Photograph courtesy of North Somerset Times

Yet none of this has ever hit the headlines. Nearly 2,500 handmade ducks have been reported from 56 countries around the world and we estimate that this represents just 25% of those that have actually been sent out into their world with their messages of love and hope.  And yet, as soon as money is involved, it’s a headline. As soon as a handful of crisp banknotes start appearing in random places, the story becomes exciting. Who will be next? Could it be you? Who is the person who is giving away money? Why would they DO that?

They say that all publicity is good publicity and this is undoubtedly true.  Despite the inaccuracies of the story, thankfully the true message is getting out thanks to people visiting our website and finding it out for themselves. I have been so touched by the messages of support and from those who have said they will now start crafting their own little life-saving ducks to spread the message to others.

The true story is indeed exciting and uplifting, but it’s not – and never will be – because of money. The LYD Project has never fundraised for money, it has never distributed money and it has never spent any money. It’s about the difference that we can each make in the world, whether that’s by lovingly making a gift of a duck for a stranger or giving the gift of life through blood or organ donation.

Sally-Anne Grainger and Wesley Joyce who offered her his kidney after he saw her donor plea in his local newspaper
Sally-Anne Grainger and Wesley Joyce who offered her his kidney after he saw her donor plea in his local newspaper

And it’s about something that money can never buy and which is greater than any amount of financial resources – it’s about hope. Right now hundreds of thousands of people around the world need blood and bone marrow transfusions and organ or tissue transplants. Without the gift of a stranger they will die. They live in hope that someone will give them the gift of life and a second chance…a gift that no money can buy.

Photo courtesy of NHSBT
Photo courtesy of NHSBT

Wishing you all a peaceful and restful Christmas,

Emma x

It’s Christmas!

Our wonderful crafting volunteers around the world have been extra busy creating some truly wonderful Christmas ducks to celebrate this magical season and to continue to spread the word about the importance of donating to save lives.  Thank you to each and every one of them and all our other volunteers who are helping us to cover the globe in these special yellow ducks!

Here are some of our favourites so far, please keep them coming and post the photos on our Facebook group.  Enjoy!

Suzy Compton
Festive ducks by Suzy Compton
Robin and Rudolph by Sheila Vaux
Robin and Rudolph by Sheila Vaux
Xmas Tree Duck by Lisa Dickenson
Xmas Tree Duck by Lisa Dickenson
Christmas Quackers, Rudolph, Santa and Tinsel by Christina Coulbecks
Christmas Quackers, Rudolph, Santa and Tinsel by Christina Coulbecks
A Pyramid of Xmas Ducks by Sheila Vaux
A Pyramid of Xmas Ducks by Sheila Vaux
A huddle of chilly ducks by Helen Foster
A Trio of Chilly Ducks by Helen Foster
Festiv Family Photo by Chiva Som
Festiv Family Photo by Chiva Som