Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What People do for Charity

What People for Charity.
Published in Reality Magazine in June 2013.
By Sue Leonard

Once, to raise money for charity, people held a jumble sale, or rattled a tin. Now, with so many good causes jostling for attention, it seems necessary to think up something extraordinary, to catch the public’s attention.

So when, during a committee meeting in County Tipperary, the members suggested table quizzes, and bag packing, Sr Patricia Wall got to thinking. She said,
“We should do a sky dive.” And, after more thought, she decided that as a nun of almost 75, she should be the one to do it. “I said I was happy to, as long as the rest of the committee got on with the fund raising.

“This was coming to the end of 2012,” she says. “We decided to put it off until this year, and to tie it in with my 75th birthday. We contacted the sky diving company, and they said a 90 year old had done a sky dive, so age wasn’t a limiting factor. I registered, and said I’d get back to them when I was ready.”

Sr Patricia has chosen the charity Aware.
“It’s important, to me, that we raise significant money. In South Tipperary, where I live, there are a lot of families who have had tragedies. Aware promotes the supports that are out there for people with depression. People must be encouraged to seek help, and told that suicide is not an option.

“I suffered from depression in my late twenties,” she says. “It only happened over one year. I got the help and support I needed, and thank God, it hasn’t reoccurred. For some people it keeps reoccurring.”

The most daring thing Sr Patricia has done to date is to snorkel. She did that in Cairns with a nephew, but says she was too scared to scuba dive, because she doesn’t like the thought of being under the sea.
“I had a scare as a child when I was being taught to swim,” she says. “I was swept out, and I nearly drowned.”

Yet she’s not in the least scared of jumping out of a plane from 10,000 feet up.
“There’s some training in the morning, and I’ll be strapped onto an instructor. They have a good safety record,” she says. “The worst danger is a broken ankle on landing. But they’ve only had seven broken ankles in seven years.

“And if it all goes wrong, they can give me a good send off, once they’ve raised all the money,” she says with a chuckle. Then adds, “But I shouldn’t be tempting fate.”

When Julian Bloomer decided to set off on a global cycling trip, he hadn’t, initially thought of it as a fund raising venture.
“I’ve always loved the idea of travelling by bicycle,” he says. “And when I was at university, I cycled in France, Spain and Morocco.

“In 2010, I finished my PhD in Geography at Trinity, and I decided, before finding a steady job, I’d cycle to West Africa. I cycled through Europe before crossing to Morocco, and then I cycled across the Sahara to West Africa.”
By them he’d been bitten by the travel bug, and in company with a Polish guy, he continued through Central Africa to Cape Town.
“All that had taken fourteen months,” he says. “I then decided to follow my dream of a world circumnavigation. I loved the simple routine of finding food and water and a place to pitch a tent. A bonus was staring at the stars and the interaction with everyone I met.”

This is when he decided to fundraise.
“I kept hearing grim news about Ireland’s economic crisis, and the effect it had on youth homelessness. I’d often listened to Peter McVerry and I decided to support the work of TRUST.”

Currently in Chengdu, China, after a short break in Hong Kong, Julian now has a travelling companion, Ellie.
“We met in Bolivia three years ago. I’d been helping out at a girl’s orphanage, and she’d been backpacking. We travelled the Amazon basin together, then she returned home to England, while I cycled on to Columbia.

“Ellie had only done a weekend’s cycling trip before, but we’ve cycled together from Columbia to Canada. We then flew to Tokyo, where Ellie broke her arm. She went home for a while, but joined me back in China.

“Almost every day is full of wonderful encounters and acts of generosity, from being given food and water, to a big smile. We’re often invited into people’s homes to share their food.

“I’ll never forget cycling along the Andes mountain range, amazed by the beauty of the landscape, But cycling isn’t always pleasant. In Baja California in Mexico, we spent a month cycling to the US border with a daily headwind.”

It can be dangerous, too. Like the time the couple feared that the leaking, overcrowded boat had little chance of reaching the other side of the River Congo.

When he finishes this life time dream, what will he do?
“I’m not really sure,” he says. “Perhaps a return to research and to teaching. But being chained to a computer again is a rather daunting prospect.”

Louise McEvoy’s father is, slowly getting over a nasty encounter with cancer. Ever since he was diagnosed, Louise has been determined to raise some money for a cancer charity. And she didn’t want to go down any of the conventional routes.

“When I think of cancer treatment, the first thing that comes to mind is a bald head,” she says. “I think that must be horrible for sufferers. And I thought, ‘why don’t I shave my head for charity?’ Then I’ll be raising awareness at the same time.”

Louise is just 33. She had beautiful, waist long red hair. And when she told her friends what she planned to do, they were appalled.
“People were annoying me. They said, ‘don’t shave off your hair.’ Some people don’t have the choice. It’s a very small sacrifice to make for a good cause.”

Deciding to do the deed on St Patrick’s Day, Louise chose to raise money for Lily Mae for Cancer, in honour of Lily Mae Morrison, the four year old with aggressive cancer.
“I wanted to raise it for her, because the charity was only formed last July,” she says. “I felt they could do with more money.”

For the day job, Louise works in a medical device company in Tullamore, but she’s fond of singing too. And she was performing a few songs in the pub on St Patrick’s Day. But with a difference.

“Before I began, I had one side of my head shaved,” she says. “A friend scooped the other side into a pony tail. I then gigged, and the friend said, ‘how much will you give to see this pony tail cut off?’ €770 came in. Money was just falling from the sky. My parents were there, and they were in shock. It was unreal.”

All this happened at around 9.15 pm. But Louise didn’t look at herself in a mirror until 1.30 am, by which time, the other side of her head was shaved too. What did she think?
“I didn’t really take it in,” she says. “The next morning a couple of friends were with me, in my house. It wasn’t until they left in the evening that I suddenly thought, what have I done? That’s when I had a wobbler.”

Two weeks on, Louise has braved stares from people, wherever she goes.
“Adults; children; everyone stares,” she says. “It must be terrible for people who are genuinely sick. When I tell people I’ve shaved my head for a charity, it’s a talking point. It’s definitely raised awareness.”

It’s raised money too. €7,200 at the last count, and it’s still pouring in.
“I’ve no regrets,” says Louise. “All that money! And it’s a solo effort.”

For More Information:

AWARE: www.aware.ie
TRUST: www.pmvtrust.ie
Lily Mae www.fundit.ie/project/a-song-for-lily-mae

© Sue Leonard. 2013.

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