Sunday, 11 May 2014

Charity Starts At Home ... and sometimes a marathon or two involved.

I'm back in training.

You might recall I was 'in training' last year too.

The one huge difference this year  is there's no reunion beckoning, making me choose between one or the other (the reunion was fantastic)

This one feels more achievable for me too.  It's a MINI not FULL, it's during the day not at night, and MrsD assures me, it's like a long casual stroll as we'll be walking with the wheel chair pushers, and she doesn't train! Doing a full marathon at night thru the streets of London was very daunting but I would have given it my very best had the reunion not got in the way.

Sorry to go on about being an expat, but it is who we are, despite the label, it's times like this that you think - who can I ask to sponsor me? If I was home there would be a load of people to ask and who would happily sponsor me, as I/we do them.

Think about it - you're involved in a fundraiser - who you going to ask to donate? Family. Friends. Work colleagues. Neighbours. Parents at school. The list of your network goes on and on. Plus, they can give you the cash AND the money is in the same currency!

Think about expats - depending on how long you've lived in a place (for me, it's our second time here, so we've a good network) you may not have a network of friends you feel comfortable to ask; plus if it's a local charity you can bet e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e is involved in some way so no point asking for sponsors and everyone sponsors everyone else.

Family'n'friends are too far away, they are supporting their local charities, and may not want to support you in some far-flung-place; plus they have to convert their donations into another currency!

There are other issues going on to, for example,

  • Do you feel comfortable asking work colleagues to support you?
  • How long do you need to know someone (aka, school parent, tennis buddy, bridge partner, book club members) before you can ask them for sponsorship?
  • Raising money for local charities is a great way to integrate into your new community, especially if school is involved. 
  • As expats, are we're asked to raise money for many global situations  simply because of our global environment - can you choose one over another? 
  • Do we still sponsor things at 'home' even tho we're not living there?
  • Is it tit-for-tat? You sponsor me, I'll sponsor you.

We were in Japan when there were the horrendous fires (are there any other kind?) in Australia, and a group of us got together and hosted a coffee morning and raffle. We raided our cupboards for Australian wine to donate, a packet of Tim Tams, some Aeroplane Jelly; then we sourced the gifts we all have, those we keep in their original packaging for just this sort of thing - there was jewelry, ornaments, scarves, paintings, bottles of wine and books. A few of us were able to secure resturant vouchers and a couple of hairdressing vouchers.

We baked cakes, served coffee and raised nearly AUD600! The funniest part of the day was when someone 'won' their own donated item.

In a short period of time, we were back doing the same thing, but on a smaller scale for the Brisbane Floods. It was smaller only because we'd cleared out our cupboards for the fires!!!!!!!! Now I always keep something in the cupboard, even if it's buying stuff on sale.

Then there was Tohoku after the earthquake to support in terms of money and rebuilding; our school partnered schools in Cambodia; and there were local Japanese charities to support. Many teachers and parents from school went into the area, helping clean up and rebuild; MrsN is STILL very involved in the care of domestic animals in the area and in Yokohama.

Doing charity work isn't just about sponsoring - it's about doing too. MrsA volunteers 3 days a week at a children's hospice in Winchester. I applied to help there too, but we moved before paperwork was done. Another friend volunteered with a group who helps young mums in disadvantaged areas.

In the UK I was very proud to be able to host in our home a coffee morning and Home Shopping Market which raised several hundred pounds towards the MoonWalk Marathon (the one I didn't end up doing). Again, lots of money was raised for Breast Cancer Research UK.

Our school financially supported a school in India - and there were numerous fundraising events through out the year for this, plus local charities.

In Dublin, I've supported the Syria Refugees at a luncheon at the Syrian Embassy; Irish MS when MissM participated in the global annual MS READathon;  school is involved in schools in Uganda, but it's only the senior school and PTA that's involved to date. The Junior school does things for local groups. MrsR volunteers with a charity that works with sight impaired young adults.

We've also donated to various Sydney charities via friends walking, running, jogging, reading activities.

We've friends in a few cities with kids with Special Needs, and while I can donate towards their various fundraisers, it's hard to help them in any other way. Being in Dublin means I am able to support MrsD and her family as needed. It also means we can help those families we'll never meet but who she champions every single day as Chairperson of the Association.

MissM was desperate to participate in the MS-READathon like all her friends, but as everyone was involved, and we were still 'new' we didn't feel we could approach anyone here. After digging around, I discovered MS have an website, and MissM was allowed by school to ask for sponsorship ONLINE - the website even works our currency conversions.

Her grandparents, aunties and uncles, cousins and friends were all invited to sponsor her via email and she was delighted with the response. It was just like being home and being supported, but probably more important as she isn't there to ask in person, but she knew she had the love and support of everyone back home.

Whenever friends pop stuff up onto Facebook, while I can't be there, I will always share their call to action on my page. It's the least we can do.

So, on Bank Holiday Monday I'll be walking with MrsD and the Special Needs Association group (already got my official t-shirt) to raise money for this very very important cause.

With a target of a modest Euro200, I've been truly overwhelmed by the sponsorship from friends in Dublin and Sydney. I'm very excited to see just how much money I can raise towards the Special Needs Parents Association, Ireland.

My Dublin friends are supporting me because they know how hard it is for families with kids with special needs in Ireland, and my Sydney ones are supporting me cos they love me and a few of them have met MrsD and MissS and are fully aware of the passion and commitment she has to SNPA and are very happy to support us.

MissM's donation was with a message of 'proud of you mummy'

G's message was "Good luck. Hopefully this time you actually go thru with it instead of bailing like time. Still, very happy to donate to such a worthy cause' (referring to my tough decision of walking with the Moonlight girls, or going to Dublin for a reunion. I chose the reunion; and still raised money for the Moonlight girls). Those of you who know G will know how dry and hilarious he is. I roared with laughter when I read what he wrote.

  • What about you?
  • What causes are close to your heart?
  • How do you discern between charities?
  • If you're an expat, how involved do you get with local charities?
  • Have you ever volunteered? Doing what?

So, with no reunion calling, and with the love and support of friends, MissM and G, I'm so pleased to be able to help not only Special Needs Parents Association, but whenever, and how ever I can.

PS: Here's a great TedTalk on non-profits ie: charities ..... hope you have time to watch.

With friendship


  1. There is endless need for finite resources. A few years ago a friend gave me a piece of advice which I took, and pass on now: Choose 3 charities/causes to support. Only 3. That way you can give more quality support, rather than small amounts to a big number. I sometimes vary the charities year to year, but I always limit myself to 3. Sounds selfish at first, but it gives me a chance to really focus on helping where *I* want to, not just because I get asked.

    1. Mum has done that for many years now. It's a great idea!