Charity Begins At Home by Kim Lucas

I always remember being intrigued by charity shops and those that worked in them. I would often consider applying but would remember that it wasn’t considered cool and I didn’t have enough “street cred” to be different. So I would continue walking by.

It wasn’t until I was around 16/17 that I began to frequent the charity shops in the hope of finding a great bargain. I really did find some great stuff. My most memorable finds were the white earmuffs with the bendy plastic and some red ankle wellies that had laces and fur lining. I again began to contemplate giving up my time to work in the shops. I figure that working in retail would be good experience for any future employment prospects. Although, by then, I was drinking in the local pub and found my social life and boyfriend were more important.

Jumping forward ten years and a lot has happened in terms of life experiences and lessons. I returned to University at the lovely age of 25, I was able to pick a module for the second semester. Out of sixty students, a friend and myself chose to take Documentary Photography. By the amount of bitching and moaning that followed from those taking the other class, I knew quickly I had chosen correctly. I know some of them secretly resented watching me swan around campus with a camera whilst they were frantically making calls for locations and casting.

For my first assignment, I did a self-portrait, of my ears. I had only just started wearing my hearing aids again and wanted to get the viewer to feel as uncomfortable looking at the images as I felt wearing them. It worked. I didn’t even need to explain myself, as my lecturer perfectly understood. For my final assignment within this class, I had to chose a subject and present it within 7-12 images. It had to have a narrative. After a while of thinking of subjects, I decided to choose my sister. I wanted to present the various parts of her personality and her life. Despite never being particularly close with my sister, I’ve come to admire the person she has become, although I’d never tell her that!

When I suggested the idea to my lecturer, she was confused. I gave more information. “She’s not just my sister,” I said. “She’s a mother, a carpenter, a partner, a gardener, a wine maker, a volunteer, a motorcyclist.” With her approval and a date to pop back to Norfolk, I booked a camera and a train and went home.

My project was simple, take lots of shots of my sister doing all of her stuff and pick one of each. The one shoot I remember most was her volunteering. I knew she helped with the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute) but had never really understood what she did. We went along on the Sunday morning for training for new recruits. It was amazing to see her in the full kit and training others.

After the weekend, I edited my project and presented it to the class. I got a first. This is the highest grade. I was so happy.

When I returned from studying abroad in Canada, one of our first classes was based on putting forward ideas for a documentary. After a quick brainstorm, I decided to pitch the RNLI. I figured my sister would be able to help with arrangements. I managed to get my project chosen and with a small team, we set upon creating it.

The whole process afterwards was chaotic and a nightmare and almost certainly contributed to one of my lowest points and a very consuming depression. The team broke down into two groups. I spent an entire day editing (as in sat at a computer for 23hours) before deciding it was enough and going home to sleep and cry. That happened twice. It was the worst and hardest project I had dealt with, made much harder by the fact that I was Director. It’s not a role I am comfortable with and despite being a little bit bossy at times, I prefer to hide behind the computer.

I eventually crawled through it. As we presented it to our class, it made the 4am lip-syncing worth it. Especially when other groups had audio and video horrendously out of sync as times, I was cringing. I felt I had done myself proud and mostly, the RNLI justice.

I didn’t want to end up with something that looked like high schoolers had made it, to embarrass my sister and never be allowed to go along to see them training on a Sunday morning again. I learned so much about the charity during a ridiculous amount of research that I wanted to sign up. Immediately. Unfortunately, to be able to participate, there are certain health checks and good hearing is one of them. I fully understand that and completely agree, as I wouldn’t want someone’s life at risk due to my frequencies not working that day.

Inspired by my sister and her selfless effort to run to the boathouse at anytime day or night to save those at sea, I wanted to find a way that I could work towards making a difference. This is why I began volunteering at AOHL. I may just be on reception but it’s great experience for me to be in such an environment. I get to socialise and meet all kinds of people. It’s helped my confidence in so many ways. It’s also a great feeling when someone comes in looking for advice or help and that I am able to do so. Whether it’s just a chat or spending time with someone who is struggling, it’s helping them.

So although I was never brave enough to offer my time when I was younger, my sister and witnessing the RNLI has encouraged me to do it now. And it’s so completely worth it. I made my final edits recently and also added captions so that even more people can enjoy it.

I hope others are able to find something to inspire them to give back to the community or help someone else as much as I did.

Here is a link to my documentary, don’t forget you can load the subtitles! :

Stronger Than Words by Al Jazeera

A part of me has always been with the people in war torn countries as well as those in the developing countries. I have seen with my own eyes just how their corrupt governments have neglected them, my heart tears with despair, seeing them all alone at the roadside having to strive just to stay alive. Those who are physically disabled were left with no or very little equipment to support them. I am not one to be easily fooled or manipulated yet these were no frauds. For several years now we have donated clothes that will help the poor, cutting out the middle man by sending several extra-large laundry bags full to relatives who would distribute them out fairly. During my last visit there, it became so much that I started to ask my husband to donate some money to them. He obliged – after all how could he say no to me?! 😉

This week is the International Week of the Deaf and Al Jazeera has made a very special film about the deaf community in Gaza. Please follow the original link to their page to watch their video about such strong and inspirational people who happen to be deaf and just happened to live in Gaza.

Stronger than words by Al Jazeera.

Alternatively for the deaf audience, here is their captioned version:

In the past I have written about the dirty war that is being waged in case you wished to read up more on the issues and history between Palestine and Israel.

Please, let us be extremely grateful for what we have today and remember those less fortunate than us.

 ~ SJ (Sara Jae)

Giving & Gratitude

When it comes to kindness, there is absolutely no need to discriminate against any identifiable means because it is about humanity in general and acts of giving without any expectations of receiving in return.

For so long there has been a frustration of sorts building within me seeing the simplest things in life being taken for granted. Be it the roof over your heads, certain (branded) clothes being worn, the hot meals and comfy mattresses you lay upon, the NHS and free medicine being provided for us – the list is endless. The extremely close shave I experienced a couple of years ago taught me to take nothing for granted, now cherishing every little thing and being all around me.

“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle” – Plato

For this reason, I am now trying my very best to spare a moment to remember those who may have been left outdoors, especially during those cold winter nights. Recently I, via the Tree House, have been able to appease that frustration of helplessness. In true spirit of the Tree House, this has meant this is now starting to catch on with other dwellers through their acts of kindness. So far, we have saved numerous left over meals and received donations of various kinds of cakes with which we approached homeless people and gave.

“Thank you” they gratefully say. And if they have a pet with them, they are more than happy to share with their “best friend” – Without a question.

Nigel and his best friend who enjoyed the leftovers from our Chinese meal.

There are those who had everything and lost it all and there are those who dedicate every minute of their remaining lives to make sure the homeless has a hot drink at least. They are among the unsung heroes of today’s societies. They are trying their very best in being the change they wish to see in the world.

So let us organise café meet ups with CAKE(!) donating to a charity of your choice, perhaps asking cafés to participate in “Suspended Coffee” schemes too. When you have a meal, please save your leftovers and seek out the homeless in order to make their day. Maybe even nominate/challenge your friends to pay it forwards too. Please?

One can only hope this act of compassion and kindness will help to keep them going, to keep the faith and to have hope. That not everyone has a stone cold heart, that they are not oblivious to everyday people. They are still someone’s child who were brought into this world for a reason.

A drop of kindness goes a very long way, much more than you realise.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ― Leo Buscaglia

 Carpe Diem – every day by being true to yourselves. x

~ SJ (Sara Jae)