As its Sunday, writing for publication on Monday, and there is little work able to be done, I figured that I’d answer a few questions about how we got here, in Zimbabwe, doing this “charity thing”. We’ve had some amazing feedback, both locally and over the net, about what we are doing, but there are also a lot of people messaging and also asking how we got here in the first place.
First of all, we are NOT part of an NGO. This is a “Non Governmental Organisation”. This would be an organisation that has nothing to do with any state government and could be a charity like Oxfam, for instance. We are not “Charity Workers” either. There seems to be a bit of stigma about the term “Charity Worker”, although not about the work that they do obviously.
What we are though, we like to think, is a pair of civic minded individuals who just wanted to help and it all started a number of years ago, so lets do a Marty McFly and go back in time and start from the beginning so you can see how it all came about.
21st April 2014 I put out the following Facebook status:
Thinking of doing some volunteer work in Africa next winter. Build a school, orphanage, water supply or something like that… I know thats really vague, but always wanted to see a bit of Africa and I think giving something back in this way would be fun and rewarding too. So, anyone done something like this in the past and have any contacts?
Little did I know that with these few words, everything would change.
From this small post, I was contacted by my best friend from school’s mum, who’s cousin was working for a school in Zimbabwe. Sounds complicated, but it wasn’t really… And with that, I got in touch with the local legend that is Helen Laister. She’s been living here in Zimbabwe for 21 years now, but is still a Yorkshire woman through and through! We chatted about how I might be able help, and about how no-one ever comes to Zimbabwe thanks to Robert Mugabe and his internationally unpopular government, but they are in dire need of help.
So, you may be wondering, “2014 is years ago, how come it took so long to actually do it?”, well, I met a certain Nicole Goodridge in that very summer and it was a bit hard for me to say “I know we’ve just started this relationship together, but I’m off to Africa for 2 months, so see you when I get back”. So everything was put on hold for a while and that paid off massively with Nicole and I due to marry in October of this year.
Fast forward to September 2015 and we’d spoken about getting out to Africa to do this as yet unplanned charity work together this time, but nothing was concrete. We knew Zimbabwe, we knew it had to be in our European winter between the Ibiza summers and that was about it. We speculated about January 2017, but that was about it when Nicole started grumbling one day about my beard being too long and that I should trim it. Every defiant, I said that just because she’d asked, I was now going to keep growing it until Christmas. Just a throw away comment, but that was how it all started and how we raised €1350 just from that beard! I put it out on Facebook that I’d now be refusing to shave until we’d received €500 towards our Zimbabwe charity fund. To our surprise, this was achieved really quickly… I was shocked! Ok, then, €1000 would be the new amount… slowly but surely money came in. Two large chunks of €100 and €200 from individuals really started to make the ground up on our way to €1000, but we got there pretty early, and before my planned Christmas end date. By the time Christmas came around, we’d received €1350 and we were well and truly on our way to Zimbabwe. We were now committed.
Next up was a charity auction, held and aided by The Fish bar and restaurant. Joe & Tasha, along with Max again, really helped make this a massive success. The San Antonio community really pulled together but giving away free meals, drinks and other prizes to be auctioned off. I was truly awful as an auctioneer, but in spite of all that, we raised €700 in total in one day. We also got Max to agree to have some of the hair on his nether regions to be waxed for €50. You’d be surprised how fast guys will put their hands in their pocket when they think that by doing so, they’ll be able to inflict pain on a mate. 🙂
Final event of the Ibiza winter was the Madrid Marathon. Now’s time to give props to my partner in crime Max Hughes. He volunteered to run it with me, even though he’d never done anything like this kind of distance before. When he sweats, gravy and vodka comes out, and he has all the innate athletic ability of a jellyfish washed up on the beach, and yet he pulled it out of the bag, nearly dying in the process, of finishing and raising a huge chunk of money towards our charity. After the beard and after already doing London marathon just 2 years before, I found it hard to attract sponsors this time around, so without Max we’d have only made a few €100 but with him it was more like €750 when combined with my own.
And with that, we entered our hectic Ibiza summer time with only a coin donation bucket to keep the money ticking along. A few coins here and there didn’t really make a big contribution but it did serve as a daily reminder that we still had a long way to go before being able to take enough money to make a real change to some children’s lives.
Every summer for the past decade, there has been a massive workers party with 1000’s in attendance all in fancy dress. Unfortunately it appears that 2016 was its final year. We’d raised over €300,000 over that decade for local good causes, but the numbers of workers coming had dipped sharply in recent years and the committee, of which I was part, decided that they no longer thought it was worth carrying on and that it had run its course. I, as you can probably tell, am stubborn at times, so I decided to carry it on on my own, trying something new to try and breath life in to, or just put the final nail in the coffin. It proved to be a disappointing turn out, but we still managed to raise around €3000 in the process. I can imagine that you’re reading this and thinking that any event that can make €3000 would be a success, but unfortunately this was to be the end of the “Sh1t Party” as its known. Still, that €3000 was kindly offered but the others on the committee to go towards this Zimbabwe charity trip rather than its usual destination of local charities. With that and the other events earlier in the year we really were starting to make a decent kitty to do good things with over here.
Being 38, birthdays don’t hold the same interest to me as they used to. Thats par for the course I think. Its not that I don’t want people to know how old I am, or that I’m grumpy, its more just the fact that I have just about everything that I want, so I’m not bothered about more presents that I don’t need and probably don’t want. So, with that in mind I put out the following status on Facebook too:
This may be jumping the gun a little, and perhaps a little presumptuous but… its my birthday next week and in place of any presents or anything at all, I’d prefer if a donation was made to this charitable trip to help underprivileged children in Africa:
I know the majority of you are thinking “I wasn’t planning on getting you anything anyway” or “I don’t even like you 😉” but if you could even spare £2, then that would be awesome.
Last year, and I’m not joking, I had like 800 people wish me a happy birthday on my timeline, and if every one of those people were to have donated the price of a half a pint of beer, then that money would be enough to send 18 children to school for a year in Zimbabwe, when they currently have no ability to pay for themselves.
Food for thought, so can you help?
Of course, this being Facebook, and people being people, I think it would be more likely if 5 people actually donated… can you you help and prove me wrong?
Please feel free to share this post and tag anyone you think would like to get involved. The world is broken so lets try to fix it bit by bit and this is a good a place as any to start.
That generated a few extra donations, but mainly smaller ones. The thought was there though of course and I didn’t have to open any crappy presents and pretend to like them either so it was all win-win.
Final money raising event of our pre-Zimbabwe time came in the form of a sponsored walk around Ibiza. The idea was that we’d start really early and then we’d walk to each and every super club on the island all in one day. A walk that was supposed to take only 9hours actually took us 11hrs and was nearly 20km further than google maps had promised me, the cheeky bastards! We walked along the main road, through hail storms, rain storms and sunshine, we even walked “off grid” where our blistered feet met their match trying to traverse paths destroyed by the recent rains. But, we finally made it in one piece.
With Nicole by my side this time, we actually had a great time recording mini live videos and broadcasting them via Facebook every time we got somewhere iconic. It meant we took over peoples Facebook feeds that day and to our amazement we raised around another €500 in one day! Our best one day total up until that point. We’d had fun, but I was paying for it for weeks afterwards as the blisters never seemed to heal properly and I couldn’t walk right for ages! Still, money was raised and now we had our fighting fund to come to Zimbabwe with.
That brings us to today and now.
All told, we arrived in Zimbabwe with $6500 dollars to put towards good causes. We didn’t yet know what our plans would be, but we knew we’d be going to schools and an orphanage to see how we could help. It wasnt until the Tariro Ophanaged on Day 6, though, that our whole trip came to life. But if you are reading this far, this is something that I’m sure you already know.
I started this blog first of all to document the trip, but second of all, to help keep up the visibility of what we’re doing here so that we could raise more funds and put it straight to action. I knew I’d seen and felt something amazing at the orphanage, and I knew that I’d given it a good go of describing those feelings in the blog, just as Nicole had done with her piece. I had a feeling that we’d see a reaction from our friends and family to what we’d witnessed that day, but I had no idea that it would become what it is. The blog post from day 6 went semi-viral and strangers and friends alike were donating more and more as the hours ticked by. We finished up with an extra $2000+ in the kitty, just from that one blog post and for that I’m truly thankful to YOU. You reading this right now. Hopefully you donated, and if you didn’t that fine of course, but if you did, I thank you and the children of Tariro thank you. We are meeting with the Orphanage trustees on Tuesday and we’ll be putting all our plans to them and we hope to start work within a few days. I’ve already written about what those plans are, but bunkbeds are the first priority as they take time to be made, as well as waterproof mattresses.
We’ll keep you updated as we get things going and thank you for reading. I hope this answers a few questions.