My idea – 100 altruistic actions in 2014

My 2014 Challenge

I have had an idea and want to write it down so I can keep track of it, so have created this blog.

My motivation to do this is that I hold a great deal of love for people and the planet, but am also very frustrated by social and environmental injustice. I believe every person can create change, and already try to live in a way that is environmentally-considerate and compassionate to others. But I want to do more.

So I have set myself a challenge: to undertake (at least) a hundred different altruistic/pro-active actions this year.

Some are going to be bigger, some are going to be smaller, but they have to be out of my ordinary routine to count (with possible exceptions, but it cannot be something that is already an everyday norm of my life). The actions have to be pro-active, not passive. And shouldn’t have direct benefits to me.

My aim of this challenge is to do good things… that help people, the planet, or at least bring a happiness and spread love to others. My ‘philanthropic vision’ is on quite a small budget, so I suppose I also want to see that it is possible to create change even without having huge resources available to you.

I am not doing this with an expectation of this ever being read. I am not doing this because I want to be seen as a ‘good person’. I just want to see how easy or hard it is to do positive things for people and planet a) regularly and b) on a budget.

If there is anyone reading this, thanks for taking the time.

Actions so far

(Individual posts can be found easily by searching for the desired number using the search box to the right of the page)

1. Regular donations to Oxfam

2. Regular donations to Greenpeace

3. Offered to lend to a stranger

4. Bought a lottery ticket for a homeless man

5. Gave baby stuff to a to-be mum

6. Started a charity

7. Gave a hitch hiker a lift and lunch

8. Litter picking

9. Voluntary essay marking

10. ‘Do Lent Generously’ challenge

11. Free C.V. and cover letter proof-reading

12. Cake for SPCA volunteers

13. Helping people with ’emotional baggage’

14. Intellectual disability befriending programme

15. Spread the altruistic actions challenge

16. Saved a hedgehog

17. Rehydrated a homeless man

18. Donated to an eating disorder charity

19. Sweets for special needs children charity

20. Earth hour

21. Thank you letter to rubbish collectors

22. & 23. Donations to Oxfam & paying it forward

24. Cards for people in hospital

25. Supplies for daycare centre

26. Baking for (140) people

27. Breakfast for a homeless man

28. Give lots of stuff to a charity shop

29. Signed petitions

30. Helped promote peace

31. Care package for someone in need

32. Set up stall with free plants

33. Thanks and Easter wishes to people who help the community

34. Supported an animal welfare centre

35. Wrote to someone living in a war-zone

36. Became a penpal with someone in prison

37. Sent a surprise to my ‘sponsor child’

38. Worry dolls for anxious people

39. Warm drink on a cold night for a homeless person

40. Served at a soup kitchen

41. (Further) reduced the ecological impact of our household

42. Cooked food for a soup kitchen

43. ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaign

44. Encouraged bees

45. Donation to Alzheimer’s research

46. Motivation for people with mental health difficulties

47. Planted trees

48. Adopted a cat

49. Wildlife-friendly garden

50. Free fruit for neighbours & hospital

51. Pushchair for mama-in-need

52. Employment help for unemployed

53. Warm clothes for homeless friends

54. ‘Random Act of Kindness’, passed on a parking permit

55. Medicine money for a stranger

56. & 57. Found a home for a couple sleeping rough & home-starter pack

58. Facilitated volunteering to help a refugee family

59. Set up soup kitchen events in my local area

60. Created a pro-bono initiative at work

61. Helping getting gardening into school curricula

62. Picked up, sorted and distributed large clothing donations

63. Created a Sustainability Policy and action plan for a charity

64. Became regional co-ordinator for the Sustainable Business Network

65. Promotion and public communications on behalf of a poverty relief charity

66. Fundraising for breast cancer awareness and research

67. & 68. A lift for a stranger & money for medication

69. Support for the Green Party

70. Set up a recycling and composting initiative at daycare centre

71. Started the process of becoming a foster/adoptive parent

72. Write Oxfam New Zealand’s environmental education material

73. Branding and marketing work for a charity

74. Conservation volunteering

75. Created a waste minimisation strategy and applied for funding, for Hamilton Homeless Trust

76. Treats and educational materials for children on Hallowe’en

77. Donated my hair to make wigs

78. Registered as organ donor

79. Free rice for hungry people

80. Helped give someone a hand with costs of living

81. Reuniting a family

82. Joined TimeBank

83. Promotional work for Oxfam Unwrapped

84. Ecologically-conscious gifts as Christmas presents

85. Offset my carbon footprint

86. ‘Adopted’ an orangutan

87. Voucher for presents for a struggling family

88. Extra volunteering during the holidays

89. Joined the couch-surfing community

90. Secured land and wrote proposals for a community garden project

91. Shoebox-full of presents for a child in need

92. Registered as a blood donor

93. Weekly food donations

94. Financial donation to UNICEF

95. Tokens of appreciation for people working in the community

96. Environmental awareness in child care centre

97. Advocating for living wages (and working to get them for underpaid staff)

98. & 99. Fundraising and promoting alternatives to meat

100. Commitment to new challenge

101. Giving my daughter’s cloth nappies away, to be used by someone else

Note from half way through the year and challenge

I am finding it more and more difficult to decide what I count as acts. I find that I now want my acts to have tangible greater and/or long-term societal or environmental benefits, and where I am uncertain these will happen, I don’t (or rarely) count them. I am aware this is a flawed idea. Many acts (e.g. random acts of kindness, raising awareness about issues and campaigns, etc) can lead to change directly and indirectly and to not count them suggests they are not of value (even though they are actually of great value).

I suppose I am wishing to see or feel the change my actions are creating, and so by not counting ones where I don’t see the change they create, I am pushing myself to think of new and bigger ideas. However, I am discovering that often -though not always- the most effective actions and projects are those that I have made long-term commitments to (e.g. intellectual disability befriending programme, soup kitchen charity), and I have to make sure that I do not take on additional commitments to increase my number of actions at the expense of the projects for change I am already committed to.

Reflections at the end of the challenge

I have learnt that there is lots and lots you can do without giving money, but also that sometimes donating money to (carefully selected and researched) charities is good, as they have lots of resources available to them to affect big changes. I have learnt that doing one-off volunteering is greatly appreciated and useful to the group you are helping, and that being a predictable and reliable volunteer is utterly invaluable.

I have learnt that even when you are really, really busy, there is still time to do positive things in your community (really!).

I have learnt that to be pro-active and contribute positively to the community sometimes happens spontaneously, but sometimes you need to actively search out opportunities. And sometimes you do something positive/pro-active but then it leads to nothing. But while this is very disheartening, it definitely does not mean it is not worth doing/persevering.

I have been challenged to find 100 different actions to complete, because there appears to be only so many things you can give (your money, your time, your possessions – all of these are finite. And what else? Organs? … My partner drew the line when he saw my application for an altruistic kidney donation. Of course I am sure there are other categories of things to give, but you have to start getting creative).

Most of all I have learnt to not underestimate even the smallest actions. Deciding what to count has been an on-going internal debate. There are many actions (and mini-actions) that have not made it on to the list for a variety of reasons. I know that throughout this challenge I have not given justice to the idea of random acts of kindness but these are hugely important, because by themselves they may only affect a small number of people, but they have a huge ripple effect: with one small act inspiring kindness in others and so forth, the whole world can become kinder, more compassionate, and gentle.

Finally, I am so moved the number of people reading and following this blog. Honestly, I never thought it would ever be read. But it has been. I have been inspired by the comments I have received and it is wonderful to know there are so many people that care about different issues and causes.

Thanks and aroha nui – Camilla x

The blog for my 2015 challenge: https://camilla4peace2015challenge.wordpress.com

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