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