Monday, December 12, 2011

My Christmas Wish List - "Gift Me Charity"

It's that crazy time of year again and right on cue the shops are buzzing with thousands of little consumer bees, all in the name of "giving". But what if this year, instead of spending our usual $500 million (throughout Australia) on unwanted and unneeded gifts, we used our $$$ to make a real difference?

Launched just in time for Christmas, Gift Me Charity, is an amazing platform (created by an inspiring friend of mine) which connects gift givers to their recipients’ charities of choice through online profiles, allowing friends and family the ability to donate on a loved one’s behalf rather than wasting money on unnecessary gifts. 

It's super simple, all you need to do is go to, login (preferably through Facebook), select your charity of choice and Gift Me Charity will create a profile for you which you can then share with family and friends.

The aim is to raise $1million for charity by the end of the year - who's in? I am!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ask a question, save a life.

ARE YOU OK?  How often do you ask this of your friends, your family, your colleagues, your neighbours? And, if and when you do ask, how often are you prepared to give them enough time and compassion to truly answer it?

This Thursday the 15th of September is R U OK? Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of depression, mental illness and to aid in suicide prevention is encouraging people to start life saving conversations using the simple question, "Are you ok?".

"Connection is a crucial part of general health and well being. It helps people cope with stressful life events, mental health problems, relationship breakdowns and bereavement. Staying connected is as simple as having regular, meaningful conversations." - R U OK Flyer

While I was reading over the campaign this morning, I began questioning how often I ask this question of the people I love. I know I ask "how you going?" but it's more often than not attached to a greeting, which I think rarely elicits much of a genuine response. I know that when somebody asks the same of me, I'll seldom feel compelled to respond with more than "good thanks", rather than "well actually I was up all night with life-draining menstrual cramps, I'm feeling overwhelmed by bills this week and in general I don't feel like I'm reaching my full potential in life" (come on, we've all had one of those days!).

Asking "Are you ok?" is different though, it's less obligatory and more direct. Combine it with sitting down over a juice, coffee or beer and it might just be enough to encourage someone to lighten their load, to share a problem, to ask for help.

More than 2,100 Australians suicide each year and countless others suffer in silence with depression and mental illness. So this Thursday, R U OK? is asking you to reach out and connect with somebody you care for. Check out the website, print out a poster for school or work and spread the word, but most of all don't forget to make an extra special effort this Thursday (or any day for that matter) to take the time to sit down with somebody you care about and ask them, "are you ok?".

I'll let Hugh have the final word...

Friday, August 19, 2011

World Humantiarian Day Celebrates 'People Helping People'

Right at this moment, in many different parts of the world, there are millions of people facing humanitarian crises. And similarly for every crisis, there are countless men and women risking their lives to provide aid and bring hope to those who are suffering. Today is World Humanitarian Day and this year the United Nations are celebrating the work of these amazing people through their 'People Helping People' campaign in an attempt to inspire the spirit of aid work in everyone.

Here are a couple of the stories behind the signs:

The thing is you don't have to be a photographer or a trauma surgeon to be a humanitarian, everybody has something they can contribute. Today I'm making my own contribution by spreading the word about Humanitarian Day and also donating to the UNICEF East Africa Drought, Famine and Conflict Appeal which will help to provide food and support to some of the 12.4 million people across Somalia Ethiopia and Kenya who are currently in crisis. 

What can you do? For more information on World Humanitarian Day and how you can take action visit: World Humanitarian Day 2011.

Sydney Speaks: Mobilising Communities for Social Change

City of Sydney Talk Panel, August 2011

 "Those who say it can't be done should get out of the way of those already doing it." - Anna Rose

There's nothing more engaging than getting a dynamic group of people together, putting them on a stage in a beautiful venue (say the City Recital Hall for example) and encouraging them to wax lyrical on personal empowerment, community and major social issues. The City of Sydney Talk earlier this week, 'Mobilising communities and citizens: dynamic action in a world of social change' ticked all the aforementioned boxes and then added a beautiful lyrical performance by Mr Percival to boot. If you've ever had any reservations that social activism can lead to real and meaningful change then you haven't met Brett Solomon, Executive Director of Access Now; Anna Rose, Co-founder and Chair of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC); Darryl Nichols, Executive Director of Garage Sale Trail; Simon Sheikh, National Director of Get Up!; Amanda Tattersall, Coalition Director of Sydney Alliance; or John Dee, Founder and Managing Director of Do Something.

Not surprisingly, social media was one of the major reoccurring themes in the panel's discussions of community advocacy and change. Brett Solomon spoke of the use of new technology in the third world to bring about prosperity and dignity through vibrant, democratic digital activism and stressed the importance of advocating for uncensored internet as a basic human right. He noted the challenges arising in the face of this information liberation and stressed that the tensions between technology, the law and human rights which have recently been on display (eg. Egypt, London) cannot be solved by shutting down the system (as proposed by David Cameron) but rather by addressing the issues which have caused the uprising in the first place.

"What best counters bad speech is not its silencing, but more good speech" - Brett Solomon   

There seemed to be a general consensus among the speakers that while social media is altering the way we advocate for social change, it is still merely a tool, enabling the people and issues which have in many cases pre-existed it to connect, communicate and collaborate in meaningful ways. Anna Rose noted that the internet is undoubtedly an important element in supporting change from the bottom up but stressed the importance of advocacy groups integrating both online and offline involvement to creatively engage the 'whole individual' and thereby create a stronger and more committed foundation in the push for change. She attributed the success of the AYCC and similar advocacy groups to the employment of a ladder of engagement in which members become, and more importantly stay involved, as a result of three key factors:

1. They can see the group is having a concrete impact.
2. They are socially engaged.
3. There is continued learning, personal growth and development.

One of the most popular tweets from the night was the quote by Anna Rose: "We must do the impossible to avoid the unimaginable". For me the most inspiring thing about these words was that she (and every other person on stage) was a personification of them. As founder of the AYCC Anna's work has contributed to having a concrete impact on climate change policy; Brett Solomon founded the International Youth Parliament through Oxfam to tackle poverty, conflict and globalisation and is currently a campaigner for digital freedom; and Darryl Nichols has contributed to the reuse and recycling of 72,585 items (or 55,000kg of potential landfill) through the Garage Sale Trail. And that's only skimming the surface, I could easily create a detailed blog post on each and every one of the panel members and their  achievements and contributions to society but instead I'm going to give you the link to the video recording from the night so you can find your own inspiration among the brilliance: City Talks 2011.

City Talks are free events presented by the City of Sydney and Sydney Morning Herald. Visit What's On Sydney and subscribe to their email list to find out more about upcoming events.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Share your kindness stories for Sydney public art project!

Only three more days to get Sydney's random acts of kindness stories in to UK artist, Michael Landy for his upcoming public art project. If you've witnessed, experienced or taken part in spreading kindness anywhere in Sydney you can contribute your story at Kaldor Public Arts Projects. They don't have to be epic tales of messianic proportions, a few simple sentences of a connection through kindness, compassion or generosity is more than enough. The project will be exhibited throughout the CBD during Sydney's public art festival, Art and About. Submissions close this Saturday the 20th of August. If you don't have a story to share then get out there and make one happen!

Here's my contribution:

Last week while on a bus into the city I witnessed a very elderly lady who was struggling to walk board at Central Station. As you would hope, a young school boy toward the front of the bus quickly jumped up to offer his seat. However, not only did he assist in guiding her to his seat as the bus driver sped off but a few stops later, seeing her press the button he assertively stepped forward and offered his hand again. He helped her all the way down onto the footpath of Martin Place before re-boarding the bus and settling back in his seat. I watched the lady who had looked so tired and flat only a few stops before wander into the city with a beaming smile painted across her face and I wanted to applaud.

Click here to submit your story

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Why being kind is a kindness to yourself

My beautiful mum shared this information with me and I thought it was too good not to pass on:

"Research has shown that a simple act of kindness directed toward another improves the functioning of the immune system and stimulates the production of serotonin in both the recipient of the kindness and the person extending the kindness. Kindness extended, received, or observed beneficially impacts the physical health and feelings of everyone involved." - Dr Wayne Dyer

And just in case that's not motivation enough, a friend (with a Masters Degree in Psychology) then added that during her studies she read of an experiment that showed that the levels of seratonin in the person giving was actually higher than the one receiving. Giddy up! 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A little help... to protect our marine life

Wait! Before you go jumping to conclusions, I'm not going to ask you to go digging in your wallets for spare change to feed the dolphins or to physically get off your backsides and help me lift beached humpback whales. What I'm asking will probably take the same amount of effort as clicking away from this page and ignoring my request for a little assistance.

The Wilderness Society is currently petitioning the Federal Government to increase marine sanctuaries off the coast of Western and South Australia in an effort to protect threatened blue whales, dolphins and Australian sea lions. The petition is also strongly opposing the government's current proposal to drill for oil off the coast of Kangaroo Island and Margaret River which could potentially have devastating effects on our marine environment (Gulf of Mexico disaster ring any bells?).

So here's what I'm asking, just a couple of clicks and few taps of the keyboard! Please follow the link below to find out more AND sign the petition to help protect a little more of our beautiful blue surrounds and its inhabitants.

Click here to sign the Wilderness Society petition to protect our marine life!

NB The Wilderness Society do also accept donations if you're feeling generous. No pressure!