Our Volunteer Month has got off to a great start so far! It's less than a month until Taupo Half Marathon, my first major stepping stone before 'the big one' and already I have $1,000 in sponsorship for Louis, yay! The really amazing thing is that I have never met a single person who has sponsored me. It's incredibly humbling and I would like to say a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has donated in order to help Louis get his pump. You are doing a hugely important thing and it is VERY much appreciated.
If there's one thing I've learned since moving to Whangamata it's that we live in a very generous and supportive community. When we moved here the local kids hadn't had a rugby team for a good couple of years - there were teams for the little ones and teams for the seniors but nothing in between. So when our team of adorable mopheaded teens got together we literally had nothing. We had no gear, no jerseys, no First Aid kit, no resources whatsoever; all the available funds had already been used up on the other teams and when our team fronted up nobody wanted to know. But fortunately the town's businesspeople did! First the manager of our local Subway put his hand up and offered us two free vouchers for our Players of the Day for every single game of the season. Then, the head chef at the Whangamata Club offered to provide all the food we needed to feed two entire rugby teams after every home game. That's enough chicken, chips, pizza and sausages and bread and butter for 50 people every two weeks, absolutely free! He gives us enough to feed an army every time and all the teams always agree that we have the best after match food in the whole of Thames Valley. When it was Queen's Birthday weekend a few weeks back, the management of the same club said that we could go shaking buckets among the patrons. The whole team turned up to help and for three nights in a row the boys wore their rugby uniform and their best smiles and raised over $1,000. 'We didn't even have to tell people what it was for! They couldn't wait to give us their coins!' said Ali in amazement. We also received hundreds of dollars in donations from local businesses and the Whangamata branch of Bunnings donated an air compressor worth $200 for us to raffle - the deal was, the boys had to do the work and sell every ticket. Once again the boys showed their commitment and for weeks in a row they went around selling tickets wherever they could, including turning up each week to the senior game and convincing the supporters to buy tickets from them. In the end, every ticket was sold. We had enough money to buy every player a warm new rugby jersey, a full First Aid kit (at this age we definitely need it!), enough to treat the boys to a fantastic end of season trip AND still enough left in the kitty to start off next season with some new gear! All in the space of a few weeks, thanks to the kindness of a few special people.
What I liked about the whole experience however was that in the majority of cases, the money wasn't just 'given' to us, the boys had to go out there and work for it. Each of them had to do their bit, and when they put on their brand new jerseys on for the first time, they all looked so smart and proud. They take really good care of them and look fantastic - the only problem we have is getting them to save them for rugby days only, if they had their own way most of them would wear them all the time! Nothing wrong with instilling a bit of work ethic as Ali has been finding out at school lately too. He has a school camp coming up in September and it sounds awesome - skiing, snowboarding, all sorts of cool stuff! The only thing is, it costs $250 for each child to go for the week. For some families this is no problem; for others it's a BIG problem. Obviously nobody wants any child to miss out so the school has some great ways of making sure everyone gets to go. Each child and/or their parents has to earn their place by either helping out with school projects, e.g. marshalling the local fun run. In addition each child has to work for somebody else two full days leading up to the camp. In return they recieve payment to go towards their camp fees. They have to approach prospective employers and ask for work and both parties once agreed sign an agreement and send it back to the school. Then the children turn up prepared for a full working day from 9am - 5pm. I think it's an awesome idea! For Ali the choice was easy and he couldn't wait to approach his 'boss'. He wanted to spend his day working in the Whangamata Surf Shop! They were only too happy to agree and as they were undergoing renovation work there was heaps for Ali to get stuck in and help with. In between cleaning and helping knock down walls he helped with serving customers and learned how to fix surfboards. He thoroughly enjoyed himself and did so well they let him knock off early, as long as he did one more very important thing as his last task of the day - he had to go surfing!
I remember reading a book by Marian Keyes not so long ago about a couple who made it their solemn vow every day to do a 'R.A.O.K' - a Random Act Of Kindness. Every night before they went to bed they would share with the other one whatever nice thing they had done for somebody else that day - anything from helping an elderly person across the road to giving $1 to the person in front of you at the supermarket checkout who's just discovered they're short. I thought that was a great idea. We may not get as much time to volunteer as we would like, but when you stop and think, I bet we all do at least one R.A.O.K every day. Most of the time you don't even think about it; it's no hardship. It might not save you money - it might even cost you money - but it enriches your life and that of someone else's too, and that's priceless!