I’ve always believed we should give back in whatever way we can – my incredible grandmother taught me that! Over the years, I’ve taken part various fundraising challenges over the years which included adventures like an 11,500ft skydive for St Andrews Hospice, White Water Rafting for Diabetes UK, three months volunteering in an orphanage in Romania, cycling 98k from Edinburgh to Glasgow for Unicef, and Race for Life for Cancer Research!
What little we can give, could mean the world to another! I’ve raised funds, promoted, volunteered and/or helped raise awareness for the incredible charities below over the years. Below, you can read about some of the great charities I’ve been honoured to get involved with since going back to 2014:
- This year, one of the books I read in January was Marie Kondo’s, The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying which led to a huge clear out of clothes, books, and pretty much everything that didn’t spark joy. Let me clarify, books will always spark joy but so does the gift of giving them away if you don’t feel you will read them again! And so, I boxed up lots of clothes and books and other items and took them to local charity shops – and a few warm blankets down to the dog shelter too.
- I’m continuing with my weekly co-working day in Glasgow so women in business can meet and have company while they work. When I was finding freelancing quite isolating, I created this lovely community as a way to connect with others. I’ve since discovered that so many others feel the same and I’ve had quite a few women come to me and share it was impacting their mental health and they were struggling and considering giving up on their business but are now feeling so much more positive which is incredible.
- Coming up is Second Hand September which encourages people to reuse, recycle, and donate for the entire month without spending on anything other than the essentials so I’m taking part in this brilliant challenge. I also discovered a wonderful shop called Re:Evolve which is a swap shop and also has repair and mend workshops too.
- I’ve always tended to stick to tap water or at least reuse plastic bottles when I did buy bottled water but recently I was gifted a beautiful refillable, BPA-free, water bottle and I’ve been sticking to using that.
- One of my inspiring friends is a geologist and one of the best eco-friendly people (probably on the planet) and so I’ve been taking tips from her on making my business as eco-friendly as possible. What’s more, she is planning to launch a business next year, so I’ve been able to give her lots of valuable advice too.
- As always, I’ve donated blood again this year. Nothing yet from Anthony Nolan Foundation but I do hope to be able to help in the future if I can.
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This year was a tough one and I focused quite a bit on family and my own happiness. Following the toughest five years of my life where we lost my dad to cancer after his battle with the illness, just after his diagnosis I also found a lump in my breast which thanks to the swift and commendable work of the NHS we found it was nothing to worry about, and I was also a passenger in a car accident.
- However, I was determined to have an incredible year and still continue to do good! After being invited to take part in a swim with sharks and blog about it, I decided to conquer two of my biggest fears – sharks and dark water – and raise money for Cancer Research.
- I continued to donate here and there throughout the year and encouraged friends and family to make sure they put their regular health check ups in their calendars.
- After so much in your own life, it’s important to pause and reflect, to live in the moment, spend time with loved ones, you might try keeping a positivity journal, and never, ever save the good china or that favourite dress for a special day because it might just make you feel amazing today! <3
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So in previous years, I’ve taken on various physical challenges but this year I wanted to do something different! I’ve always been keen to get involved with good deeds and kindness, but over the years, my interest in self-care has been raised through personal experience and also the amazing health awareness days throughout the year.
I’ve been talking about writing a book with this in mind for a while and began outlining this at the beginning of 2017. In amongst all the great author and business tips, I kept sharing advice for self-care and advising readers to take a pause regularly and look after themselves.
“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
Somewhere along the line, it turned into an idea for a guide for people struggling with anything from an invisible illness to very visible ones. I haven’t talked about this in my professional life but I was diagnosed with hypermobility syndrome and fibromyalgia a few years ago and at the time it was taking a toll on my energy levels although since then I’ve developed a self-care routine.
I can run my business successfully while still looking after myself. Having a health condition hasn’t stopped me from being self-employed and it certainly hasn’t limited me in as many ways as some might think. Yes, there are limitations but I’ve found I can achieve my goals by taking a different path rather than giving up on them.
So I’m really pleased to announce that I’m going to invest the next two years researching, then will be writing this book and aim to have it published in early 2020! If you suffer from a health or mental health condition and think you could never write a book or run an author-related business, or you have lost confidence in yourself then this one is for you.
Also, in honour of #WorldKindnessDay on November 13th, I decided to take on a 30Day Kindness Challenge. I spent a couple of weeks coming up with ideas and then throughout December, I will be doing a challenge a day. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them and you can share them with me on any of my social media channels.
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Having previously registered with Move On Charity, I’d completed 8 weeks of intensive training and filled in an application to become a volunteer Teen Mentor. This year I was chosen by a lovely boy with Ausbergers.
I’ve volunteered with kids who have special needs before but hadn’t had experience with Aspergers so I did a lot o research but what you soon find is that every single kid is different, special and unique! So, we got to know one another and worked out our own way of working together. I’ve learnt so much and he’s taught me a lot about how he sees the world and how difficult it can be when you don’t always ‘fit into society’ in his words.
While we work through small goals and achievements, we also learn new skills and build his confidence in social scenes. So far we’ve had some guitar lessons, he tried the Sky Park at Xscape, we’ve been to the cinema a few times, visited a gaming cafe, we went to a big event at the SSE Hydro, and soon we’ll be trying out a new goal!
To date, I’ve done over 100 hours of volunteer work in 2016!
A bit about Move On:
From our bases in Edinburgh and Glasgow, Move On works with vulnerable young people and those affected by homelessness.
We offer a range of services providing advice, training, guidance and support enabling vulnerable young people and those affected by homelessness to unlock their potential and achieve a range of positive outcomes. These positive outcomes include; securing or progressing towards a job, accessing and sustaining a home, building confidence, growing support networks and increasing life skills.
After 2014’s epic charity year, I had lots of incredible plans for more adrenalin junkie fundraising. However, a health scare put a rather sudden stop to that and I had to reevaluate the meaning of ‘doing good’ for 2015. I realised it doesn’t matter how you go about it, it’s how you make others feel, the good deeds you achieve, and the much-needed funds you raise!
Having volunteered in an orphanage in Romania in 2006, I knew I had lots to offer. I did an extensive training program with Move On Charity and was honoured to become a Teen Mentor. I’ve passed my CRB check (hoorah!) and filled in my application so now I’ve
volunteered as tribute, I just need to be chosen by one of the teens (just be cool Kirsten!)
Towards the end of 2015, as the cold weather began, I was thinking more and more about homelessness. Move One had begun originally working with people on the streets and as a local charity, it really makes you think about the people we walk passed and maybe chuck a few coins in the cup. I bought coffees and sandwiches regularly to hand out and took some warm clothing and to charities.
In December, I got involved with a local business who were planning to open their doors on Christmas Day to people in need. The idea was to have dinner and some entertainment for those who were homeless, struggling, or lonely. There were around 50 of us in the initial meeting and from there it grew arms and legs!
I helped set up a quick website so information could be shared with volunteers, people who wanted to donate, and the press. Then we got to work collecting items to give away, ranging from warm clothes, meals we could offer on the day, to much appreciated Christmas presents.
It was a huge and roaring success and I spent an incredible day serving Christmas lunch, chatting to lovely people who just wanted someone to listen, entertaining, joining in the singing and helping the guests have a thoroughly good day.
Read more about it here.
Thanks for reading about my incredible 2015, and looking forward to more adventures next year.
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Each month, I took on either an epic challenge or signed up for a good deed to raise funds and awareness for a variety of charities and deserving foundations.
Sent test swabs to register as a stem cell donor with Anthony Nolan. 16-30? Join our donor register and you could save the life of someone with blood cancer. Sign up.
I knew how important organ donation is, but I couldn’t recall if I’d actually signed up. I had a blood donation card but there wasn’t one for organ donation in my purse (admittedly, I’ve had a few purses go missing!)
So I decided to investigate and signed up for definite. Although my mum wasn’t keen on anything visible being removed from my body and wanted me to keep my eyes, I discussed it with her and said imagine how incredible after I’m gone to know that my eyes are still seeing the world and the future. So I’ve ticked every box!
I had a proper clear-out and took loads of clothes, books and other items to charity shops. I registered for a card as well so that the charity can claim back VAT.
I came across an advert looking for Teen Mentors and called for more info. Before I knew it, I was on an 8-week training program! I was later paired with a teen with Asperger’s and we worked towards some big steps forward and goals together each week.
I climbed a mountain! Actually not my first time, but this was all for a good cause. As a team, we raised thousands for the Rangers’ Charity Foundation.
Tough Mudder is an endurance event series in which participants attempt 10–12 mile long military-style obstacle courses.
I raised funds for Help for Heroes. Register here.
This month, I gave blood again! I also bought hot tea and sandwiches to give out the homeless in Glasgow.
I read about a role called The Nicest Job in Britain, a not-for-profit initiative and it sounded amazing! Working with a promoting 40 charities to help raise funds and awareness over 12months. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to take up the role unfortunately due to other commitments but I did know the perfect person for the job! So, I pitched it to Luke and encouraged him to apply.
Not only did he get through to the finals, but he won the role. Read about his journey here.
This year, I donated blood four times in 2014!
I bought lots of food and hot drinks to give out to the homeless. I also began preparing Christmas gift bags with lots of practical but also nice items to give out next month.
Running dressed as Santa! There were so many of us, we must have looked mad but it was for a deserving charity.
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