- 12th February, 2019
Giving Back and Making a Difference
100 blog posts
Giving Back is something that is always on the mind of Workplace member, Gemma Donnelly. She is a Legal and Technical Advisor for Couch Perry Wilkes – Environmental Constancy, for her career but always has a project on the go which involves helping others. We asked Gemma what motivates her to give so much of herself back to her community and society.
“As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands; one for helping yourself and one for helping others”
What’s Your Why?
In my opinion, people only “bother” when:
- It’s not actually a hardship;
- There’s something in it for them (we don’t often work for free do we!);
- There’s something personal, something they have an emotional connection with.
For me, it’s been 1 or a connection of all 3 reasons over the years, depending on where I was at in my life.
I was well versed on how much people Giving Back meant to families with disabled children.
One of my first voluntary “jobs” (I never really see them as jobs) was at special summer schemes as a teenager. With my older brother having disabilities I grew up being well versed on how much disabled children and their parents gain from having the support from such schemes.
I remember one year being paired with Wadmilda, a deaf girl who inspired me to learn basic sign language so that we could interact better over her 2 week scheme (not that I remember any now!).
Giving Back to Oxfam
At University I loved fashion, and a bargain, so I volunteered at the local Oxfam shop.It wasn’t entirely selfless, I got first dibs on all the good stuff coming through…so yes it cost me money to work there but isn’t that what student loans are for?!
Then, a few years into my professional career, I felt unfulfilled. Whilst I was happy that I was ticking the boxes I had set out for my career, I didn’t feel like I was “doing good”. There was no correlation between what I did on a daily basis and helping people in difficult times.
Giving Back my time to make sick children smile
Being a people person, I (like most people) genuinely feel for people when they are in hardship, whether I know them or not. So, I Googled local projects and worked with Radio Lollipop, a charity which entertains ill children in hospital.I worked at the MRI, a couple of evenings per week after my “proper job” for a few years. I’m pretty thick skinned so I didn’t think it would strike a cord with me, but I’ll never forget my first time going into the children’s oncology ward, seeing small helpless children who had lost their hair fight for their lives.
Yes, we were only making balloon animals, colouring in and trying to make them laugh, but it’s what we could do, and that maybe took a little pressure of their parents for those few minutes knowing that someone else was entertaining their children. And, at least for a very short time it made the children smile.
Doing something I love and at the same time Giving Back
A change in jobs meant I spend a lot of time commuting across our UK offices, so sadly I had to give up Radio Lollipop. I started hiking and found it to be a hobby I really enjoy. I also love a challenge, so I signed up to the national 3 peaks, which I did 3 years in a row, raising money for Cancer Research and a couple of other charities.
That really wasn’t a hardship, I did what I enjoyed and felt good for “doing good” at the same time.
In 2016, after my mum died. As a family we felt the need to give something back in her memory so, I ran the Belfast marathon with my 2 cousins, raising money for Mind.
None of us are natural runners at all but “out of everything bad comes something good”, much like the bond we grew in being there for each other, and raising money in my mum’s name, for a charity I truly see the value in.
Hope for Justice & HR Africa
My latest project is my work with Hope for Justice & HR Africa.
They work to help those affected by slavery in Africa, including women and children who have been trafficked. I’ve pledged to raise £2,000 for them and I’m funding my trip to Ethiopia in September to help train local volunteers.
Why am I going all the way to Africa when there’s people here that need help? Because I can. I, like most people like to help others, but we don’t always know how, or we find a reason not to. This was a project an acquaintance of mine did last year, and on seeing her pictures I thought “Awe, I’d love to do something like that”, shortly followed by “Why don’t I?”.
Making Giving Back a priority
We will always find reasons not to do something when it’s not a priority. For me, scheduling some form of “Giving Back” in, at least once a year, is one of my priorities.
Who do you think is going to help you when you really need it?
So, if you’re thinking about doing charity work, “Don’t Think, Do”.
In September, Gemma will set off for Africa and is determined to make a difference with the work that she does. She has also committed to raising £2000 to help towards the work this amazing charity does. If you would like to learn more or are able to donate to Gemma’s fund please visit, Gemma’s Justgiving Page
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