Most of us want to make a difference somehow. Recently, I read the book Doing Good Better, which really made me think, and re-assess some of the things that I do, and the way I do them. There are so many good causes out there that it can be overwhelming, and our attention is easily taken by the big charities. They are doing great things, no question of that, but our contribution can sometimes seem insignificant – futile, even. Is there a better way to make a difference?
A friend of mine runs the Isle of Wight branch of The Wave Project, a brilliant – and still fairly small – charity that give free surfing lessons to children. I grew up living next to the sea, and most of my early memories revolve around being on the beach and in the water, so this is something very close to my heart.
One of the things The Wave Project does to raise money is an event called Paddle Out Loud. It’s a sponsored paddle that takes place in various locations around the UK. My local one had a 10-mile and a 2-mile option, and at the request of my good friend Frida [aged 10], we decided to tackle the longer event in a double kayak, along with about 25 other adventurers.
As is often the way, getting started was the most challenging part of the day. There was a bit of a swell, so we launched in some fairly large waves. Once we’d got beyond the white water, however, things got much more relaxed, and with the wind and tide behind us, we made good progress for the first 6 miles or so.
Being out on the water gives you a very different perspective on things – you’re looking back at cliffs and beaches, but noticing things you’ve never seen before. It’s a wonderful, relaxing way to see the world from a completely different angle.
The last few miles were harder work. The coastline we were following changed direction, so we were now paddling north, with the wind still blowing north-east. This meant our right arms were doing a lot more work than our left in order to stay on course!
After around two hours of paddling, we arrived at the finish, where there was hot tea and a barbecue waiting for us. Undoubtedly the best thing about taking part in this sort of event is the bond that develops between the participants – and the speed at which that happens. I’ve done a few things like this over the years, and I love how there is never any competitiveness. Instead, everyone pulls together and supports each other – the focus is on everybody finishing, and having a good time.
Oh. And we raised over £2000 – enough to give another 20 kids a chance to get in the water this summer.
Is doing something like this actually ‘better’ than giving your time and/or money to a well-established charity? I honestly think it is. Frida and I – and the rest of the paddlers – had a brilliant day, and as a result of that, my local community has also benefitted … who knows what difference it might make to those 20 kids who will get surfing lessons as a result of our efforts?
Let’s go do it…
More info about Paddle Out Loud
But if the water isn’t your thing, then I’m sure there will be small charities near you running events of their own – as usual, Google is your friend here. (Although you might also find a local paper gives you some good ideas).
What if you don’t find anything? Well, the point here is to take some action, and feel a direct connection with the consequences … So think about what’s important to you – kids, animals, a local hospice, whatever … Find a local group working in that area … and run your own event. Even if it starts with just you and a few friends raising £50 each, that £300-400 will make a really big difference to a local organisation.
Find some ideas here