… or one way to get started doing not dreaming

I used to have a picture of those people who “volunteer”. In my mind they are elderly ladies who don’t so much care for the cause they are working towards, but merely see this as an opportunity to exert some power – not least in insisting that something is done that way because it always is.

Over ten years ago when I actively volunteered for the first time in my adult life, my expectations were pretty much lived out. The other people volunteering in preparing hampers for the needy at Christmas seemed to have little appetite for working efficiently, and over the three years that I did it, everything happened the same way. I definitely felt that most of the people were volunteering for themselves rather than to give to the cause. At first this made me question people’s motivations, after all, I had plenty of things to do but I had chosen to donate my time to this cause; but later I realised the value of the volunteering opportunity to both the volunteers and the cause. And in the years since, the importance of volunteering to the volunteer is something that has risen up my scale of importance.

At a basic level volunteering can give you a purpose. It can make you feel part of a community and give you a reason to get out of bed and out of the house. The increasing dis-connectedness of our connected society means that more people have less contact with their fellow humans than is good for us. Finding people who have common interests or who are in a similar situation is an antidote to loneliness.

From this, volunteering can lead to personal development – subtly encouraging new skills of confidence and communication. The challenge of mixing in a group that may vary from your peers enables you to learn from them in a non-formal way.

Volunteering also gives an opportunity for career development and for developing the softer skills that you need for the workplace. How much better to develop minute taking and managing a meeting from your local sports club committee than a 1-day classroom based course in your workplace?

My longest stint of volunteering (one which I’m set to repeat) is for Cricket without Boundaries which started with a two week project trip to Uganda. My skills set expanded hugely and now includes sales and marketing (fundraising doesn’t happen by itself), communications and planning (from coaching large groups of children), creativity and problem solving (Africa doesn’t usually follow the plan that you may have set up).

The biggest impact was on my confidence: it was a stretch of my comfort zone to sign up to spend two weeks with complete strangers, to teach a sport I knew little enough how to play myself and to travel to a new country, somewhat off the beaten track. Now I’m more likely to take the lead, to take up opportunities that come my way and to be creative in addressing problems differently.

If you can volunteer, please do so. Not only does it help so many things happen that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, but it’s OK for you to get something out of it too. I’m not suggesting you take an unpaid internship, but get involved in something you like and see what difference it makes.

There’s nothing to lose in doing not dreaming. Find a way to get started – like volunteering at parkrun to see how you feel about running events – taking action is the only way to get your dreams done.

If you are stuck with getting started, get in touch to chat about how I can help.

Everything is temporary

It was more of a pop than a ping but it didn’t feel good. I realized that I had a sharp pain on the right side of my lower back. Should I move forwards or backwards; stand up or sit down? Lying on the floor seemed to be the most comfortable position, but this was not where I wanted to be.

I had almost a clear week in my diary and a plan of how I was going to fill it with lots of creativity and new ideas. I had an easy week on my running training schedule and this was going to be a week of self- care and indulgence.

Once I had established that this was more than an uncomfortable twinge, I settled down to enjoy the day on the floor. When I hadn’t had a miraculous recovery by the next morning I booked an appointment with an osteopath and started working on some limited stretches and mobility.

A week passed with some improvement and a couple of meetings that I didn’t want to miss.  I stocked up on painkillers and survived a traffic-filled journey. Perched on the edge of a seat, I think I got away with it. As I always try to maintain my sense of humour, when I caught up with a friend afterwards I couldn’t help but laugh at the predicament I’d found myself in the previous week: How I’d feared being stuck halfway down the stairs; my waddle-walk and my full on obsession with whether this position hurt more than that. I found myself sharing that I could barely remember what it felt like to not be in pain. As I was saying this, I knew I was over-egging my situation, but the thought still ran through my mind.

And now a week later still, after tentatively going for a cautious jog today, I can finally see the light and I’m reminded, once again, that everything is temporary. As per all the information on the Internet, my back pain will recover and in another week hence, I’m sure I won’t even be able to remember what it felt like.

When we’ve made grand life plans and something turns them upside down, it’s only temporary. We can adapt to the situation or sometimes we have to wait it out. We need to listen to our bodies – do we need to rest or move; sleep or get active? We need these temporary flips to punctuate the story of our lives – what might feel big at the time may not even make it to the final edit; what you’re least expecting may propel you to take the action for a new chapter.

Whichever way it goes, you sometimes have to sit (or lie flat on your back) with it and feel for the next step.

My training schedule is to help me run, walk or cycle 3000 miles in 2017 to support the good work of Cricket Without Boundaries. If you would like to encourage me in this challenge and donate to CWB you can do so here.

I could never…start a charity

What do you do when you need some time to figure out if the career you’ve chosen is the one for you?  Travel?  Support a good cause?  Or both.  And so much the better if you can find a novel twist to tie it all together.

This is how Cricket Without Boundaries was born.  A trip from Cairo to Cape Town coaching cricket along the way…and using cricket to spread education on AIDS awareness and other social issues. (Listen in, it makes sense)

I spoke to Ed Williams – founder and trustee of CWB – and we talked about the last 10 years, how CWB has grown and the challenges for the future.  I found out who provided the inspiration for the original trip, the importance of finding the right team and how playing with ideas can lead you to the right place.


CWB is a cricket development and AIDS awareness charity run by volunteers. It has coached over 250,000 children and has had a positive impact on their lives through education, integration and friendship.  Local cricket coaches are supported to ensure sustainability within communities.  The vision is to coach 1 million children in the next 10 years.

If you would like to get involved through volunteering (no cricket experience required) or fundraising and raising awareness they would love to hear from you.