19 June 2016

One Successful Event at a Time...

I have always been a very keen fundraiser. As a child I always wanted to get involved in helping charities or people in need. With my friends I helped to arrange coffee mornings in the village hall, collections of necessities to be sent to those in extreme poverty and bric-a-brac sales in my driveway. I have always been passionate about giving to charities, and this is a personal attribute that has only been enhanced due to my own experiences.

Pen and paper in hand, I began to scribble down ways that money could be raised for two fantastic charities- Mind and SEED Eating Disorder Support Service, as a stallholder at the annual show in my village. The main focus that I had in mind was for the setting to feel approachable. Not only in terms of the fundraising opportunity, but also for people to feel that they could comfortably engage in the activities, and ask questions about the reasoning behind my appearance there.

As anticipated, the raffle and Play Your Cards Right set up was very well received. Thanks to multiple fantastic donations for prizes, I was overwhelmed at the outstanding collection on display- there was no wonder it was so popular! The amount of businesses and local people that generously donated was beyond my expectations, making a massive contribution to the profile of the stall.
Play Your Cards Right was very kindly hosted by two fantastic friends of mine- Leah and Sarah, who selflessly dedicated their day to the cause. Their incredible personalities attracted an audience of all ages and made the game a great addition to the atmosphere of the stall!

I also wanted an activity that could have a hidden meaning incorporated. Guessing Jars are a little activity that anybody can get involved in and I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to give a visual representation of a statistic about mental illness in the UK. I did some research and came across a fact that, once revealed, would really make people question there ideas about mental illness. Finding two contrasting coloured sweets- Black Jacks and Fruit Salads- I began filling a jar with carefully counted amounts in response to the statistic that 1 in 4 people are suffering with a mental health condition. The Black Jacks represented the individual experiencing mental difficulties and the Fruit Salads signified those that are healthy. I wanted people to see just how many people this type of illness affects, giving them the opportunity to realise that if they are going through it, they are not alone. In hindsight, I maybe should have promoted this fact at the time, as well as following the event on social media. However, I felt that it would be more effective for people to contemplate the fact after a fun day with their family, as apposed to confronting quite a shocking statistic whilst the activities were in full swing.

On the other hand, I made no secret of the fact that I was attending the show as a result of my own personal difficulties. I embellished the tables with leaflets and business cards, kindly given to me by Mind and SEED to help with my efforts in raising awareness of their services. I also made some business cards of my own to promote my blog, as I felt that this was a resource that people could look to if they wanted to learn about eating disorders from a personal perspective. I was thrilled at the response that this harnessed, with people openly asking why I was raising money for the two specific charities. I explained about difficulties and guided them to my blog to learn more about it, which I can only hope will have the desired positive impact.

Although my initial motivations for hosting a stall at the local show was to raise money and to raise awareness of mental illness, I did not anticipate the amount of happiness I would feel from doing such an event. Speaking to local people, catching up with old friends and seeing people that I haven’t seen for many years; the social experience was fantastic. Team that with the positive comments that I received about my determination to make a difference in this sector of health and charity work, I came home feeling elated and empowered. Hearing other people’s experiences of the mental health services, and comparing them to that of my own, it fuelled my aspirations to make change happen.

After quite a demanding week in terms of appointments and heightened emotions, this event was just what I needed to make me realise why I wake up in a morning and continue to fight through my struggles. I am not going to make out that I am going to wake up tomorrow morning and everything will be fine, but for as long as I continue to struggle, I will remind myself of the joy I have experienced from doing such positive events. I think the important thing for me to focus on, especially after days like today, is that I need to fight this for me, fight it properly and fight it for good. Not fight it for everybody else.

I must better my health and myself, before I can better the lives of others. But there will be no stopping my determination to support the fantastic charities of Mind and SEED Eating Disorder Support Service- so that they can continue to help those in desperate need.

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