Counting Blessings

After spring-cleaning my flat on an actually Spring-ish day, I lounge for awhile after consuming dinner and pudding, waiting for the bloated feeling of eating too much to disappear.  I pamper myself with an anti-stress Sauna Masque painted terre rouge upon my visage, and I take stock of events from the past week or so drifting into mid-evening memory role-call…

I loved Tombola at Junior School solely for the red ribbons of lickerish, all my lunch money would be donated to Tombola and I did not ever win anything of interest which was disappointing but did not prevent me from procuring further tickets.  I dressed up as Peter Pan (and slipped in the swampy boggy muds in my enthusiasm before I even reached class registration), a mighty evil witch (having had an argument with family about wearing a long black skirt which did not reach the ground fully) to only embarrass myself at trying to dance to Black Lace’s Agadoo in Upper School Hall and organised annual ‘tuck shops’ together with fellow classmates during middle school years.

At college, I draped myself in a white sheet wrapping it around me as a cross between a saree and the robes of a Buddhist monk, dressed my hair with pink and orange flowers whilst ringing a ding-a-ling bell smearing a trail of gold glitter on to the donator’s forehead.  University years saw many charity events but none that I organised, I was simply the one giving money to good causes as and when they came my way.

After leaving university and after securing myself a ‘proper’ job, I thought I would set up direct debits to every charity conceivable.  This was a plausible idea until I realised the amount of charities in existence.  Animals or humans?  Which kind of animals – domestic or wild, badly treated or near-extinction?  What kind of humans?  Aged, teens, toddlers, infants or babies?  Disease, research, hospices, care homes or hospitals?  Mental, physical or social health clinics?  UK, African and Asian-continent based charities split the list down further and I was blinded into a quandary of unintended misanthropy.  I could not choose, so again, I was involved with charity on an ‘ad-hoc’ basis, and leaving my mum to tell me whether or not I owe any zakah (Islamically each Muslim must give 2.5% of their surplus wealth or profit to charity annually).

It seems I have let my whole adulthood slip away trying to organise my life which in actual fact and unsurprisingly does not have an overwhelming effect on the rest of the universe as I am just a weaver ant in the grand scheme of things.  I have not been ‘feeling’ the resonance of life recently, working long hours drains my very soul and leaves little imagination for the two hours of an evening I have to myself after returning from the usually horrid thirty-minute bus journey to the flat from the office.  Whilst I am purposely giving writing a new lease of life as part of my New Year’s resolutions, I find myself wondering about human purpose quite consistently which leaves my mind a little grey, boggled and cloudsome, especially of late.

Whilst speaking to my best friend earlier in the week, I could not invoke a single moment of happiness with the events and crises occurring with flooding in Panama, Rio de Janeiro, Brisbane, Queensland, and Jeddah.  The end of a bad year and hope of the New Year has been continually obliterated and exploded out into a myriad of disasters with the quake in Christchurch and tsunami in Sendai, together with the near-nuclear meltdown and on a continent not so far away, political unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and Yemen have seen so many lives lost it is incomprehensible.  The only happiness would be to think myself thankful to have a roof over my head.

My best friend tells me “Don’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders” but this does not brighten me either.  I am helpless to instigate any kind of change or effect and it saddens me further that we continue into the drab as we are in a cycle of recession financially and emotionally as we have no choice other than to go forwards in the same way even though everyone on the other side of the planet, literally have nothing except for a riceball to share between two adults as an orderly queue is formed with no fuss, bother or complaints to collect the only food they may see for weeks.

My life here bears no resemblance to those affected by nature’s insurgency against the Earth and no symmetry to those affected by dying for the right to create democracy in a world where they are murdered for even daring to hope.  I wanted to do something, actively.  But what?  Simply giving money is not enough, I have donated so much to charity this month, more than I have over the last year, but the emptiness lingers.

Darren Leighfield (www.etcetconline.com) and Gareth Thompson (www.codepotato.co.uk) have been key inpirationals to me over the last week by setting up a website (www.itsnotmuch.co.uk) hours after the quake and tsunami washed away entire villages on the north-eastern coast of Japan, they have so far raised £2,800 (target of £10,000) for ShelterBox, solely by the power of social media and tirelessly advocating that cash is vitally more important than invisible thoughts and prayers, and it is true.

After making my donation, the shallowness of the world continued onwards whilst the UN fumbled over a decision for a no-fly-zone / draft resolution for protecting Libyan civilians against the full force of lunatic headcase Colonel Gaddafi whilst hundreds of Yemens were shot at by Yemeni forces and snipers after Friday prayers yesterday (at least 30 people were killed).

I am appalled at the little regard of human life which seems so prevalent in Middle Eastern franchise-politics whilst the Japanese are still suffering with a reported 500+ aftershocks since the 9.0-magnitude quake on Friday 11 March 2011.  The latest aftershock occurred last night with a 6.1-magnitude – the epicentre only 150km northeast of Tokyo not far from the nuclear plants still leaking radiation and over 10,000 lives are still unaccounted.

I do not mean to paint a picture of death and misery and woe unnecessarily when these items are constantly replayed and reviewed on television news commentary, but such tragedies deserve every bit of wordspace and speechspace available.

During the same conversation with my best friend, I decided I wanted to make my peace with never choosing a specific charity, do my piece by helping.  I am not a business, I do not have an extensive contact list, I am combining my wonder (fear) for how planes manage to remain in the sky (I can barely think about it without great palpitations) with a chosen charity, impulsively, I decided, taking a now-or-never stance, that I would undertake a sponsored skydive for ShelterBox.  My best friend told me I was crazy and to at least think on it overnight trying to persuade me that instantaneous decisions are not usually the best.

Nonchalantly, I replied “OK” and progressed with setting up my fundraising page the same evening, it was the right thing to do.

ShelterBox is an international disaster relief charity providing emergency shelter and life-saving supplies to families around the world who are affected by disasters.  Each ShelterBox is tailored to every disaster but typically contains a disaster relief tent for an extended family, blankets, water purification and storage equipment, cooking utensils, a stove, a basic tool kit, a children’s activity pack and other vital items. Their mission is to provide shelter, warmth and dignity to families who have been affected by disasters worldwide. Every donation of £590 allows ShelterBox to deliver emergency shelter and other lifesaving equipment to a family who have lost everything following a disaster.

So at least natural disaster or victims of conflict have a roof over their heads and a means of coping and surviving. Shelterbox are currently in Japan and have provided relief for each of the natural disasters listed above and more recently for the landslides in Madagascar and Bolivia, as well as providing emergency aid for the people of Malawi, Haiti, Chile, Mexico, China, Indonesia, Guatemala, Niger, Benin and Pakistan twice last year.

I have challenged myself to raise £1000 (or even more if potentially possible, this would be the equivalent of nearly two ShelterBoxes for 20 people) by literally jumping from a plane to what I imagine would be my awful demise.  Of course I will live afterwards, as it’s a tandem skydive with the Red Devils Parachute Regiment Freefall Team (Netheravon Airfield, Wiltshire [Red Devils HQ]) and I trust them implicitly even though I will plunge to the ground at 120mph from 13,000ft (that’s a vertical two and a half miles!) which lasts all of 45 seconds (according to my research) and at 6,000ft the parachute will be released and I will float to the ground, like a dead stunned red-winged blackbird probably.

Usually when a sponsored skydive or suchlike is completed, the cost of the skydive is taken from the sponsorship raised – which for me, defeats the point of raising money for the charity in the first place.  I have thought about this very carefully and I will be covering the cost of the skydive myself so all the sponsorship raised will be sent directly to ShelterBox in its entirity.

[Update 15 August 11]

I have surpassed the £1k target!! Woop-de-woo-hoo!!!  The current sponsorship total stands at £1150.11 which has been raised through friends, family, work and most importantly through Twitter. Please help me raise as much as possible!

[Update 16 September 11]

Total raised £1,200.53 Watch my skydive here

7 thoughts on “Counting Blessings

  1. Freefall until the chute opens and please land back on terra firma like the stunning red-winged blackbird you ARE and not as described above. I get palpitations when you say stuff like that!!! It’s taken me too long to find you, I’m not letting you go that easily! xx Shelterbox is an amazing charity and you’re an amazing person. I hope it’s an exhilirating, extraordinary 45 seconds and one which you’ll love at the time and think back on with fondness afterwards.

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    1. I can’t wait to write about it, that’s another bonus I may have to eat an edition of OED before I jump so I have the words afterwards to describe it! xx

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  2. Wonderful writing, I have said to you before Saiqa I just adore your way with words. You’re like the love Asian love child of Stephen Fry and Russell Brand ;)

    Your help with the http://www.itsnotmuch.co.uk campaign has been the real inspiration in my mind. You and all those have donated, shared and helped us so far, that’s just wonderful.

    I was asked on my last Radio interview “Were you surprised by people’s reaction?”

    Honestly yes I was. People that I’ve never met, helping, sharing and giving money in a time when so many are suffering financial and personal struggles themselves in this difficult economy. Now that’s inspiring!

    God Bless you Saiqa and the very best of luck raising cash for a wonderful charity. Jumping out of a plane huh!?!? You must be bonkers, respect to you! x x

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    1. I think that comparison goes down as a total classic! It’s amazing what we can do if we just all opened our hearts, minds, and of course pockets!

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  3. Wow Saiqa! Inspirational. You should write for a national paper.
    This is so emotive!
    Everything happening in this world, finely written in a mere few words.
    Well done and good luck!

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