Sitting at my laptop last Tuesday morning, I was both perplexed and delighted when I received a surprise invitation to the prestigious Charity Awards in London, an evening hosted by Civil Society Media to celebrate some of the remarkable successes achieved by a vast array of wonderful charities and causes from the last 12 months. The evening was attended by a host of glittering celebrities (Larry Lamb being the most recognisable to me, or as I exclaimed when I saw him, Gav’s Dad from Gavin and Stacey!) and a number of luminaries from across the third sector.
I unashamedly had to borrow my Dad’s tux for the black tie event – a perfect fit, which is a particular cause for concern for my midsummer training regime, and I made my way to London on a Pendelino train that considered air conditioning a superfluous luxury to its sweltering custodians. I was a little nervous and slightly apprehensive on the journey down after taking a look at some of the attendees – The Celtic Foundation, Parkinsons UK, Lumos and The Disabilities Trust – just a few of the household names nominated for awards throughout the evening. I suppose the apprehension was born out of my insistence that I was mistakenly invited, and that on arrival I would be refused entry in my borrowed tux, and i’d be heading back home with my tail tucked firmly between my legs.
Fortunately, my apprehension was quickly replaced by a degree of self-assurdness, partly induced by a glass of bubbly that I enjoyed on my arrival, and I started talking to some really interesting people about all sorts of things, from football (naturally) to African politics. ‘Networking’ as people like to define it these days, can be quite unorthodox and can feel forced, but I thought of the event as more of an opportunity for me to appreciate what great things people have achieved in the third sector, and to find a degree of inspiration from people who live and breathe the cause for which they work.
As you can imagine, this wasn’t difficult; the ceremony was teeming with people who had achieved so much, and I found myself feeling a sense of excitement that usually manifests itself within me during the first week of the World Cup (for the non-football fans out there, that ‘kid in a sweetshop’ metaphor is likely to hold more resonance). I was enthralled in the remarkable stories of achievement delivered by the self-deprecating and affable compere, Will Greenwood, and I found myself to be genuinely delighted for the well deserved recipients of the 10 different awards presented on the night.
(Ex-England, Rugby World Cup Winner Will Greenwood was excellent as compere)
The winners of the overall award were Lumos, an incredible charity that have been working towards ending the plight of institutionalised children in Moldova. Thanks to their work, by the end of 2012 the number of institutionalised children in Moldova had reduced by 62%. The government has now drafted a new action plan for deinstitutionalisation for the period of up to 2020 – a remarkable achievement for all those involved.
The point i’m trying to convey is quite a simple one. In current times, there seems to exists a pervasive negative discourse that is relentlessly conveyed by parts of the national media, and it’s easy for us, as a populace, to get caught up in the bad news that we’re fed on a daily basis. But my night in London last week was refreshing, it reminded me that there are thousands of inspirational charities doing their own bit to improve the lives of someone, somewhere, in someway. Whilst we’re at the very start of our journey at The Zuri Project, it’s great to take inspiration from charities that have achieved so much, and we can aspire to emulate some of their remarkable achievements.