Playing Rugby with Heart Children

 

My relationship with philanthropy is a somewhat non-traditional one.

I’m all about investing extra time and energy in in others, but I think feel that most people don’t do it the most optimal way, which makes them feel good, but doesn’t do a whole lot for the charity they are purportedly helping.

For example: if a Fortune 500 CEO were interested in helping your organization out, would you rather he or she came in and served soup to the poor or would you prefer to receive the money that the time they would spend serving soup is worth?

That’s thousands (possibly tens of thousands) of dollars which could be used to buy LOTS of soup. People who don’t make as much can easily come in and handle the ladle. It’s all about smart application of resources. Most non-profits don’t seem to get this, and therefore end up spending more time and money on managerial processes than their cause, which severely limits their effectiveness.

And so it was with a bit of skepticism that I accepted an offer and a plane ticket to fly up to Auckland last month and visit a camp for very young children who have serious heart conditions.

I was asked to visit, along with my good friend Nathan Seaward, to hang out with and talk to the kids, show them what young people can do, how we can overcome adversity, challenge the status quo, etc etc etc.

I felt pretty well prepared – I’ve got my share of sob stories, and the happy endings that eventually came about because of them – but after talking to the kids and finding out more about what they’d been through, I realized that I was going to do a whole lot more learning than teaching.

Most of the kids were tweens – not quite toddlers, not quite teenagers – but they had already gone through so much in their short time on Earth. Many had already undergone several open-heart surgeries.

But rather than being downtrodden and depressed, these were some of the most well-adjusted, perky and sprightly kids I’ve ever met. They were contentedly running around, climbing trees, surfing and teaching me to play rugby (and thankfully not beating me too badly). Most had the ‘old soul’ look in their eyes, but it seemed to be the kind of wisdom that encouraged living life to the fullest rather than mourning their fallen brethren.

And they do have their share of funerals. Many of these kids attended the camp for younger kids in the years previous, and each year there are a few friends who don’t show up. I can’t imagine dealing with that kind of heavy reality at that age. Hell, I don’t think I would manage too well at MY age.

A big part of why these kids have been able to grow into fully-functioning, fun-loving and active members of society is the Heart Children organization. These are the people that brought Nathan and I up to see the fruits of their actions, and after meeting the people they have on staff at the camp and seeing how they use their resources, I can tell that this is the kind of group I have absolutely no problem investing my time and money in helping achieve their ends.

This in mind, I agreed to participate in an event called the Heart Stopper Challenge.

For this event, I will be getting together with some local friends (Nathan included), dressing up in Air New Zealand pilot uniforms and sitting in a hot tub full of ice water for 5 minutes. The event will take place in Cathedral Square, at noon, in the middle of downtown Christchurch, and all the funds we raise for the event go straight to Heart Children so that they can continue to provide support for the kids and families of kids impacted by heart problems.

Click here to donate a few bucks if you like the idea. We’re trying to raise $2000 New Zealand Dollars by Friday, and keep in mind that if you’re giving US Dollars your money will go a lot further than you’d think (conversion rate is about $1 USD to $1.4 NZD).

Thanks, and thanks again to Heart Children and others groups who are doing the non-profit thing right!

32 comments

  1. I love how you think Colin. The only thing is sometimes money is much easier to donate money sometimes than it is to actually go out our way to help people by making adjustments that may be inconvenient.

    It’s easy to throw money at a cause, but it’s a whole different ball game when you meet the people behind it.

    Good job on stepping up and being a part of something bigger (I fully expect a video of the event!)

  2. I love how you think Colin. The only thing is sometimes money is much easier to donate money sometimes than it is to actually go out our way to help people by making adjustments that may be inconvenient.

    It’s easy to throw money at a cause, but it’s a whole different ball game when you meet the people behind it.

    Good job on stepping up and being a part of something bigger (I fully expect a video of the event!)

  3. What’s nice about finding a group like Heart Children is that throwing money at the problem CAN actually be incredibly effective because of how the organization is set up and the people they have involved. Definitely not always the case!

  4. What’s nice about finding a group like Heart Children is that throwing money at the problem CAN actually be incredibly effective because of how the organization is set up and the people they have involved. Definitely not always the case!

  5. What’s nice about finding a group like Heart Children is that throwing money at the problem CAN actually be incredibly effective because of how the organization is set up and the people they have involved. Definitely not always the case!

  6. I like how this article, in my eyes at least, involves you describing why you did something you wouldn’t normally do for a type of organization you wouldn’t usually be involved with.

    Makes me think how anything can be explained away if you take the effort to make excuses/come up with clever enough reasons. And I mean ANYTHING.

    Also makes me happy that generally sucky systems/organizations can have their exceptions. Shweetness.

  7. I like how this article, in my eyes at least, involves you describing why you did something you wouldn’t normally do for a type of organization you wouldn’t usually be involved with.

    Makes me think how anything can be explained away if you take the effort to make excuses/come up with clever enough reasons. And I mean ANYTHING.

    Also makes me happy that generally sucky systems/organizations can have their exceptions. Shweetness.

  8. I like how this article, in my eyes at least, involves you describing why you did something you wouldn’t normally do for a type of organization you wouldn’t usually be involved with.

    Makes me think how anything can be explained away if you take the effort to make excuses/come up with clever enough reasons. And I mean ANYTHING.

    Also makes me happy that generally sucky systems/organizations can have their exceptions. Shweetness.

  9. @Eric: Thanks brother!

    @Tim: Haha, yeah, what I learned is that it’s good to take risks on things because you never know when those exceptions will pop up. It would have been easy to just say ‘I don’t do this kind of thing’ and leave it at that, but then I would have missed out on a great experience because of my risk aversion. It’s definitely worthwhile to test your self-imposed rules from time-to-time, just in case.

  10. @Eric: Thanks brother!

    @Tim: Haha, yeah, what I learned is that it’s good to take risks on things because you never know when those exceptions will pop up. It would have been easy to just say ‘I don’t do this kind of thing’ and leave it at that, but then I would have missed out on a great experience because of my risk aversion. It’s definitely worthwhile to test your self-imposed rules from time-to-time, just in case.

  11. @Eric: Thanks brother!

    @Tim: Haha, yeah, what I learned is that it’s good to take risks on things because you never know when those exceptions will pop up. It would have been easy to just say ‘I don’t do this kind of thing’ and leave it at that, but then I would have missed out on a great experience because of my risk aversion. It’s definitely worthwhile to test your self-imposed rules from time-to-time, just in case.

  12. Great that you’re getting involved with this cause – hopefully some great exposure for the org.

    I have to respectfully disagree with you – corporate volunteering can be extremely beneficial for the non-profit & the corporation involved. If an organization has a worthwhile task for a volunteer, and the big operative is if, the volunteer is likely to give more of their time and their money. You’re much more likely to support a cause financially, if you understand the mission of an organization and know that you can make a difference.

    Corporations also benefit from giving their time + money. HandsOnNetwork.org backs this up, and it reaches around the world. I used to work for two major Chicago non-profits managing volunteer groups that both engage 100,000s+ volunteers every year, many of them corporate. We’d regularly have the CEOs of Fortune 500 volunteering along side their employees. Companies like Deloitte & Touche, Accenture, Kraft, Sara Lee, came to volunteer a few times a year.

    Their benefits? Volunteering makes you feel good, builds teamwork, and breaks down managerial boundaries. If your managers and their managers are with you sharing in your good times working towards some philanthropic goal together, you’re likely to feel at least a little better about going to work and might work better with people you didn’t before. Groups of employees showed up to volunteer wearing their matching corporate shirts all smiling, excited to be making a difference together. They’d chant with pride for their company, and at the end their CEO would stand up and tell everyone how they’re fighting hunger today, and that their work all year round helps them donate to help x charity. Some beautiful win-win situations.

    To your point though, if the volunteers’ time isn’t managed well – the volunteers aren’t kept busy or they don’t understand how what they’re doing is making an impact – it’s a waste. In that case, volunteers, corporate or just anybody volunteering, are better donating money than their time, and they’re much less likely to help again if they have a bad experience.

    I’ve always felt that if a volunteer isn’t their meeting the actual needs of a non-profit, they’re not actually helping at all, but this shouldn’t discourage volunteers that are well-utilized and really can make a difference.

    Happy Travels (& volunteering),
    Bessie

  13. Great that you’re getting involved with this cause – hopefully some great exposure for the org.

    I have to respectfully disagree with you – corporate volunteering can be extremely beneficial for the non-profit & the corporation involved. If an organization has a worthwhile task for a volunteer, and the big operative is if, the volunteer is likely to give more of their time and their money. You’re much more likely to support a cause financially, if you understand the mission of an organization and know that you can make a difference.

    Corporations also benefit from giving their time + money. HandsOnNetwork.org backs this up, and it reaches around the world. I used to work for two major Chicago non-profits managing volunteer groups that both engage 100,000s+ volunteers every year, many of them corporate. We’d regularly have the CEOs of Fortune 500 volunteering along side their employees. Companies like Deloitte & Touche, Accenture, Kraft, Sara Lee, came to volunteer a few times a year.

    Their benefits? Volunteering makes you feel good, builds teamwork, and breaks down managerial boundaries. If your managers and their managers are with you sharing in your good times working towards some philanthropic goal together, you’re likely to feel at least a little better about going to work and might work better with people you didn’t before. Groups of employees showed up to volunteer wearing their matching corporate shirts all smiling, excited to be making a difference together. They’d chant with pride for their company, and at the end their CEO would stand up and tell everyone how they’re fighting hunger today, and that their work all year round helps them donate to help x charity. Some beautiful win-win situations.

    To your point though, if the volunteers’ time isn’t managed well – the volunteers aren’t kept busy or they don’t understand how what they’re doing is making an impact – it’s a waste. In that case, volunteers, corporate or just anybody volunteering, are better donating money than their time, and they’re much less likely to help again if they have a bad experience.

    I’ve always felt that if a volunteer isn’t their meeting the actual needs of a non-profit, they’re not actually helping at all, but this shouldn’t discourage volunteers that are well-utilized and really can make a difference.

    Happy Travels (& volunteering),
    Bessie

  14. Great that you’re getting involved with this cause – hopefully some great exposure for the org.

    I have to respectfully disagree with you – corporate volunteering can be extremely beneficial for the non-profit & the corporation involved. If an organization has a worthwhile task for a volunteer, and the big operative is if, the volunteer is likely to give more of their time and their money. You’re much more likely to support a cause financially, if you understand the mission of an organization and know that you can make a difference.

    Corporations also benefit from giving their time + money. HandsOnNetwork.org backs this up, and it reaches around the world. I used to work for two major Chicago non-profits managing volunteer groups that both engage 100,000s+ volunteers every year, many of them corporate. We’d regularly have the CEOs of Fortune 500 volunteering along side their employees. Companies like Deloitte & Touche, Accenture, Kraft, Sara Lee, came to volunteer a few times a year.

    Their benefits? Volunteering makes you feel good, builds teamwork, and breaks down managerial boundaries. If your managers and their managers are with you sharing in your good times working towards some philanthropic goal together, you’re likely to feel at least a little better about going to work and might work better with people you didn’t before. Groups of employees showed up to volunteer wearing their matching corporate shirts all smiling, excited to be making a difference together. They’d chant with pride for their company, and at the end their CEO would stand up and tell everyone how they’re fighting hunger today, and that their work all year round helps them donate to help x charity. Some beautiful win-win situations.

    To your point though, if the volunteers’ time isn’t managed well – the volunteers aren’t kept busy or they don’t understand how what they’re doing is making an impact – it’s a waste. In that case, volunteers, corporate or just anybody volunteering, are better donating money than their time, and they’re much less likely to help again if they have a bad experience.

    I’ve always felt that if a volunteer isn’t their meeting the actual needs of a non-profit, they’re not actually helping at all, but this shouldn’t discourage volunteers that are well-utilized and really can make a difference.

    Happy Travels (& volunteering),
    Bessie

  15. It is nice to see you having an impact on the community where you are living. Glad that I can help in a small way. Keep up the good work Colin.

  16. It is nice to see you having an impact on the community where you are living. Glad that I can help in a small way. Keep up the good work Colin.

  17. It is nice to see you having an impact on the community where you are living. Glad that I can help in a small way. Keep up the good work Colin.

  18. I think time and money is equally important. When you give your time, you’re proving that servanthood goes a long way, and that you’re humble enough to understand that…. with money it’s understanding that money isn’t “ours”, but rather a tool for everyone. (This isn’t a communistic idea, btw, but understanding a karmic principle–I have today, but share knowing that tomorrow I might not have.)

    Good luck on sitting in ice that long! Better practice, otherwise you’ll be in some severe pain (coming from a former bartender who dug bottles of beer from huge bins of ice!!!). Ouch!

    PS: those kids are totally precious. <3

  19. I think time and money is equally important. When you give your time, you’re proving that servanthood goes a long way, and that you’re humble enough to understand that…. with money it’s understanding that money isn’t “ours”, but rather a tool for everyone. (This isn’t a communistic idea, btw, but understanding a karmic principle–I have today, but share knowing that tomorrow I might not have.)

    Good luck on sitting in ice that long! Better practice, otherwise you’ll be in some severe pain (coming from a former bartender who dug bottles of beer from huge bins of ice!!!). Ouch!

    PS: those kids are totally precious. <3

  20. I think time and money is equally important. When you give your time, you’re proving that servanthood goes a long way, and that you’re humble enough to understand that…. with money it’s understanding that money isn’t “ours”, but rather a tool for everyone. (This isn’t a communistic idea, btw, but understanding a karmic principle–I have today, but share knowing that tomorrow I might not have.)

    Good luck on sitting in ice that long! Better practice, otherwise you’ll be in some severe pain (coming from a former bartender who dug bottles of beer from huge bins of ice!!!). Ouch!

    PS: those kids are totally precious. <3

  21. I was working at a Habitat for Humanity build one day and overheard a fellow volunteer say:
    “You know, me being here helping is actually rather selfish. If I really wanted to make a difference, I would spend all Saturday working, and donate the money. What I earn could hire a couple of professional builders who would do a much better job than I will.”

    That’s stuck with me over time. I certainly agree that sometimes my money can be more beneficial than I can. As mentioned above, however, it depends on what the needs are and how my skills align with them.

  22. I was working at a Habitat for Humanity build one day and overheard a fellow volunteer say:
    “You know, me being here helping is actually rather selfish. If I really wanted to make a difference, I would spend all Saturday working, and donate the money. What I earn could hire a couple of professional builders who would do a much better job than I will.”

    That’s stuck with me over time. I certainly agree that sometimes my money can be more beneficial than I can. As mentioned above, however, it depends on what the needs are and how my skills align with them.

  23. I was working at a Habitat for Humanity build one day and overheard a fellow volunteer say:
    “You know, me being here helping is actually rather selfish. If I really wanted to make a difference, I would spend all Saturday working, and donate the money. What I earn could hire a couple of professional builders who would do a much better job than I will.”

    That’s stuck with me over time. I certainly agree that sometimes my money can be more beneficial than I can. As mentioned above, however, it depends on what the needs are and how my skills align with them.

  24. Pingback: 22 Things to Do More Often While Traveling | Exile Lifestyle

  25. Heart kids are great! I should know since I have one. I like the minimalist movement and seeing my 21 month old daughter endure 3 open heart surgeries up to this point including one for a pacemaker does put life and things quickly into perspective. Great job on promoting a great cause of congential heart disease. This kids don’t have a choice they are strong and full of life and smiles. And like you said teach you more than any one of us could offer them.

  26. Heart kids are great! I should know since I have one. I like the minimalist movement and seeing my 21 month old daughter endure 3 open heart surgeries up to this point including one for a pacemaker does put life and things quickly into perspective. Great job on promoting a great cause of congential heart disease. This kids don’t have a choice they are strong and full of life and smiles. And like you said teach you more than any one of us could offer them.

  27. Heart kids are great! I should know since I have one. I like the minimalist movement and seeing my 21 month old daughter endure 3 open heart surgeries up to this point including one for a pacemaker does put life and things quickly into perspective. Great job on promoting a great cause of congential heart disease. This kids don’t have a choice they are strong and full of life and smiles. And like you said teach you more than any one of us could offer them.

Comments are closed.