Thursday, 3 March 2016

How to change a life. {Friends with heart & joy}

Hello friends,
The post I bring you today is slightly different to what I usually write about - but it is hugely important and I urge you to read on. 
Today I am writing about someone I know, my good friend from high school Ashleigh, she is a world changer... 
Ashleigh is set to embark on amazing volunteer trip this year to Baby Watoto in Uganda. To get there she needs help - our help. 
I know the women (people) that read this blog our good, giving & kind with big & beautiful hearts, so that is why I am writing this. If you can help - please do so. 
If you can’t financially help, please read this post, share it, talk about it - spread the message.
The work Ashleigh plans to do is life changing for the children she will be working with, please help her.
I know Ashleigh from my time in Blackwater, we were next door neighbours when I first moved to town & we did grade 11 & 12 together. She was my friend in school & is someone I still call a friend. 
So you all can get to know my dear friend a little better, I sent her some questions…

Ashleigh, please introduce yourself to my readers.
Good morning Bindy, and readers! Firstly I would like to thank you for sharing my story with your readers. I hope that it sparks a little wonder and hope in you all.  
I am a country (mining) town girl at heart! 
I was born in Dysart, and spent the majority of my childhood and teenage years in Blackwater, QLD.   
I was blessed to experience a carefree childhood, where the hardest decisions were what we were going to do after school that day, and whose parents would let us all spend the night. 
After graduation I moved to Rockhampton for 7 years to complete a Bachelor Degree of Psychology.  It was over these 7 years and through many challenging experiences that I challenged, critiqued, and altered every aspect of myself and became really serious about the way in which I wanted to live my life. 
This ultimately placed me on my path as a youth worker; working in indigenous communities in Western Queensland and was the drive I needed to explore my passion of volunteering abroad.  
I am currently living in the beautiful sunshine coast, continuing my work as a youth worker while also studying to become a personal trainer.  My hope is to incorporate my knowledge of both physical fitness and mental health to create a holistic self-development program for young teens who are in care of the state and teens at risk of disengaging from school.

What do you do?
I love this question as it gives me the opportunity to express how liberating it is to see ‘what it is you do’, as a journey that you have control of! Not a system that has control of you!
After university I was eager to start work however at the time it was difficult to get your foot through the door as a youth worker with no experience.  So I travelled to Mount Isa and worked with indigenous youth in a residential facility for 3 months.  I have since worked as a youth worker in many different locations, and positions.  I worked really hard to ‘climb the ladder’ when I first started out as an eager 20 year old and worked my way into management fairly quickly.  With the guidance of some very special friends and family, I realised that life was too short to be lived so seriously. 
So, to feed my hunger for adventure and my passion to give back, I began volunteering with disadvantaged children in third world countries.  
Upon my return, I realised I was going to make ‘work’, work for me! Just the thought of working Monday to Friday, 9-5pm, is suffocating and only in the last year of my working life have I pushed myself to step outside the ‘society’s expectations’ box and start my own nannying business. So to answer your question (finally ), I am currently nannying a stunningly beautiful little boy every Monday and Tuesday, from Wednesday – Friday I am studying to become a Personal Trainer; which means I am either studying, or completing work experience hours at Goodlife Gym! And the following week, I fly to Rockhampton (FIFO) Thursday – Sunday and work as a residential youth worker. 
My work life is hectic, yes, but at this stage of my life I wouldn’t want it any other way.

What is your favorite thing to do in your free time? 
As above, lol.
I have so many things I love to do in my free time!! 
My belief is that we only live once, so, if it sparks my interest I will make a mental note that I need to try it at least once! 
My main love is nature, so I just love to go on little hiking adventures! There is just something about running through bushland and forestry that makes me feel free. 
I am blessed to have an amazing man in my life whom is also a nature baby. His love is the ocean! So I enjoy getting out to surf with him (when its not too cold).  I can’t explain how amazing it was when we were surfing one morning and a pod of dolphins swam past only 20 metres away from us! WOW.
Last year I started piano lessons, as it was my childhood dream to play the piano! I have had to give it up for now due to my commitments, and I’m sure when my schedules permits I will continue on with this.  I love to draw, read, write, build furniture, bake, and travel! The list could go on but I will stop it there.  

Where did the passion to help others come from?
I’m not too sure where it came from, I guess I was just born this way (Lady Gaga is playing in my head now haha).  
On a serious note however, as far back as I can remember I have always had an unexplainable passion for two things! The first being children, and the second being helping people that don’t have the capacity to help themselves.  Whether this is due to where they were born, the systems they are bound by or the disability or mental health disorder they were born with.  Whether that ‘help’ is achieved by advocating for children of the state, door knocking for the Red Shield Appeal, participating in a 40 hour famine, volunteering overseas, or simply asking ‘Are you ok?’, we all deserve not only our basic human rights such as shelter, food, and water, but also respect, kindness, and love!

I know you have volunteered overseas before, could you tell my readers about your past trips and the highlights from them?
When I was in year 12 I had a truly amazing teacher, Emily Taske, who organized a 3-week overseas trip to Germany, and Italy.  You know those 2 or 3 people in your life who make the BIG impact; well Emily is one of those people! This trip took ‘people watching’ to a totally new level and sparked my curiosity in people and culture. Emily has always encourage me to chase this passion with reckless abandon, or as I like to think of it; wild intemperance

In 2013, I volunteered in an orphanage in Suarez (Argentina). Over 4 weeks, my friends and family were able to help me raise $1500 AUS. This money went such a long way! We were able to provide the orphanage with developmental toys for the nursery, basic arts and craft supplies, educational tools, and lots of sporting equipment for the very bare outside area. 
I fell in love with this orphanage, the mothers who volunteered their time to run it, day in and day out, unpaid! And the children who had practically nothing but the clothes on their backs were the happiest children I had ever met.  After four weeks, I called my boss back home and the volunteer coordinator to see about extending my stay, however this was just not possible and I returned home with a promise to myself that I would continue to volunteer.   
The few toys you can see scattered on the floor is all these children had.
All the wonderful items Ashleigh purchased with the money she raised during her first overseas volunteering trip. What a blessing she was to those children! 
Ashleigh and the children from the orphanage in Suarez.
In 2014, after much research, I was led to volunteer as an English teacher at Anlong-Pi free school, Siem Reap, Cambodia. This school was located at a dumpsite; where the children and their families lived to collect and trade recycled trash to survive. Upon arriving at Anlong-Pi free school I asked about the structure that appeared half built and asked what it was supposed to be. I was informed that it was intended to be a fourth classroom; to be set up as a home economics building to teach the young girls, and women of the community to sew.
Again, over six weeks, my friends, and family rallied together to answer my call and we raised just enough money to purchase sheets of tin, nails, and chicken wire to complete the building: desks, chairs, a cabinet, and FOUR sewing machines to furnish the classroom, and some tins of paint with which the children enjoyed adding their personal touch. It was a beautiful sight to see that classroom finished, furnished, and full of smiling faces on my last day at Anlong-Pi, and that happiness is thanks to the kindness and generosity of everyone who donated.
A sweet girl that Ashleigh looked forward to teaching everyday. Her name is 'Sun' and was always happy & smiling. 
Working on the new building. 

The finished building. 
Ashleigh with 2 of the school sponsors, they came to visit to check out the work she had done!
Have you done any local volunteering? 
All of my volunteer trips have been overseas, however I have worked as a youth worker in Mount Isa, which was a massive eye opener.  You would not believe how poorly some communities are living in our own backyard! 

How does your family feel about you going overseas to volunteer? 
I laughed out loud when I read this question!!! I have the most beautiful family, whom are very patient with me, and my endeavours most of the time.
I have a very protective father who struggles with the thought of me crossing a busy road let alone getting on a plane to work in a third world country that’s in conflict, so we don’t see eye to eye all the time. However, in saying that I do believe in my heart of hearts that he is proud of me.
My mother is an angel, she has been my best friend since I can remember and has ALWAYS encouraged me to follow my dreams, no matter how wild they are!  I’m sure it worries her sick, and there have been a few big scares during my volunteer trips that she has just taken on the chin like a champ (and not told my father until I was home safe).  
I am so inspired by Ashleigh for her love of helping people. During this season of my life I can’t see myself going on a mission/volunteer trip anytime soon - though it is something I have looked into and do hope to do one day. But for now I will do everything I can to help my friend. Anyone that knows Ashleigh knows she is selfless, kind, super positive & just a beautiful soul. In high school she was such a down to earth, honest, helpful, friendly & caring person. She was the type of girl who wasn’t afraid of having a go at anything and didn’t judge people. To me she is brave, inspiring and has the most genuine & considerate heart. It doesn't surprise me at all that she volunteering to go to Baby Watoto. This suits her perfectly! She is so full of heart & joy. - B.
In your own words, what does Baby Watoto do?
Baby Watoto is an orphanage like no other! The Watoto model has been designed to meet not only the physical needs of the children but the health care, education, social and spiritual development needs of the children. 
Baby Watoto cares for destitute babies between the ages of 0-2 years before they either graduate to a Watoto children’s village or are reunited with existing relatives.  This is very exciting as Baby Watoto is ensuring that the development of the children is at the core of its practice, not just getting by! 

What are your personal goals for your time over there?
The beauty of the projects I have accomplished on my volunteer trips is that I don’t plan them! My fundraising ideas usually come to me once I have arrived and am able to see what they need. My personal goal is to be present in the moment, and to bring joy to as many of the Watoto children as I can. It is also my personal goal to make, and collect as many baby clothes as I can to take over with me.  

What makes this organisation different to others such as Unicef, World Vision etc? 
There are so many volunteer organisations out there that it can be difficult to choose whom to go with!  Some volunteer organisations are more ‘touristy’, meaning its about volunteering for a couple of days here and there, and mixing it up with touristy adventures like safari’s, white water rafting, hang gliding, etc.  
I have volunteered unknowingly with organisations like this, however, it is my personal preference to work with organisations that are dedicated to making real change.  It is pretty easy to see what category each organisation fits into, you just need to make sure you do your research. 
 I urge you to visit and check out www.watoto.com if you are interested in volunteering abroad!

What would an average day be like for you over there, what will you be doing day to day?
My job will be what you would expect of a day care assistant! I will be meeting the basic daily needs of the baby’s at Baby Watoto, and helping the Room Leaders wherever I can, whether that be by cleaning, preparing food, washing linen, dishes, preparing for play time, assisting in putting hats, sunscreen, shoes on the bubs etc. (I’m getting excited just thinking about it ).  
I will work for 8-10 hours a day and sleep at the Baby Watoto accommodation with other volunteers.
Thank you Ashleigh for being you - for volunteering to go to Baby Watoto and helping those innocent & sweet children. You are an inspiration to us all and I hope we can help you! We will be keeping you in our hearts and prayers, we are so proud of you! 
If you want to help my amazing friend please click HERE. 
Any donation, big or small will help and I know she will be grateful for any amount. 
Lent is the perfect time to be giving to others, so I urge you to please go to Ashleigh’s fundraising page and give what you can. 
I would not bring you this if it wasn’t important to me, if it wasn’t being done by a good, honest & amazing woman that I know is truly passionate about changing the world.
Please leave any encouraging messages for Ashleigh below or on any of my social media.
Snap Chat; Bindy_30 
I am doing up a bundle of baby goods to be sent to her for her to take & deliver to Baby Watoto & I would love to print off some encouraging messages to include in the parcel. 
(If you would like to help in donating some new or very gently used baby goods please contact me on email or on any of my social media)
Please friends, be generous - this blog is free for all that read it, there is no subscription fee. If you have ever taken away a piece of advice, laughed or read this blog for your entertainment, please make a donation. 
Donate what you would pay for a coffee, a magazine or a chocolate. Give something.  Even just $2 will help.
Give what you can, even if it is just an encouraging message to Ashleigh. Know what you give is appreciated and YOU are making a difference!
Spread the word. Email it, Facebook it, Tweet it, Instagram it, talk about it.
Once Ashleigh has returned from her trip she has promised to do a follow up post with me & share some photos from her trip! 
Thank you for your support, your love & for joining me in helping Ashleigh. 
You are joining her on changing the world! 





Important links; 


Ashleigh & I at school (grade 12), at our formal & formal after party.

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