Thursday, 1 October 2015

Dear Deluminators

Dear Deluminators

Thank you for teaching me what I am truly capable of.
Thank you for introducing me to new and exciting people.
Thank you for showing me what teamwork, real teamwork, looks like.
Thank you for your message that age is no barrier to helping people.
Thank you for your message that age is no barrier to starting something great.
Thank you for the stress that was always unfounded.
Thank you to my Vice Presidents and sisters, Zoe and Sasha.
Thank you for 9,512 books for the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation.
Thank you for $12,000 for the Hornsby Kuringgai Womens Shelter.
Thank you for 150 bags for the homeless of Sydney.
Thank you for 600 flowers, real or paper, for Esther Day.
Thank you for mittens for Koala burn victims.
Thank you for looking after neglected animals.
Thank you for everything you gave me every second I was blessed to be your President. 

On the 1st February 2014, Zoe, Sasha and I sat on a rug in Chatswood with an impossible dream and a packet of lollies. We had faith that people would show up, faith that this could be something special, faith that we might actually be able to make a different to the world.

They say that the test of any successful creation is if it can exist without you. I think its fair to say that The Deluminators is about to pass that test.

I cannot imagine a more capable, talented, passionate, dedicated or truly humble person than Tess Watterson to take on the role of Deluminators President. I am genuinely excited to see the amazing new heights that she will lead The Deluminators to.

As I began compiling all of the Deluminators resources of the last two years into a comprehensive folder of information for the new executive team (Tess, Skyler and Riley), I couldn’t help reflecting on the mass of instructions that I had left accompanying the resources.

It is hard to let go of a creation that you have spawned, least of all one that has taught you so much and helped so many. It was with this mindset that I left such detailed notes on navigating everything from the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission register, to our registered domain name to the Facebook Page.

Realistically, I knew that my notes will be of help in the early stages of the leadership change, but that things will inevitably change beyond the way I ran things  Whilst the part of me that feels incredibly possessive over The Deluminators is frightened by this idea, the rest of me wholeheartedly relishes the potential.

Sometimes change is just what is needed to unlock something even greater!
I see greatness ahead for The Deluminators!

As I so often repeat when talking about the mindset of giving: in order to be sustainable, charity must go both ways. Completely selfless charity merely drains one party and helps another, inevitably fading away.

I have grown immensely through this experience, and owe so much of who I am today to The Deluminators.

In case I haven’t said it enough in this blog post, Thank you!


Now Dear Tess,
I wish you all the best, I am so excited for future of The Deluminators with you holding the Elder Wand.


Saturday, 29 August 2015

Esther Day 2015

“I feel very lucky to know you – and as far as I have seen, to know you is literally to love you.”
– Esther Earl. 


August 3rd is a very special day for me, for the Deluminators and for many people around the world. Esther Day is a day that celebrates the life of Esther Earl who died from cancer when she was aged 16. Though she lived a short life, she lived a full one. Her family created the charity This Star Won’t Go Out after her death in 2010 in order to provide support and financial help to families and children going through the same thing they did. 

Their website gives an excellent explanation of Esther Day and what it means:

“Before her death, author and friend John Green told Esther that he and his brother Hank wanted to celebrate her birthday as long as there were vlogbrothers videos, and that the videos on that day could be about whatever she chose. After some reflection, Esther decided she wanted it to be a day to celebrate love for family friends. So since 2010, August 3rd or Esther Day has become a holiday that reminds us to verbalize our love for friends and family, the important people in our lives who we might not remember to say “I love you” to very often.” – This Star Won’t Go Out 

Last year we hosted Project Lily on Esther’s Day, giving out free flowers and postcards. This was such a fun experience and - I felt - was one of the most rewarding projects we hosted last year. So of course, when at the beginning of the year, we were discussing what projects and campaigns The Deluminators should run, Esther’s Day was put at the top of the list. 

A month before the event everyone was frantically getting ready. I was emailing Sydney Harbor Foreshore, Sean and Johnny were getting the postcards ready, Laura was making her beautiful bookmarks and everyone else was whipping out their origami skills to make pretty paper Lilies and Lotuses. We had fun craft days and thoroughly enjoyed making the flowers. We hit some hiccups when learning how to make them, but eventually we got the hang of it and they turned out really beautiful. We were aiming at making 200 flowers, but ended up with 300! This was an extraordinary effort by everyone, especially since not of us were origami connoisseurs. 

The excitement was palpable on the day of the event. We all arrived at Darling Harbour bright and early to set up. The weather was amazing, the flowers looked cool and we were ready to spread the love! 

We were a bit worried that the paper flowers wouldn’t attract much attention but our fears were completely unfounded. Everyone was so nice and loved the message behind the flowers, postcards and bookmarks. 

Before we knew it all the flowers were gone and we needed to make more! Soon we had a working production line and some kids even joined in. 

I would like to thank the following Deluminators for all your help in this event – you are awesome!  Sean, Chris, Tess, Laura, Skyler, Joanna, Riley and Johnny! 

All in all it was a day full and laughter and love. Just like Esther would have wanted. So remember – make sure that you tell someone that you love that you love them. 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Packages for Homeless 2015

Going into last weekend and our P4H distribution date, I found myself feeling what I can only describe as drained. School and a variety of other factors were making my life incredibly stressful, and I was not in the most positive of moods. Needless to say, the notion of the very exhausting weekend ahead of me was not overly enticing.

However, something that John Green said in a vlog that I happened to watch the day before our distribution day, reminded me that I did in fact wish to wake up at 5am on Saturday morning (despite how horrible that sounded).

"Hank, as you know, for a long time in my life I would get to a point where I felt overwhelmed and exhausted, and then I would fall into this spiral where I would do less and less and less, and then eventually I would be doing nothing, but I would still feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Because the thing is, I didn't just stop doing the things that drained me, I also stopped doing everything else. I stopped functioning completely"

"This is the thing that instead of draining me, fills me up" - John Green

Whilst the thing that was filling me up wasn't touring with the cast and crew of the movie version of my bestselling book - I did see where John was coming from. It is important to do the things that make you remember why you exist.
Ultimately, being a part of The Deluminators does make me feel good about myself, and I am so thankful for it so often.

I have spent a lot of time over the past 18months of running The Deluminators, wondering whether it is selfish to enjoy charity work. Wondering if it should always be tough and trying, because it should be entirely 100% selfless.

However to reference another one of the massive inspirations in my life, Kim and Kath from The Possibility Project, in order for charity to be sustainable, it must go both ways.

The way I see it, the people I handed packages to last Saturday helped me just as much as I hope I helped them. Every single one of our members is gaining confidence and skills in areas they might never have experienced otherwise. The Deluminators is an experience for us as well, that's what makes it possible for us to keep going.

On that tangential, mildly self-focused point, I would like to return to what this campaign is actually about - helping the homeless population of Sydney.


When The Deluminators were still little more than a group of eight young people meeting in the cold on a drizzly Sunday in Darling Harbour with a registration for Accio Books and a dream, we came across Packages for Homeless. They were a group of like-minded, kind, talented and vastly more successful people, who were creating active change in the community.

Australian Nerdfighters' P4H created 300 backpacks full of necessities for people on the streets of Sydney and Melbourne, and to us Deluminators (still struggling to reach 2,000 books) they became one of our main driving inspirations.

So when winter 2015 came around (a year after their successful campaign) I approached Caitlin (one of the main members of P4H, and a fellow Deluminator) and asked if they were planning on reviving the campaign for another year. I was pleasantly surprised at the result of our conversation. What followed was a discussion that resulted in a new plan for 2015, a joint campaign.

In retrospect, the main thing that jumps to mind when I think of P4H, is spreadsheets. Lots and lots of spreadsheets. Coordinating around seven collection points, plus donations from businesses and knitting groups is a feat that was doomed to fail from the start. What would inevitably result would be several columns on the spreadsheet being updated at the same time, and us ending up with double what we needed of certain items, and not enough of others.

Regardless of the troubles we encountered, we succeeded in the end. With the help of a few very generous donors, we collected enough money at the end of the campaign to fill in all of the gaps in our spreadsheet, and we successfully had the right amount of each item.

I would like to thank all of our incredible donors, without whom we would never have achieved our goal.

Universal Store
ZAP Variety Chatswood
Eastern Road Village Pharmacy
White Glo
Ju Ju
Poncho Poncho
Coca-Cola Amatil
Sylvania Library Knitting Group
Girl Guides Australia
Knitting in Public
Makers Loft
Hornsby Leo's
Cronulla High School
Coles Turramurra

Our packing day on the 11th of July passed with all the drama that could be expected. We lost a phone, ran out of forks (I blame the spreadsheet) and became fully exhausted, all in all, a successful day. It was an amazing feeling to see all of our hard work beginning to come together as we looked around the room and saw all of the items we had brought together from every far corner of Sydney. Items which would be able to help some of the people most in need within our city.

Many people have asked me whilst I was telling them about our campaign, if we needed a permit to give items to people on the street. It was a question that truly made me realise how off the grid people who are homeless often become, below the recognition of the authorities beyond dispersing them as soon as it gets light. The stigma surrounding people going through tough times will only be destroyed once we begin to recognise everyone as possessing the same humanity as ourselves.

In case you were wondering, we found the phone. Please like and share this Facebook post concerning what happened there. It's a story that truly should be told:

Follow this link

"Today was the big day. The day where months of hard work, countless emails and phone calls, collection points and unhealthy stress would pay off as we distributed the 150 backpacks full of necessities that our hard work had culminated in.

However after only being half way through what will be a long and exhausting day of distributions, my faith has been restored in humanity beyond what I had anticipated heading into this campaign.Last week, when packing the backpacks in a 'highly organised' production line, one of our members' phone went missing. We scoured the room, and to our dismay realised that it must have ended up in one of the packs. We searched and searched, but came up empty handed. We were at a loss.

So then it came as the most amazing surprise when on George Street at around 9am this morning, after handing out a backpack to an incredibly grateful man on the street, something happened that would shift the mood of our entire day. The man had abandoned all of his belongings and come running panicked down the street to find us, the phone had been in his bag.

It's not every day that you get to experience such pure goodness. Not every day that people get to show that no matter how tough their circumstances, they will still strive to do the right thing. My faith has officially been restored in humanity. Not only because our member, Riley, no longer has to buy a new phone, but because this campaign we are running is not only giving some people going through tough times some much-needed assistance; but it is helping to remove the stigma surrounding homeless people amongst our peers.

Every grateful smile, happy story and well-wishes I have received today has made this campaign (and possibly my entire involvement in The Deluminators) worthwhile.

***PLEASE SHARE THIS POST! This story should be heard***

The day itself was one of the most physically exhausting, yet mentally rewarding days of my life.
We all woke up around 5am in order to get to Wynyard station (our meeting point) in time for our 6-6:30am start. Some of us caught the train, some of us travelled to Willoughby to load our cars full of the 150 backpacks that had been cluttering our member Skyler's living room for a week.

Sometimes I wish Australia's reputation for being a hot country would persist into 5am in the dead of winter, because I was cold. Not to mention the thousands of people sleeping rough across Sydney due to issues of homelessness...hence why we came armed with lots and lots of hand-knitted scarves. Winter is no time to be sleeping outside.

From 6-8am we handed out bags in Woolloomooloo, Wynyard and Hyde Park.

At 8 we paused for a well-earned breakfast at Pancakes on the Rocks. Nothing warms you up quite like maple syrup soaked bacon and egg pancakes.

From 9am-1pm we handed out bags in George Street, Pitt Street, Martin Place, Circular Quay and Chatswood.

At 1, we allowed ourselves another break to do a stocktake of the bags and possibly go home to reboot (maybe take a nap).

From 6-8pm we handed out bags in Wentworth Park, Central Station and Prince Alfred Park.

15 hours and some very sore backs later, the bags were distributed. What a day!

For reasons of privacy, there aren't many photos of anything that happened on the day

I can honestly say that prior to this weekend, I saw what we were doing as incredibly confronting and nerve-wracking...not so much anymore. The smiles of gratitude we received throughout the day speak volumes more than I could ever express in words. We shared hope and care, not just toothbrushes, scarves and baked beans. We showed that we as young Australians wanted to help, and the amazing people we met understood and valued that.

The man we met in Woollomooloo who was blind, missing both legs and on his way back to hospital
The man on George Street with such pure integrity to hand back a phone.
The women in Prince Alfred Park sharing a tent in the heart of winter.
The man who's name was also Sean.
The woman and her aunt sticking together.

Everyone has their story, none is more important than any other. I am so thankful for the stories that were shared with me this past weekend.

As people trying to live in this fast-paced world, we often adopt tunnel vision so that we can get on with our lives. Even the kindest and most generous people in the world will often walk past people begging, simply because they can't spare the money. It is amazing to suddenly then be in a situation where you can see someone on the street and know exactly what to do...hand them a pack. Nothing beats that sense of purpose. Once we rid ourselves of the pointless guilt (not being able to finish your meal, and thinking of the starving children in Ethiopia) we can start to make tangible change in the world.

Thank you to all of the members who dedicated their time to sending countless emails (often with absolutely zero luck), collecting donations and distributing packs

Christine Wilson, Caitlin McColl, Alex Bertulis-Fernandes, Skyler Kennedy, Joanna van Zeller, Liz Lyon, Olivia Lyndon, Laura Davies, Jonny Anthony, Riley Robey, Tess Watty, Alex Nielsen, Emily Stav, Jharna Chamlagai, Jim Southwell, Natalie Hoskins, Tammy Tan, Morgan Baynash, Lauren Wilhlem, Tim Kelly

Thank you to everyone who made this campaign possible. It has done far more good than the tangible benefits of the packs themselves.

I hope it has repercussions into the future for everyone who was involved in any capacity - I have certainly been changed by it.


Friday, 15 May 2015

The Deluminators Visit Monika's Doggy Rescue #2

Hello readers,

On Saturday May 9th, a few of our members visited Monika's Doggie Rescue at Ingleside to volunteer.  Getting to Ingleside wasn't the easiest of trips and problems with public transport definitely didn't help. With one member lost, and an apparent fallen tree blocking one of the roads, the day wasn't exactly turning out how I would've liked . Nevertheless, everyone eventually arrived (and all members were thankfully accounted for).

The amount of people who were already at the shelter; out walking dogs and talking to Monika's volunteers, was staggering. Obviously we couldn't resist going over and looking at all the adorable dogs that were out the front, and watch the dogs who were being leashed up for their walk with a volunteer.

After a month of back and forth emails between Rachel and myself, it was great to finally meet her in person. Rachel is an extremely kind, enthusiastic and appreciative individual who is the customer service coordinator at the shelter.  A group of us were spoken to by Rachel and another volunteer on the purpose and work done by the shelter, along with their appreciation for the general public who volunteer their time. Personally, there were two stand out pieces of information that Rachel told us. Firstly that there are at least 100 dogs currently looked after by the shelter, and secondly that the bedding of every single dog is washed every single day. Now I really understood why laundry was such a big issue for them.

Following our conversation we split into smaller groups and waited for the dogs we were going to walk. One by one the dogs were brought out and accompanied by lots of "Aww"s. After getting some photos and giving plenty of pats, we set off on our walks at segmented times.

I was handed Russell, a 3 year old Sheltie x Kelpie.  He was a very energetic and strong dog who didn't mind in the slightest when I was out of breath from jogging with him. When passing other members on the way, it was easy to see the personalities of the other dogs - those who didn't mind taking their time, to those who couldn't keep still. It was rewarding to see that not only the dogs were enjoying themselves, but my fellow Deluminators were too.

Once the groups had arrived back from our half hour walks, we headed around to the back of the shelter to help with the washing. We folded up and placed the well loved bedding into their separate piles whilst observing the nearby dogs.

As our time at the shelter came to an end, Rachel kindly gave us Doggie Rescue calendars and magazines, as well as offered us a beautifully finished "Footy Dogs" book. We took some last photos and sadly said goodbye to the dogs. I thanked Rachel again for her effort in organising us a date and time, and told her the Deluminators will be back in the future to volunteer again.

It truly is incredible what Monika's Doggie Rescue does. I had looked through their magazines a few times when I was younger, and it was so fulfilling being able to help out in person.  It was such a joy to see the life in these dogs eyes and know that here they are safe, cared for and loved by volunteers and the public alike. It was exciting to see that whilst we were there, a couple of dogs were adopted by a loving family.

I would like to thank the following Deluminators for their dedicated time, patience and effort. There is no way this could've happened without your support.

Em Robey
Liz Lyon
Tess Watty
Joanna van Zeller
Alex Bertulis-Fernandes
Chris Wilson
James Reading
Emily Stav
and my mum, Jo.

Finally, please see Alice's blog for more information on the importance of MDR and ways you can personally help the shelter. The blogs also talks about the first time the group volunteered at the shelter.

Thank you from me,
Laura Davies.

There's no doubt that Hermione would approve as well :)