As with most things in The Book of Everyone, this all started with a conversation. We were talking about the state of play in UK politics. Whatever side of the Brexit divide you sit on, I think we can all agree the politicians have done a pretty poor job of dealing with it. The conversation went something like this:
“It just seems like most of them are trying to score points, they’re acting like incredibly selfish children. And these are the people whose portraits will hang in galleries, whose bronze statues will be looking down on future generations.”
It just doesn’t seem right. But don’t worry, this isn’t a blog post about Brexit.
So much of our time and energy is spent in an echo chamber of negativity. We wondered if we could do something positive to redress the balance, even just a little bit. We could celebrate ordinary people doing amazing things. These are the people we should be looking up to. These are the people who every day make a positive impact on their communities. By celebrating them we might just get a few more people to do the same. So we put it out there. But we started it on a pretty small scale.
This is about celebrating someone amazing
We asked people in the office, friends and family, if they knew someone that does something to make the world a little more wonderful. Almost every person we spoke to knew someone.
“Have you told them how amazing they are?” Almost every person we spoke to hadn’t.
Two of the people we asked decided to call the person then and there. Just a simple “Hey Sam I think what you do for the homeless every Thursday is amazing, thanks for making our community better” “Hey Andrew you know all that free stuff that you do for youth centre, I think that’s awesome” The response from the two calls was really quite surprising. Both Sam and Andrew teared up and thanked the caller for appreciating and recognising them. It meant so much to them. They hadn’t really been thanked directly in this way before.
Time to think bigger.
We were onto something. We had just launched The Video of Everyone, a free video service for groups of people to celebrate birthdays, weddings and other important occasions of their friends and families. We could use this for people to thank other people for doing something amazing. So we emailed our wonderful customers, called over 200 charities, created a small Facebook advert and asked for nominations for Humble Heroes. And to redress the balance, we’d put up a bronze sculpture celebrating the best nomination.
The responses we’ve received have been amazing. The sheer spectrum of people that have been nominated has blown us away. Here are just a few of the Humble Heroes nominated. They are beautiful; not just the nominees but all the people that have taken 5 minutes out of their day to recognise someone who goes above and beyond.
Harry Brown is like any other typical 16 year old lad from the North-East – totally football-mad. However, Harry differs from his peers in that he has turned his sporting passion into a vocation with his inspirational and dedicated coaching of Chester-le-Street Amazons Under-Sevens Girls’ Team a.k.a. The Stompers. Harry, who lives with Down’s Syndrome, started coaching the team after the team’s founder Julie Scurfield noticed the sharp and impactful side-line encouragement he was giving to his sister whilst she was playing a match for The Stompers.
Julie (who nominated Harry) said “We’re always looking for people to help out and I could tell he’d be great with the little-ones. By the time the final whistle blew, I’d asked him if he fancied being a coach.” That was nearly two and a half years ago, and since turning 16 Harry has started studying for his Level 1 coaching badge. Harry says “I like to see the potential in players and help them to improve – it gives me a lot of satisfaction and makes me happy”. I’m pretty sure that seeing all these lovely messages from the team and team mates will also make Harry very happy. You are an absolute star mate.
Ray volunteers as the caretaker of Skippers Island within the Hamford Water National Nature Reserve. Skippers Island is only accessible by boat for most of the year, and Ray has ferried visitors and workers across the short stretch of water for 60 years, and has made the journey an estimated 10,000 times, normally accompanied by his faithful dog Bella.
Ray has continuously looked after Skipper’s Island as it has passed from private ownership into the hands of the Essex Wildlife Trust. Due to Ray’s conservation efforts the Essex Wildlife Trust has been able to establish a colony of Fishers Estuarine Moths on Skippers Island, one of the only places in the world where this species of moth exists outside captivity. During his tenure on Skippers Island Ray has seen off poachers attempting to capture the local birds and mammals, he even assisted in the recapture of an escaped criminal who was discovered on the island.
Ray retired from his volunteer work in September, leaving behind one of the strongest conservation legacies in the UK. I’m sure he will be very grateful for all the kind words people have said about him.
Hilda is one of a group of ladies who raise funds for the local Shaw Wood Academy in Armthorpe, South Yorkshire. A lynchpin of the group for 19 years, Hilda has been responsible for coming up with colourful ideas for arts and crafts that the group can make and sell at school galas and Christmas fairs.
At their weekly meetings, she often arrives with ready-made prototypes of her newest creations for the rest of the group to replicate, having already spent endless hours sewing, knitting, crocheting and crafting. More often than not buying materials at her own expense, when asked to give the receipts in by the treasurer she often just shakes her head and says “It doesn’t matter”.
The group has raised funds for football kits and other equipment for the school and the teachers often come in with specific requests which give Hilda another opportunity to get her thinking cap on to create imaginative costumes for school productions throughout the year. Although it’s a group effort, the Friends of Shaw Wood all agree that Hilda’s innovative ideas and tireless efforts are an inspiration to them all.
You can check out all the videos Hilda’s community uploaded here.
Jane had a very personal and traumatic upbringing that ultimately inspired her to set up a grassroots UK charity called the Purple Community Fund, helping children primarily in the Philippines but also in the UK and other parts of the world.
In 1996, disillusioned with her with her career in the newspaper industry, Jane Walker headed over to the Philippines for a rethink about her future. What was supposed to be a short break ended up being the start of a brand new life. Jane heard of the horrendous conditions in which families were living and working on rubbish dumps in Manila, and on arrival asked a taxi driver to take her to the worst slum areas he knew – so she could see for herself. It was the most pivotal moment of her life and the start of a 23 year crusade to try and help break the cycle of poverty through education, welfare and livelihood programs. Since then Jane and her sister have dedicated their lives to supporting and giving hope to thousands of children who would otherwise be vulnerable to a life of prostitution and poverty.
Jane was nominated by Amy Oppypiu, who supports the Purple Community Fund. Amy is pretty special herself, and is currently raising funds by shaving all her hair off.
Doing something worthwhile is never really easy
Putting this project together hasn’t been the easiest thing we’ve ever done. There’s been hundreds of phone calls, lots of bureaucracy to be circumnavigated and, according to some of the people that made the nominations, a lot of coaxing to upload their videos.
But that’s the thing about doing something nice for someone. It’s always, always, easier to do nothing. That’s what makes all these Humble Heroes amazing. They all decided to do something, however great or small, to make the world around them a little better. So, if it does take a little time for friends to make a film showing a little appreciation, then that’s worth a little effort, isn’t it?