WIND BENEATH MY WINGS: it’s never too late to follow your dream.

WIND BENEATH MY WINGS: it’s never too late to follow your dream.

MARK PILE, a consultant, has a Foundation Arts Degree in Security & Risk Management, and a background in counter-intelligence. His talents and hobbies include singing, playing guitar, dancing and acting. He’s been told he has a natural golf swing; and he enjoys photography and loves sailing and travelling. But he chose aviation as his dream.

A dream he only actively began to pursue a few months ago, at the age of 53.

Corporate look

Mark, how long have you been waiting for this dream to happen?

I’ve been waiting since my 30s. When I was in the South African Navy, I had the opportunity to do some flying with the air force pilots in a helicopter and I got to sit in the co-pilot’s seat. I knew then: this is what I want to do.

You were conscripted – you had to join the armed forces – and you initially chose the air force, right?

Yes, I was nineteen. Even back then I wanted to be in the air: I wanted to fly jets. But I was short-sighted and they only took people with twenty-twenty vision. So I chose the navy.

When you were growing up, what did you want to be?

At one stage I wanted to be a lawyer. Mercantile law. Because it had to do with the sea, and sailing. I’ve always loved sailing.

Why did your dream of being a lawyer end?

My parents couldn’t afford to send me to university.

So, now that you’ve got the money to pursue your passion, why aren’t you pursuing a law career?

Because it’s not my passion. It was of great interest to me in my teens, but the moment I realised it wasn’t achievable, I put it aside, and I’ve not regretted it. A huge part of it comes from knowing your purpose, and I’ve always felt I’m called to do something other than a corporate job. I’ve never wanted a day-to-day ‘office’ job – something that’s the same every single day. With flying, I get to go up into the clouds, 3,000 feet, and that’s my office.

As this dream of yours is still in progress – you’re currently training for your private pilot licence (PPL) – what do you currently do for a job?

I’m a consultant, working for a large construction/engineering/facilities management company, Vinci Facilities, on a Ministry of Defence contract. That’s all I can say about that.

Ah. Or you’ll have to kill me.

Yes. (Haha.)

When do you pursue your passion for flying?

On weekends and the occasional off day during the week. I have an amazing instructor – Iona Morris – and I’m just so blessed by her. I won’t fly with anyone else. She knows what she’s doing; her way of teaching is so effortless and flawless, it makes you understand clearly what you need to do.

And here’s a great example of how God puts you with people who will support your dream: I was chatting with Iona one day and I told her my plan – my big dream to fly aid into war-torn countries – and she was taken aback. ‘That’s what I wanted to do!’ she replied. ‘That’s exactly what I’ve wanted to do, but for whatever reason, I’ve never been able to achieve it.’ And then she floored me. She said: ‘You know, in a way, I’m achieving my dream through you. By getting you qualified and training you up in the most excellent way, I’m helping you to achieve your dream.’ I just think that’s amazing.

Ally grins

Serendipitous. What else do you want to do once you’ve got your ‘wings’?

I would love to fly seaplanes, island hopping, taking tourists around.

Sounds like an idyllic life. How long will this PPL take you?

It all depends. I have to get 45 hours in the air. Part of that is doing two solos, flying with an examiner, doing four touchdowns… The time I’ll take to achieve all this will depend on a number of factors: aeroplane and instructor availability, my availability, finances, my ability to study and pass nine extremely difficult ground exams…

I’ve given myself 24 months to complete my PPL because I’m taking the advice of some wise people who’ve gone before me, people who’ve achieved this dream. They say: take your time. Don’t rush it. Enjoy every moment. And that’s what I intend to do.

Have you completed any of the ground exams yet?

Yes, three of the nine. For the first two, I got 100%, and the third one: 87%, which I’m proud of. But I wouldn’t have been able to achieve any of this without the ground school I’m training with: Ash Holding, the PPL Groundschool owner, is an incredible trainer. He’s got 20+ years of experience, and I’m so grateful to him because I’m not a natural academic; I struggle with theory and the textbooks are thick. He’s a Godsend, just like Iona.

Once you’ve completed your PPL, what are your next steps?

I want to do an airline transport pilot licence (ATPL) – because only with an ATPL can I fly logistics, piloting various aircraft. I also want to get my Night Rating, so I can fly after sunset, and my Instrument Rating, so I can fly above the clouds and in low visibility.​

You’ve had quite a journey so far. You & your wife left South Africa – and everything and everyone you knew – in October 2001, and you came over to the UK and found yourselves at the bottom of the career ladder, right?

Yes, just before leaving SA, I was a full lieutenant in the navy, in the intelligence division – just six months away from being promoted to Lieutenant Commander. When I started over in London, I couldn’t get a job anywhere near my South African salary and had to start over as a security guard, on the night shift.

Why did you leave SA?

Apartheid. Or rather, a sort of reverse Apartheid. The ANC had taken over and they’d stopped all promotions of anyone not in the ANC. So they offered me a choice: leave, or remain in the navy at my current rank and go over to the Congo, where I would be in danger of contracting the Ebola virus, or die at the hand of a 12-year-old with an AK 47. So I left.

Both my wife and I had access to British passports, and we believed emigrating to England was our best option.

At that time, the internet was in its infancy in SA. Having never been to the UK before, and unable to ‘google’ as such, weren’t you fearful or worried about culture shock, or not having enough money, seeing as £1 would cost you about R11?

All of those things played on my mind, sure. But there was no future for me in South Africa. I was a 32-year-old white male. I believed there were better opportunities in England, and I’d contacted, via email, a few recruitment consultants in London who agreed with me. In their minds, I was an exciting candidate and they were sure they could place me in a fantastic job.

Zumbalicious
Zumbalicious

What went wrong? What were you hoping for in the UK and why didn’t it happen?

I was hoping to start as a manager, or senior manager, in the security industry – especially since this is what the recruitment consultants indicated I would be ideal for. But apparently I wasn’t skilled enough, according to the ‘powers that be’, and I had to start at the bottom: looking after construction sites at night for minimum wage. It was an extremely challenging time. I remember having to regularly wait outside in the snow at 4am, for a bus…

The first two years were the toughest. I was ready to pack up and go back to South Africa. The only thing that stopped me was that there was nothing to go back to. After that, it became slightly easier, but for the first five or six years in the UK, my wife and I were living hand to mouth. If we took a holiday, it was back to Cape Town, with one or two short-break exceptions – and we paid for every holiday with credit cards. We racked up a lot of debt. It took years for us to completely clear all the debt, but it taught us a valuable lesson: If we can’t pay cash for something now, we don’t get it. ​​

After starting out as a security guard, how did you manage to get to the point where you could afford to start training to be a pilot?

Over the years I proved myself in various jobs, and I was blessed in that I kept on getting headhunted. I moved from job to job in the UK, each time a little higher up the ladder and with a great leap in my salary, until 2016, when I was headhunted again, this time to go to the Middle East. I would be a senior contract manager, running a Ministry of Defence site just outside of Dubai, for a fantastic salary.

Without ever having visited the Middle East, my wife and I packed up our most precious things, and our two cats, gave almost everything else away – furniture, appliances, you name it – and rented out our house (which we’d bought in 2007). Then we got on a flight to Dubai.

We stayed in the Middle East for four years, until the contract ended and I was offered a job back in the UK. During those four years, we managed to get out of debt completely, and we also sold our house. I now had enough money to pursue my dream of flying.​

Ally and students
Ally and students
Ally and students

How does it feel to be pursuing your passion?

Amazing. There was a period of time after we returned from the Middle East where I had a few months off, between contracts. And it was great to not have to be concerned about finances during this time but just to enjoy my holiday – especially since I’d not had a proper long holiday for the four years we were in the Middle East.

I used this time to read/work through a book by Rick Warren: The Purpose Driven Life. For forty days, you read a chapter every day (you can also, optionally, listen to a daily online message, which I devoured). And the whole point/aim is to identify your purpose – the reason you’re alive right now, in this place, on earth.

Everybody’s created uniquely, with different skillsets, personalities, characters, experiences, passions/dreams, talents, gifts, and so on. You’re the only person at this time, in this place, able to do/be what God has planned for you to do/be – to make a difference in the world. This book helps you discover your purpose. It really does! It helps you realise what will get you out of bed in the morning, what drives you.

After the forty days, I realised that the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning – besides being a musician in a worship band – is flying. I decided from that moment on, I would pursue this dream, despite my age. It’s been life changing.

The fact that I’m earning a salary that pays for my dream is great. Because we’ve got no debt (we rent a house and lease a car), we’re not paying any interest on a credit card, and we owe nothing to nobody… so any additional money we have after paying our bills and buying groceries (and after giving to our church and to charities we support, as well as to the odd cause we stumble upon every now and then), goes towards my PPL.

My dream to be a pilot gets me out of bed at 4:15am every day during the week. It drives me to get to work early and to give excellence, because I know my job is paying for my dream. I want to go to work – because it pays for my dream.

Do you ever worry about the fact that you only have about 12 more years until you retire? Do you ever think that maybe you should be putting any extra money into investments instead of into an expensive dream? And isn’t there an age cap on being a pilot?

No. I mean, I’ve got a bit of money in investments, and I’ll continue to keep adding to that investment pot. But my priority is my pilot licence. I’m not interested in traditional retirement, i.e. sitting in a rocking chair in my old age. I want to fly until I can’t fly anymore. I intend to fly until I die. Thankfully, there’s no age limit. As long as I pass my medical every year, I can fly. If I don’t pursue my dream, I’m not really living.

It’s never too late to start pursuing your dream. And the bigger your dream, the better!

The Rick Warren book says that you are the sum total of your talents and gifts, your unique abilities, experiences, etc. – this makes you the only person who can fulfil the purpose God has for your life. Right?

Correct.

Ally and students

So what do you think is your Ultimate Purpose – your calling?

Flying for Jesus Christ. Flying aid into countries – and telling the world about His love, how much He cares for us, His promises for us…​​​

Ally and students

Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

Is that your ultimate aim – your Big Dream?

Yes. I want to join a group of Christian pilots who transport food, medical supplies, Bibles, etc. into war-torn countries that the UN finds it difficult to get into.

Aren’t you worried about the danger?

When God’s got a purpose for you, that’s it. Everything just falls into place. And it’s only my time to ‘go’ when God says it’s my time.

To be a part of this Christian group, you’ll probably need your own aeroplane, right? How will you afford to buy one?

I have no idea. An aeroplane costs big bucks. But I do know this: When God calls you for something, He’ll equip you; He’ll make a way. If that’s your purpose, He’ll make it happen. And I’m excited to see how God’s going to make it happen. I have no doubt He will because my ultimate goal is to bring people to Jesus.

Why?

In Jesus, I have a Best Friend who helps me through every part of life, no matter how difficult it gets. And I want everyone to experience this amazing Love.

I’m not talking about a religion – following a set of rules. I come from a Catholic – very religious – background; it didn’t work for me. This is a totally different thing. It’s about having a relationship with God.

See, Jesus said He came to give us life – in abundance (John 10:10), and I can testify to that: that’s exactly what I have. Making a decision to follow Him was the best decision I have ever made. It’s a night-and-day difference in my life. And I want to share this free gift with everyone.

And there’s another thing: many people are of the mind that Christians should be poor. But that’s not what the Bible preaches. God tells us in His Word (the Bible) that He blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others (Genesis 12:2-3; Zechariah 8:18-23). I’m not rich, not in financial terms, anyway, but I am ‘comfortable’. If we were still financially poor, I would not be able to afford my pilot training. Then how would I fulfil the dream God has placed on my heart?

Ally and students

Also, there are many instances in the Bible where God makes it clear that He provides all our needs. We should lack nothing. He tells us we should be lenders, not borrowers. We shouldn’t be in debt. Etc. I can give you so many examples of how God has used my financial situation (which He has blessed me with) to bless others: charities we support, international churches we’ve financially assisted, an orphanage, a Bible school, helping homeless people and underprivileged families get on their feet…

Being a born-again Christian (or Follower of Christ) is awesome. I’m not ashamed to admit it. It’s changed my life.

I hear you.

Ally and students

Now, you have a lot of talents and interests, as well as a ton of experience in various industries… What made you choose aviation as your dream above everything? How do you know for sure that becoming a pilot is God’s will for you? Part of His plan?

So many reasons. I just know in my heart it’s what I should be doing. It gives me joy; it fulfils me; and it fits into His Big Dream of reaching out to a broken world – which is proof enough. But I’ll give you an example of one of the confirmations I received along the way.

When I started training, I went to a different flight school than the one I’m currently at. After I’d done my research, I’d decided to go to that flight school as it had very good reviews and it was close to home. And that’s where I met my instructor, Iona. If I had started my training just four months later, I would never have met her as she would have already moved on to the flight school she’s currently at (to which I followed her). And as I previously mentioned, the fact that she has the same dream as me with regard to flying aid into countries, that was enough for me.

And you know what? I don’t miss any of those other things as much as I thought I would. I still get to do most of them, things I enjoy; but they’re hobbies that make life fun. Flying is my passion and I’m willing to work harder at this than I was at any of my other talents. Also, I know that I’m part of a fraternity that not anybody can or wants to do. It’s not easy.​​

It’s scary, too, right? Are you afraid whenever you fly – especially since you’re still pretty new at it and still being trained?

If you’re not scared, then there’s something wrong.

So you feel the fear and do it anyway?

Yes, you have to. And it gives you that edge that you need. That heightened awareness. It’s a healthy fear. Healthy nerves. Because if you become over-confident, that’s where mistakes happen.

What are your top three natural abilities that enable you to be a good pilot, in your opinion?

I’m process-driven, and everything is a process when you’re a pilot. Processes you have to follow in every situation. And I believe in excellence. I go over and over things to make sure they’re correct.

I’m a multi-tasker, which is necessary for a pilot. You’ve got to be able to keep an eye on your surroundings, your controls, your route, etc., all while you’re operating the aircraft.

The ability to think quickly, and outside the box. In an emergency situation, this is vital. To be able to think of alternatives and choose the best one.

What would you say to someone who has always had a dream, but they’ve given up on it because they think they’re too old now – and yet they’re feeling unfulfilled? They’re doing a job that doesn’t make them happy; they feel they have no purpose…

It’s never too late. Age is only a number. And if you’re got that drive and that passion… Yes, you are going to hit brick walls and you are going to stumble. It won’t be easy. But if you have that drive, you can do it. Take it from me. Take it from all the people who – for whatever reason – only started pursuing their dreams later in life. If you have been given the passion, the dream, the purpose by God, there is nothing that can stop you.

If it’s a dream and a passion, follow it. Make the necessary changes. Find ways of making it happen. It will be worthwhile. Find a path. Even if that path takes you off course before you can get back on it again, use what you learn along the way. Decide that nothing will stop you, and just go for it. Because you’re always going to be unhappy if you’re not following your dream or fulfilling your purpose; you’re never going to feel fulfilled. And you end up in those dark places where you might not be able to get out of. There are so many stories of people who ended up depressed, committed suicide… At the same time, there are many stories of people hit by Covid who were let go from their jobs, or who gave up their jobs because they decided to follow their passion. Success might take a while to arrive, but the journey is a very fulfilling one.

I believe that the greatest thing that God has put in any human being is the drive to succeed for a purpose that’s been given to you.

Mark, thank you so much! What an inspiration you are. I truly believe you’ll achieve your dream.

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

It’s never too late to start pursuing your dream.

Pursue your passion; make a difference.

If you don’t pursue your dream, are you really LIVING?

Better an OOPS than a What If.

If God calls you, He’ll equip you.

Feel the fear and do it anyway!

Just so you know…

I don’t receive any reward or commission for promoting any of the people or businesses on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

 If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

NEXT TIME on The Hopeaholic blog. . .

Inspiration, motivation, hope. You’ll find it all here.

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CHANGING LANES AFTER 50: how to handle a mid-life career switch

CHANGING LANES AFTER 50: how to handle a mid-life career switch

Alex Doy is a formidable human being.

Having been raised on a farm in Lincolnshire, UK, Alex is no stranger to hard work. This woman’s got grit – tons of it. From the age of nine she was a logistics manager with a checklist a mile long. By the time she hit 16, she was independently forging her way in the world, working various jobs locally and abroad. At age 39 she bought a franchise business. Eight and a half years later she sold it at a profit and purchased a buy-to-let property. For the next three years, to pay the bills, Alex happily took on a smorgasbord of regular part-time jobs.

And now?

Now, at age 52, Alex has changed lanes again. And she’s relishing every minute.

Corporate look

Alex, what persuaded you to purchase a franchise business, and why did you give it up?

I’ve always worked in the service industry in some capacity: from waitressing and bartending to event coordination and management. So when the opportunity arose in 2009 for me to buy my own franchise – the UK’s no. 1 dog-sitting service – I dove in.

My ‘business owner’ journey was fantastic; there were many points I loved about the franchise and I was very successful with it. But it also had some negatives. It nearly killed me.

When I got to the stage where I was completely burnt out, I realised I needed to get out. And also, I was aware of where the business was at that time: it was running at an excellent capacity and it was in a very profitable state. And businesses don’t always remain profitable for any length of time. So I felt it was the right time to sell – and I successfully sold it in 2017.

The moment I stepped away from the dog-care franchise, I made the decision to never again put myself in that position – where it nearly kills you. A lot of that was based on the 24/7 communication that customers now expect in the 21st century.

Good point. So you re-evaluated your life?

Yes. Once I realised that for my mental state I needed to change careers, I vowed not to get caught in that rut again.

What was the result of your life re-evaluation?

I realised I wanted a job without the full responsibility I’d had with my own business. Also, I knew, after driving 22,000 miles a year – as much as I love driving – I was happier to be in a job where I could cycle to work; I get a great deal out of it.

Like a lot of people, I have bills to pay and I solely rely on myself. But although I could have taken on a regular nine-to-five job in Nottingham city and earned good money, I still wanted to be able to step back a bit and not rush straight into something like that. I didn’t want a full-on, fulltime career straight after selling the business. So I decided to mix many roles to make up my working week.

Magically, I was able to create enough hours through different roles. Variety is key! Also, by having several roles, you’re not placing all your eggs in one basket. And in the current climate, that’s very important.

All of the roles were fulfilling in the short term. My main source of income came from being a part-time delivery driver for a local supermarket – a set contracted period of three shifts per week. But the rest of the week was made up of roles I could say yes or no to (an important feature when you’re used to being responsible for yourself), e.g.: working at outdoor catering events, doing weddings, driving cars through a local auction house, event management relief…

Ally grins

Photo by Gabe Pierce on Unsplash

These were all small contracts (a set amount of hours per day or week) where I was providing a service, but it was not my sole responsibility. I was just a part of the team support, and that was important to me. When I left each job at the end of the day, I didn’t give it another thought. For my mental state and peace of mind, this was the break I needed from life. And I pursued this path for three years.

An Empty Head When You Go To Bed.

During those three years you weren’t pursuing your passion, though, right? So what did you do in your time off that made you happy? For example, you woke up every morning and thought: I can’t wait to… today?

Well, because my mind wasn’t so challenged and overly busy as it had been when I was running a business, for a while I just really enjoyed having an empty head. And an empty head when you go to bed is all you’ll ever need.

The role at the supermarket was a means to an end, satisfying enough; it ticked enough boxes. So although, yes, driving for the supermarket wasn’t a massive passion, I got a great deal of satisfaction from what it gave me in life: money to pay my bills, an empty head, time to enjoy various outlets, like running, yoga, kayaking… and the ability to be present.

Throughout the time I had the dog-care business, I was never present in the moment. On holiday, out for dinner with friends, etc. – the phone would be going. There would be a request from a customer and my mind would be elsewhere. And now that I’ve been able to step back from that, I can see it in other people, when they’re doing it with their businesses, and I know I don’t ever want to be in that state again. So the gift from selling the business, and doing a job I wasn’t passionate about for a while, was getting my mental state back to where it should be.

Fit and fab

Photo by Alex Perez on Unsplash

Absolutely. You finally got to live, to be there. That’s so important. We don’t have to keep striving non-stop and be motivated to do, do, do. We’re human beings, after all, not human doings.

Exactly! So, whenever life is not perfect, a certain richness – a quality of life – can always be found in other areas, in other ways of living. And I certainly have gained that. When I read a book now, I enjoy every moment. Whereas, before, my mind would be so filled, I can’t say I absolutely enjoyed the book.

I can’t recommend this enough – this taking time out. Anyone who is feeling burnt out and needs a break can spend at least two or three years enjoying this existence, as long as their ends meet financially…

Until the next challenge enters their mind. Which is what happened to me after three years. The drive came again: to want to do something, but not jump into the same sort of business.

That’s vital, isn’t it? Knowing what you don’t want out of life. There are so many people who haven’t a clue what they want to do – but perhaps a good place to start is: make a list of things you absolutely don’t want to do, or results you don’t want.

Correct. So many feel that the moment they finish one project they must rush on to another, or they’re not valued or successful in some way.

All I can say from experience is: taking time out, two or three years even, and making ends meet with a role that suits you, but also where you can find yourself again, is priceless.

Sage advice. Care to share any more?

It’s important to know: it’s not all about money. And there’s no rush. It will come to you. Because you’re creating the mind space to be able to look out at what’s around you and what’s working.

Well, it certainly worked for you. Tell us how your latest venture came about.

My latest venture, and hopefully my last, came about from trying to replicate some of the good things about the dog-sitting business; aspects I really enjoyed, like driving to different places, being out and about, meeting people, and being responsible for my own work. Also, the freedom the business at times could give you was another vital benefit. But I knew I definitely didn’t want to do something as emotional as the pet-care business.

There was also another important driving force: I lost my dog, Ruby, last year. And I knew that unless I changed my working environment, my goal of getting another dog would not be achievable.

Sometimes people get to junctions in their life where they realise they need to make a change in order to achieve something later in life. I was at that junction. I knew that eventually I couldn’t continue working for someone else, because generally when you’re working for somebody, or a company, you’re restricted in many ways. I knew I couldn’t take a dog to work with me. But if I became self-employed again, I could control my day-to-day routine. And if you want a dog, that’s important.

So I became an inventory clerk for letting agents and property owners.

Zumbalicious
Zumbalicious

That’s quite a change. Where did this idea come from? I get the feeling you didn’t just wake up one morning and think, Ah! I’ll be an inventory clerk!

I’ve always been interested in property, but I knew I didn’t want to become an estate agent, taking on full responsibility for the big picture – because that would put me in the same situation I was in when running my previous business. So I took a good, hard look at other roles in property.

At the same time, I made a list of my skills and strengths, as well as my likes and dislikes. For example: I enjoy working alone and managing my own time and processes; and one of my biggest strengths is logistics.

When did you discover this strength?

In my childhood: I used to go to gymkhanas with my ponies. My mum was a great mother, but she was so busy with my siblings that she would turn up just in time to jump into the car to drive my pony and myself to the competitions. So if I wanted to be on time, I had to do all the necessary work beforehand.

From the age of nine it was my responsibility to get the pony ready, and the equipment packed in the car… I had to make sure I’d packed all the tack – because if you’d just driven twenty miles to a field and you hadn’t got the saddle loaded, your day was over. Consequently, I’ve always had a checklist-type mind that naturally goes through the entire process of what I need.

What other personal strength of yours would you consider essential for an inventory clerk?

An eye for detail. And I’m fortunate: attention to detail comes naturally to me. The second time I spotted this strength was when I was in hospitality. While working in a restaurant, I could spot a salt or pepper pot missing off a table in the furthest corner of the room.

These things pop up in your life that make you realise your strengths. However, at an interview, when people ask me what my weaknesses are, I will also answer: Attention to detail. Because I believe in excellence – but I know it can get on some people’s nerves.

But it’s necessary, right? That’s what makes you stand out from the crowd. Attention to detail is what sets you apart from another inventory clerk who would, for example, forget to note the number of carbon monoxide alarms on their report.

Exactly. And I’m not saying I’m perfect, obviously. But my attention to detail is not forced – it’s easy; it comes naturally to me. I think if you don’t have attention to detail and you want a role that needs it, it would be difficult and forced. And your enjoyment in that respect would be dimmed.

So I took my strengths – logistics, driving, working alone, attention to detail – and my keen interest in property, and put them together. And out came the role: inventory clerk. It just made sense. An inventory clerk is only responsible for a section of property; a fraction of the property-letting process. Which is exactly what I was looking for.

The Key: Do Your Research.

Once you’d decided to become an inventory clerk, what were your next steps?

The first thing that came into my head was: do I need a qualification to do this? And how easy is it to achieve? Whenever you’re changing or starting a career, you need to do it to the right level or your business won’t be successful.

After discovering that there is no ‘Inventory Clerk’ qualification, I thought: well, anyone can do it; you just need to have the knowledge. So I had to find out how to go about learning all there is to know.

While researching a lot of different courses, I took into consideration the way I retain knowledge. (You know how you learn best, so this is one thing to look for: the manner in which the courses are being taught.) At my age, I’m only able to retain a certain amount of information at one time, so I needed a course that provided all the necessary information but also offered ongoing support as things came up.

I think anyone changing career, especially later in life, mustn’t just assume they can go off and do a weekend course and it’ll all come together; there will always be ongoing questions with anything you do.

Once I’d decided which course to do, I then had to purchase the necessary tools: software, the system I would need to use, etc. For guidance on this, I spoke with the course provider, as well as others in the industry.

The Key: do your research. Before I parted with any money, I was put in touch with several people who were already doing inventory work, and I picked their brains. Also, as I’d decided I wanted to be an independent clerk, I had to ring round a few property agents to ask if they ever used or would use independent clerks, or if they had their own in-house team. I needed to get an idea of how much work there was, or if they could ever be swayed into using an independent clerk.

How did you get your first client?

By accident! Before I even had a website, or had properly set myself up. All I had was the name: ADR Inventories.

I’d previously rented out a property through a local estate agent, so I took a chance and asked him if I could possibly get access to some empty properties he may have – just to practise my inventory work. And even though my property is no longer with him, he graciously gave me the opportunity to go and do an inventory report.

Unfortunately, I had an extremely limited time in which to do the report, as the tenant would be moving in rather quickly. In normal circumstances, I would have been very nervous. But as I wasn’t expecting the agent to even look at the report (he already had an inventory clerk he used regularly), I simply went in and did the job to the best of my ability.

I totally expected to keep the report to myself, so when the agent asked for it – and then decided to use it as the sole, official inventory report on that property! – I was elated.

That’s an incredible testimony to your attention to detail, as well as your conscientiousness. And also, a fabulous example of rising to the challenge. Unless you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone and change direction, even slightly, you’re not going to discover your full potential, right?

Right!

Any last nuggets of advice you’d like to share with anyone who hasn’t known from a young age what they want to do – or anyone who hasn’t yet achieved their goals – or for those not content with their career choices?

I would say: first of all, don’t be negative about any of that. Accept that there will be many turns in the road – but they don’t need to be disasters or negatives in your life. You just continually need to do whatever makes you happy.

Re-evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. And as you get older and your wishes change, be prepared to sit and evaluate and decide to change course.

They may not be dramatic changes but just things you can do without, and things you want in life. Those are what you pursue.

And know that this is a positive thing. So instead of sitting in a negative job, thinking, I’m too old; or worrying about other people’s opinions or approval or disapproval… know that you have lots of other choices.

Take strengths and weaknesses out of every role, and think about what you’ve learned along the way. None of this is negative.

I think it’s important to note that mine was a very mild-mannered change. I didn’t go from being a street sweeper to a brain surgeon. I don’t find what I’ve done to be amazing. It’s more a case of being prepared to reflect – and I’m at a stage in life where I’m ready to reflect on, and accept, what I like and don’t like.

What I’ve done isn’t earth-shattering. I’m just continually searching for what gives me that empty head before bed. That’s all I’m ever trying to achieve.

Alex, thank you so much for your time. I’m looking forward to coming back in a year’s time to see how ADR Inventories has grown, and to find out if you’re still enjoying life and being present – or if it’s time to take another break and start a new venture.

I hope not! This role is taking me into my dotage.

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

Look after your mental state; take time out.

Pursue your passion, follow your heart.

An empty head when you go to bed is all you ever need. 🙂 

You’re a human BEING, not a human ‘doing’. Be present. Stop. Breathe. Live!

Just so you know…

I don’t receive any reward or commission for promoting any of the people or businesses on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

 If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

NEXT MONTH on The Hopeaholic blog. . .

A 53-year-old man who’s only just begun to pursue his Big Dream.

Inspiration, motivation, hope. You’ll find it all here.

If you subscribe to my monthly news blurb (it’s brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

How To Live Full and Die Empty

How To Live Full and Die Empty

‘I came here because I want you to die…’

No, that’s not a line spoken by a James Bond villain. It’s the opening of a leadership talk by the late, great Dr Myles Munroe.

The moment he said those words, the audience’s nervous laughter rumbled around the auditorium. Dr Munroe smiled, then chuckled. Then his face took on an earnest look as he finished the sentence: ‘Empty… I want you to die empty.’

I had the privilege of meeting Dr Munroe, and hearing him speak, at a Leadership Conference many years ago. The best-selling author, transformational leader and teacher was passionate about people maximising their potential: living full & dying empty.

Before you read further…

YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS this 5-min. INSPIRATIONAL BITE:

WOW, right? I love how he starts with: ‘The wealthiest place on earth is not…’

And then, when he revealed the richest place on the planet – were you as astounded as I was?

How fired up are you right now? Every time I listen to one of Dr Munroe’s talks, or read his books, I am inspired, motivated and challenged to KEEP GOING – keep dreaming – and fulfil my potential.

Is that what you want?

I hope so. Because, if you’ve read my blog post on WORTH, you will know that:

No one else will ever be able to play your role on this earth in this lifetime.

You are the only one who can fulfil your purpose – a purpose as special, as unique, as you are. And you know what’s amazing? Once you start living on purpose, YOU will be fulfilled! You will wake up every day and JUMP out of bed, eager to get to work.

‘The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life without a purpose.’ Dr Myles Munroe

Are you bored with life? Depressed with your work situation? Lacking joie de vivre?

Time to change things up. Discover your purpose and I promise you, you will have a new lease on life.

And by the way…

As long as you’re still breathing, IT’S NEVER TOO LATE.

This is coming from a 50-year-old Dreamer who has yet to achieve her life goals. Then again, I am hooked on hope.

Because, you see, I know that…

It’s all about timing.

Some people can handle success at an early age. Many cannot.

What if you’re meant to grow first? What if you’re not ready for success just yet? Ever thought about that? There are countless stories of people who became successful – and weren’t ready for it. The result? They fell. Hard. And then the arduous uphill climb began. Or didn’t.

I can think of at least ten child actors for whom fame came way too soon. It nearly destroyed them. And that’s just an arbitrary example. There are so many people in various careers who’ve achieved success – and with it, wealth and fame – and they weren’t ready. (By the way, success doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with gaining money, power or fame.)

Some gave up entirely. They left home and started living on the streets. Others turned to crime. Others ended up in the wealthiest place on earth – and never, ever realised it.

Others dusted themselves off, swallowed their pride, and started again.

Then what happened?

They grew. And became successful again. This time, though, they were ready.

Still think you’re too old? That your time has passed?

Think again.

There are many stories about people who only achieved success later in life. But a lot of these stories, I’ve found, skew the truth. They neglect to mention that many of these people had some type of privilege – the right schools, money, contacts… All of which make a huge difference.

I’m not saying these people didn’t work hard to achieve their dreams, or that they didn’t deserve the fame. Not at all. They’re just not relatable to me.

Maybe you feel the same way? Maybe you, like me, prefer the stories about people who had none of those privileges. Because then…

Anything is possible.

Here are three of those stories…

 

Laura Ingalls Wilder was a wife, mother and teacher who longed to be an author. But she only began writing at 43.

Although she received rejection after rejection from publishers, she refused to quit. She kept on writing, improving her craft.

At age 65, she fulfilled her dream: Little House in the Big Woods was published. From that book came the best-selling ‘Little House’ series, followed by the successful TV series, Little House on the Prairie.

 

Kathryn Joosten had always wanted to be an actress; however, she became a nurse instead, to support her family.

And then her marriage ended. As a newly single, 42-year-old mother, she decided it was time to follow her bliss. She took on odd jobs and started out in community theatre. Many years of hard work, bit parts, ups and downs, disappointments, and a ton of rejections followed. Until she risked it all. She relocated to Hollywood – at the age of 56.

People called her crazy. She had no agent and no connections whatsoever. But she had a dream. And she also had the vivid memory of her mother dying with the angry regret of not having pursued her dream.

The gamble paid off. Within five months, Kathryn started acting regularly on TV shows. Success followed. At the age of 60, she got her big break. And at 65, she became a household name, having landed the recurring role of Mrs McCluskey in Desperate Housewives – for which she won two Emmy awards.

 

‘Grandma Moses’ was a farmer’s wife who spent decades selling homemade food to support her big family.

She was 58 when she started dabbling in painting; and her first materials were a piece of fireboard and leftover house paint. Art was merely a hobby she enjoyed in her spare time, until, at 67, she started devoting more time to her craft.

Her big break arrived when she was 78. An art collector saw Moses’s work in a local shop – and bought every piece. Success followed. This self-taught artist began exhibiting professionally, her paintings gained popularity, and she followed her bliss until her death at age 101.

Her paintings now sell for over $1 million.

 

I have to apologise. These three stories are female-biased. But there are many, many more out there. Just Google and you’ll see. Then again, keep reading. Men get their turn, too, later in this post.

These women were determined to fulfil their dreams. That’s what kept them going. They raised families and worked at ‘ordinary’ jobs. And they pursued their passion in their spare moments. They sacrificed time and luxuries. Because the pursuit of their bliss fulfilled them, filled them with joy, and gave them purpose.

They kept going until they had completed their work, refined their craft; until they had something to show. And then opportunity knocked. And they were ready.

Are you ready?

That collection of artwork – have you completed it?

That novel or that non-fiction book – have you finished writing it? Not just the first draft, but the polished, ready-for-publishing, proofread, brilliant final draft?

That invention that, once completed, is going to be a world-changer? That idea that popped into your mind one day and won’t leave? The answer to poverty; the cure for a disease; the solution to homelessness…

Keep working at it. Because what if opportunity surprises you one day by knocking on your door – or window – and you’re not ready?

Don’t NOT be ready.

‘There is a treasure within you that must come out. Don’t go to the grave with your treasure still within you.’ Dr Myles Munroe

Build it. Finish your work. Keep going, despite failures, disappointments, setbacks. Start emptying out that treasure inside of you. Then opportunity will come.

Now I know there will always be those who feel they have no special purpose. But I can assure you, that’s just not possible. If you’re feeling unfulfilled but you don’t have a burning desire to follow a particular dream, or you’re asking yourself how you can possibly fulfil your potential when you haven’t a clue what it could be… I urge you to read The Purpose Driven Life – Rick Warren’s bestseller. It’s a life changer.

And here’s something for you to think about…

It’s possible that your purpose isn’t clear to you yet – because the world isn’t ready for it.

In which case, I’d be pretty darn excited.

DID YOU KNOW…?

Photo by Ying Ge on Unsplash

All you need is one groundbreaking idea.

C.S. Lewis was 16 when, out of nowhere, a picture popped into his head: a faun carrying parcels and an umbrella in a snowy wood. He did nothing with it until decades later, when this image became the starting point for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – the first book in the wildly successful Chronicles of Narnia series.

J.K. Rowling’s lightbulb moment happened on a train. The picture of a young boy wizard just appeared in her mind. Like magic. And the Harry Potter series was born.

Dr James Watson won a Nobel Prize for his 1953 ‘discovery’: that the structure of DNA is a double helix spiral. This was a feat other scientists had found impossible. But the answer – an image of a spiral staircase – had come to Dr Watson in a dream.

Niels Bohr had a vivid dream in which he was sitting on the sun, watching the planets hiss around him on tiny cords. His gut instinct told him the image was the nucleus of the atom with electrons revolving around it in prescribed orbits. After dedicating his research to proving his theory, he won a Nobel Prize.

Jack Nicklaus, the six-time Masters champion, was experiencing a slump when he had a dream he was playing golf better than ever. On waking, he realised his dream self had gripped the golf club differently than he did in reality. Mimicking the dream grip vastly improved his golf swing, and he came back with a vengeance.

 

I hope those inspirational bites are as motivating to you as they are to me. As you work on discovering your purpose – so you can live full and die empty – may I suggest something?

Whatever circumstances you find yourself in, use them. Use whatever time you have to Dream, Plan, Visualise. And then figure out a way to make it happen.

A final thought…

EXPECT FAILURE.

Photo by Ying Ge on Unsplash

Actually, scratch that.

Embrace failure!

Because how will you know you’ve succeeded unless you’ve failed a few times?

Ask me, I know. I’ve failed over and over again. In a variety of ways. You can read about a few of them. Just click on any of the four links on my WORK page.

A lot of my failures are not that obvious. But the fact remains: I’ve been pursuing my dreams from an early age and I’ve not achieved them yet.

Do you find yourself in the same boat?

Be encouraged by this guy:

‘I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.Michael Jordan (aka ‘the greatest basketball player of all time’).

 

Go on. Grab life with both hands.

Live full…

So you can die empty.

With Love,

Vx

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

The wealthiest place on earth is the graveyard.

No one else will ever be able to play your role on this earth in this lifetime. 

‘The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life without a purpose.’ Dr Myles Munroe

Timing is Everything.

Anything is possible.

The only real regret is not having tried.

EMBRACE FAILURE.

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this post, feel free to comment below.

NEXT TIME on The Hopeaholic blog: 

More uplifting content!

If you subscribe to my monthly news blurb (it’s free, and brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Links to all my previous blog posts can be found on the main BLOG PAGE.

 

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

Finding My Father — a true story

Finding My Father — a true story

I’m often asked why I’m so darn happy all the time.

I always find this funny because, well, I’m not. How can I be? I am human, after all. I experience deep emotional pain; I sob my heart out; I am no stranger to the lure of depression. However, I do have something…

An incomprehensible, inexplicable, deep-seated, everlasting JOY that never ever leaves me – no matter what life throws my way. (And it hasn’t all been Champagne and roses, I assure you.)

Here’s my story.

Up until the age of eight, I had the best childhood. Life was great, and both my parents were loving and caring. Then, out of the blue, they asked me, ‘Who do you want to live with?’

What a ridiculous question. Of course I replied: ‘I want to live with both of you.’

It was impossible for my young brain to comprehend that they were getting divorced. When they explained they would no longer be living together and then told me I’d have to choose with whom I wanted to stay, I cried my little heart out.

Eventually, I decided that because my dad had another daughter (from a previous marriage), but my mom didn’t have anyone except me, I would go and live with her. But it was a tough decision; I loved them both so much.

Within a year they were divorced. 

And my dad cut off all contact.

After a blissful childhood, where my mom and I had had more than enough, suddenly she was a single mother and I was a fatherless child.

The worst part was: my dad was still in touch with my stepsister. She not only received birthday and Christmas presents but she also got to spend holidays with him. I didn’t even get a phone call.

I couldn’t understand it. After much deliberation, I concluded it was because I’d done something wrong. Because I’d chosen my mother over him, maybe? But no one explained anything to me.

I was hurting. Of course I was. But I was not broken. Because something had happened a couple of years before that had prepared me for this.

Something that would impact the rest of my life.

I’ll come back to that.

My mom soon remarried. But her new husband was not a father to me.

The next seven years were emotionally and psychologically challenging. Our house never felt like a home.

Then: a revelation.

Just before I turned sixteen, my mom revealed that the man I’d called ‘dad’ was not my real father.

I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped to the floor.

Tears cascaded down my mom’s face as she told me she’d married my ‘dad’ when I was two years old, and he had adopted me. My real father was someone she’d loved very much when she was nineteen; and he’d moved away before she knew she was pregnant.

My mother was embarrassed and upset. She’d kept this from me for sixteen years and had no idea how I’d react.

Me? I was overjoyed! It was like finding treasure! First of all, the ‘dad’ who had abandoned me wasn’t even my father, so it didn’t really count. Secondly, I had a real dad out there somewhere who didn’t even know I existed. I was thrilled.

The last my mom had heard, my real dad was living in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was quite a while ago. No internet or mobile phones. Imagine! As we were living almost 1,000 miles away, in Cape Town, and we didn’t have a car – and public transport and flights were too expensive to consider – there wasn’t much I could do about this revelation at the time. However, I was content to wait.

I was nineteen when I finally met my biological father.

I’ll get back to that in a moment. Remember I mentioned that something happened a couple of years before my ‘dad’ and mom split up? It was – and always will be – the most significant event of my entire life.

When I was six, my aunt Margaret said to me, ever so casually, ‘Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour?’

Just like that. Like she was asking what sandwich filling I’d like.

Now I have to clarify: my aunt was not wanting to know if I was interested in joining a religion. She was asking if I had a relationship. With God.

Bear with me… 

I knew about Jesus because I went to Sunday School. (I think my mom sent me every week so she could get some peace and quiet.) I knew Jesus was God’s Son, and that He loved me so much that He came to earth as a man to die for my sins; and then He rose from the dead and went back to Heaven. So saying yes to a relationship with God was an easy decision.

We knelt right there and then, on the floor, and she led me in a simple prayer, and I gave my life over to Jesus. And at that very moment, I became a child of God. He adopted me as His daughter and became my Heavenly Father. Best of all, He promised He would never, ever abandon me.

In His Word, the Bible, God says, The moment you accept My Son, Jesus, you become My child – no matter how old you are – and I’m your Father in Heaven. Forever.

Even though I didn’t have the greatest examples of dads, I had God as my ‘Papa’ from a very young age.

Without Him I would not be alive today.

That’s the honest truth.

God is amazing. His timing is always perfect. He knows every detail of our lives, from beginning to end. He knew the divorce was coming, so He ensured I had a perfect Heavenly Father to take the place of an imperfect earthly dad before I even realised I needed Him.

He knew that at the tender age of ten, my childhood would be stripped away. So He made sure I knew Him, so I could turn to my Papa God for comfort and healing.

I went through a lot of ‘stuff’, especially in my teenage years.

Several times I seriously considered suicide.

But God carried me through every single moment of my life – and He still does.

The past few years have been filled with challenging seasons; there have been many dark days. But God always gives me the strength to endure anything that comes my way.

See, He’s promised to work ALL THINGS – every detail of my life – into something good. And I believe Him.

And you know what else? He even gave me the love and forgiveness for the men who abandoned me, the men who let me down… And I mean total forgiveness. 

Do you have any idea how free I feel? It’s wonderful!

The most important thing is: I have peace.

Peace that surpasses all understanding.

Throughout my life, God has been there as my Heavenly Father. Whatever He’s allowed me to go through has only served to make me stronger. So when I found out that my real dad was out there somewhere, I was OK to wait on God’s perfect timing.

Almost four years later…

I was nineteen and had just arrived in Johannesburg to be a missionary with a performance group. So, I picked up a telephone directory (no Google, remember?) and looked up the name my mom had given me. And there it was; the only one. It had to be him.

Feverishly I wrote a four-page letter: my life in a nutshell. I ended it by saying that I didn’t want to mess up his life. I knew nothing about him. For all I knew he had a family of his own, and I could just imagine how life-wrecking a nineteen year old turning up on your doorstep and claiming she’s your daughter could be. So I said I just wanted to see him, to meet him once. And then he could go on with his life. I was OK with that. I told him that I didn’t harbour any ill toward him; I understood that he didn’t know I existed.

Three days after I posted the letter, I received a phone call.

I will never forget that call. His voice was like honey. He was in shock. The conversation started with him saying, ‘But I don’t have a daughter.’ And at the end of the conversation he stated, ‘I have a daughter!’

It was a magical, unforgettable moment.

We arranged to meet, and he brought his wife and their two little boys. It felt surreal. We stood staring at each other for a long time.

Meanwhile, my heart was beating like it was trying to escape.

His wife was the first to speak. All she said, with no doubt in her voice, and a serene smile, was: ‘This is your daughter.’

I cannot tell you how overjoyed I was.

And guess what?

The timing of all of this was perfect!

Firstly, the letter arrived on the last day the postman would deliver to my dad’s street. From the day after, it would be post boxes only. And as no other address had been listed in the directory, if I had mailed my letter even one day later, I can’t say it would have got to him.

Secondly, my dad and his wife had just come through a rough patch. If that letter had arrived any earlier, they weren’t sure their relationship would have been strong enough to handle it.

When my dad explained all this to me, I smiled. God is amazing. He never comes too early or too late.

And the best was yet to come.

No earthly dad is ever going to be perfect, but I can’t imagine a more fabulous human dad than mine. He is amazing. And his wife is so much more than I could ever have hoped for: my best friend, older sister, mother, spiritual counsellor, all rolled into one. She’s beautiful, inside and out, and the relationship I have with them is incredible.

So that’s why I’m so darn ‘happy’ all the time. Because…

I am grateful.

I have been blessed, blessed, blessed by God. And I don’t deserve any of it.

My Heavenly Father, out of no motivation except pure love, looks after me, looks out for me, and brings me back to Him whenever I stray off the path. He is unfathomably compassionate and kind and the most perfect ‘Dad’ ever.

The reason I’ve shared this? I just want you to know: Whoever you are, whatever you’ve done – you are loved by the Creator of the universe. He loves you so much, He sent His only Son, Jesus, a perfect man, to die a horrific, undeserved death – so that you can have a FULL life; life in abundance!

I promise you – no matter what your circumstances are – if you hand the reins of your life over to Jesus, He will turn things around for you. I’m talking:

A night-and-day difference.

No matter what you are going through, what you’ve been through, what’s ahead – you have a sure way to endure it all and to come out the other end stronger than before. Ask me, I know.

Surrendering your life to Jesus Christ is the best decision you will ever make. I’ve never regretted it.

As if that’s not enough, when your short time on earth comes to an end, if Jesus is your Lord & Saviour, you are assured of Eternal Life in Heaven. This is God’s free gift. You just have to take it.

As Paul the apostle says in one of his letters: ‘These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us.’ (2 Corinthians 4:17, The Message translation of the Bible)

So now you know why I’m so darn ‘happy’ all the time:

I’m a prisoner of hope.

A hope-aholic.

And there’s no reason you can’t be too.

This song pretty much sums it all up.

With Love,

Vx

P.S. If you have trouble thinking of God as a Good, Loving Father, I highly recommend The Shack (movie or book — they’re both amazing). Watch the trailer.

Have you made a decision to follow Jesus? I would love to hear about your journey! Share your story or a part of it in the comments section, below.

If you want to know more, please do get in touch. I’d love to introduce you to my Best Friend.

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

‘In ALL things God works for the GOOD of those who love Him.’ Romans 8:28

God’s timing is perfect.

God’s love is UNCONDITIONAL.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life.

#livinglifetothefullest

‘”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; to give you a hope and a future.”‘ Jeremiah 29:11

God is the only One who will never let you down.

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this post, feel free to comment below.

NEXT TIME on The Hopeaholic blog: 

More uplifting content!

If you subscribe to my monthly news blurb (it’s free, and brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Links to all my PREVIOUS BLOG POSTS can be found on the BLOG PAGE.

 

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

THIS IS WHAT A PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE LOOKS LIKE. . .

THIS IS WHAT A PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE LOOKS LIKE. . .

‘I find myself wanting to say something profound, but Haven of Hope makes me speechless! There are no words to describe just how awesome this place, these people and these horses are.’

Haven of Hope team

Haven of Hope Equine Aid Centre in Brackenfell, South Africa, offers horse riding and horse-related activities for children with disabilities, special needs or trauma.

Founding member, Maryke du Boisson, runs the stable of eight equines with the assistance of horse groom, Lamec. A team of extremely devoted volunteers assists with the riding.

equine therapy

Maryke, how did Haven of Hope come about? 

Many years ago I was a student at the University of Stellenbosch and a member of their horse riding club. We once had a group from Huis Horison (a Home for individuals with primary intellectual disability) come for horse riding. I was amazed at the horses’ gentle and accommodating attitude towards our guests (they could be quite a handful at times), and I realised that something very special was happening between our guests and the horses. That’s where my dream began. If I could devote my life to bringing horses and special needs individuals together… 

A dream for which I did not have the resources. 

For many years I was sidetracked by the issues and responsibilities of life, while struggling with God about what His specific call for my life was. I had this dream, this passion, but no money, no horses, and no special training. 

Many times I asked the Lord to take this dream away from me, and for a while it seemed He did, only to bring it back even stronger than before. He confirmed the vision to me through Scripture, people, and even a radio broadcast! 

In 2010 things started coming together. And on 9 February 2011 my friend, Juanita, and I adopted the first two horses from the SPCA and started with one special needs rider. 

boy and horse
HoH horse riding

How they have blossomed through the love of a hoofed friend!

Any memorable moments you’d like to share? 

Right at the beginning, someone in KwaZulu-Natal offered to donate two horses to us. Getting them down to Brackenfell, however, took almost a year. Therefore, in the interim, we adopted two from the SPCA. 

Usually when looking for a horse, their temperament, size, and age would be some of the important things to keep in mind. Yet when I heard about these two gift horses, all I wanted to know was, ‘What are their names?’ What they looked like didn’t matter to me at all! 

I had to wait months for the reply. And when it finally arrived, via email on my birthday… I almost fell off my chair. 

The mare’s name was Thembi and the gelding was called Jabu. I was dumbstruck. God could not have given me greater confirmation that we were doing His will with this project. I knew enough Xhosa to realise that Thembi meant Hope — and Jabu meant Joy or Praise. I then realised why I’d been so adamant to know their names. God is so faithful. Since then, Thandi (Love) and Musa (Mercy/Kindness) have also joined our team. 

Any memorable moments you’d like to share? 

Right at the beginning, someone in KwaZulu-Natal offered to donate two horses to us. Getting them down to Brackenfell, however, took almost a year. Therefore, in the interim, we adopted two from the SPCA. 

Usually when looking for a horse, their temperament, size, and age would be some of the important things to keep in mind. Yet when I heard about these two gift horses, all I wanted to know was, ‘What are their names?’ What they looked like didn’t matter to me at all! 

I had to wait months for the reply. And when it finally arrived, via email on my birthday… I almost fell off my chair. 

The mare’s name was Thembi and the gelding was called Jabu. I was dumbstruck. God could not have given me greater confirmation that we were doing His will with this project. I knew enough Xhosa to realise that Thembi meant Hope — and Jabu meant Joy or Praise. I then realised why I’d been so adamant to know their names. God is so faithful. Since then, Thandi (Love) and Musa (Mercy/Kindness) have also joined our team. 

HoH horse riding

How they have blossomed through the love of a hoofed friend!

Tell us about a few of the children for whom HoH has made a difference. 

J, an eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy and blindness, has been riding with us for the past four years. For months he cried every time he was on a horse. The farm sounds, our voices, and the movement of the horses were new and terrifying to him. Hats off to his dad who persisted, continuing to bring him every Saturday. Today J loves horse riding! His laughter while on horseback is so contagious, one cannot help but laugh with him for joy. 

E, an eight-year-old girl with physical disabilities as well as heart failure, is passionate about horses and aspires to assist me in caring for them in the future. Her smile — her joy and passion for life — is so humbling. 

Some of the foster kids who have come to us have at first been fearful, angry, unsure… How they have blossomed through the love and care of a hoofed friend! 

horses bring joy
equine peace

When God has called you for a purpose, He will provide all you need.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to make a big difference? 

Don’t try to do it alone. There were so many aspects of starting up and registering as a non-profit organisation (NPO) and public-benefit organisation (PBO) that we did not have a clue. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. It is good to have a team around you for insight and support.

And remember, when God calls you for something specific, He is the one who qualifies you — not the standards or expectations of this world. 

 

Did you require any specific education for this role? 

Although my passion for, and years of involvement with, horses is definitely an advantage, I am not a therapist; therefore we only offer informal riding and socialisation with the horses in a safe environment on the farm. Our riders benefit from the interaction with horses as well as the riding.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to make a big difference? 

Don’t try to do it alone. There were so many aspects of starting up and registering as a non-profit organisation (NPO) and public-benefit organisation (PBO) that we did not have a clue. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. It is good to have a team around you for insight and support.

And remember, when God calls you for something specific, He is the one who qualifies you — not the standards or expectations of this world. 

 

Did you require any specific education for this role? 

Although my passion for, and years of involvement with, horses is definitely an advantage, I am not a therapist; therefore we only offer informal riding and socialisation with the horses in a safe environment on the farm. Our riders benefit from the interaction with horses as well as the riding.

equine peace

When God has called you for a purpose, He will provide all you need.

What was your steepest learning curve? 

Trusting God for finances. This is still an issue sometimes. Also: trusting Him to send us the right horses for our needs.

In the beginning, Juanita and I selected horses we thought would be suitable for special needs riders. (God had to work quite a bit on our pride as we liked the good-looking, flashy ones.) None of those worked out, and they had to be rehomed. But those horses that were donated to us, the ones we thought would never work, were exactly the ones God had chosen and sent. 

 

Any nuggets of wisdom for people struggling with trusting God? 

For anyone who confesses Jesus as their Saviour, as we do, God is their/our Heavenly Father. He supplies all our needs. So it is mostly a daily confession of a lack of faith; and laying everything at His feet again. 

Don’t look to people and what they can offer; people will come and go in your life. When God has called you for a purpose, He will provide all that you need. Trusting that Haven of Hope is His, we know He knows our needs, and we recognise that He often supplies in different ways than expected.

equine care
feeding time

Where does the financial support come from? 

We rely completely on donations. We do not break even every month; often the volunteers or board members (of which I am one) need to chip in to keep us afloat. 

 

How did COVID-19 affect Haven of Hope? 

Unfortunately we lost some of our regular sponsors who could no longer contribute. But since we do not charge for our services (we only ask for donations), we were not dependent on rider income during the pandemic. The horses missed the interaction with the children, however, and of course the apples and carrots!

Where does the financial support come from? 

We rely completely on donations. We do not break even every month; often the volunteers or board members (of which I am one) need to chip in to keep us afloat. 

 

How did COVID-19 affect Haven of Hope? 

Unfortunately we lost some of our regular sponsors who could no longer contribute. But since we do not charge for our services (we only ask for donations), we were not dependent on rider income during the pandemic. The horses missed the interaction with the children, however, and of course the apples and carrots!

feeding time

Who are Haven of Hope’s greatest supporters? 

Afreshventure Durbanville provides us with eight bags of drought feed every month; Indwe Risk Services sponsors 50% of our public indemnity & liability insurance premium; our church makes a small monthly financial contribution; and parents and volunteers often assist with building or fixing paddocks, shelters or any work that has to be done. 

Pre-COVID we organised workdays where people could sign up for a variety of tasks that needed to be done such as fixing paddocks, tack cleaning, building projects, etc. We would all pitch in and do the work, and then braai (BBQ) together. By the end of the day we’d be bushed, but joyful for all that had been done. I love the Haven of Hope family and miss our workdays. 

breast cancer awareness
horse riding

How can the public help? 

We are always grateful for donations of, or funding for, horse feed (oat hay, teff and lucerne). And always looking for volunteers who can assist regularly with riding, feeding the horses, and, every second weekend when the groom is off duty, cleaning of paddocks.

We need businesses to get involved as well. (All financial donations are tax deductible as we are registered with SARS as a Section 18A organisation.)

 

Maryke, you are such an inspiration: a true example of a purpose-driven life. May God mightily bless you & Haven of Hope!

 

READERS: If you’d like to know more, or if you want to support Haven of Hope, pop onto their FACEBOOK page.

How can the public help? 

We are always grateful for donations of, or funding for, horse feed (oat hay, teff and lucerne). And always looking for volunteers who can assist regularly with riding, feeding the horses, and, every second weekend when the groom is off duty, cleaning of paddocks.

We need businesses to get involved as well. (All financial donations are tax deductible as we are registered with SARS as a Section 18A organisation.)

 

Maryke, you are such an inspiration: a true example of a purpose-driven life. May God mightily bless you & Haven of Hope!

 

READERS: If you’d like to know more, or if you want to support Haven of Hope, pop onto their FACEBOOK page.

horse riding

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

MAKING A DIFFERENCE IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT. 

WHEN GOD CALLS YOU, HE QUALIFIES YOU. 

PURSUE YOUR PASSION. FOLLOW YOUR HEART. 

GO FOR IT & NEVER GIVE UP! 

WHEN GOD HAS CALLED YOU FOR A PURPOSE, HE WILL PROVIDE ALL YOU NEED. 

FYI…

I don’t receive any reward/commission for promoting any of the people, businesses or charities on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

 

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

NEXT TIME on The Hopeaholic blog: 

That’s it for February. I’m taking a week off to ensure our house move goes smoothly. And then, from March 2022, I will only be publishing one blog post per month, as I’ve made the decision to focus on my novels and screenplays. Until then, take care of yourself & each other.  

If you subscribe to my weekly news blurb (it’s brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

HOMELESSNESS: IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE

HOMELESSNESS: IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE

My life has changed. I’m still a regular at Sanctuary — only this time as a helper. All thanks to the volunteers who care about the homeless.’ — John, former Sanctuary ‘guest’

Sanctuary Reception

Gravesham Sanctuary, a charity supported by Churches Together in Gravesham, UK, provides a free overnight shelter from October to April for the local homeless community. Their service includes: a safe place to sleep during the winter months, hot food and refreshments, showers, clothing and laundry, and help in getting paperwork ID.

But that’s not all. They also signpost rough sleepers to agencies and local groups who can assist with long-term accommodation, employment, physical and mental health, repatriation to their home country, and help them make the most of their life as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

As a Christian organisation, they believe that one experiences fullness in life when entering a personal relationship with God. However, they do not ‘Bible punch’, and they welcome anyone of any race or belief.

Sanctuary’s Project Manager Stephen Nolan says: ‘It is through our actions and love for mankind that we demonstrate the lifestyle we hope others will adopt.’

Shelter Entrance

Much of our Learning has been in the Doing

Steve, why, how & when did Gravesham Sanctuary start up?

Sanctuary started in December 2015. It wasn’t my idea. At the age of sixty, after thirty years in the police service and a further eight in local government, I was looking to retire. 

At the time I was involved in a church that had an outreach to the community, and part of that was finding the homeless on the streets. In supporting this initiative we found people sleeping in doorways, in tents, behind bins… 

Our then pastor suggested we attend a meeting in Dartford for a winter shelter starting their third year. Initially I said, ‘No way’. I had no intention of getting involved. Besides, I had another meeting to attend that night. 

Well, it seems God had other ideas. My meeting was cancelled at the last minute, so I ended up going to Dartford with my wife, Lorna. We listened to the views of volunteers and all the churches involved, and we thought: How hard can it be? 

If only we had known… 

Gravesham Sanctuary was born five weeks later.

Did you require any specific education for this role? Or did your former job give you the insight and skills needed?

Undoubtedly my former training as a police officer, dealing with all manner of incidents and problems requiring, sometimes, fast thinking and understanding, combined with Christian compassion, helped me to adapt to the skills required to oversee the shelter. 

To be honest, much of our learning has been in the doing over the years we have been involved in this project. We never call ourselves experts, but in the doing we have learnt an incredible amount about the plight of homeless people.

fellowship over a meal
fellowship over a meal

Did you require any specific education for this role? Or did your former job give you the insight and skills needed?

Undoubtedly my former training as a police officer, dealing with all manner of incidents and problems requiring, sometimes, fast thinking and understanding, combined with Christian compassion, helped me to adapt to the skills required to oversee the shelter. 

To be honest, much of our learning has been in the doing over the years we have been involved in this project. We never call ourselves experts, but in the doing we have learnt an incredible amount about the plight of homeless people.

Being Homeless Is Stressful and Unsafe

Trivial Pursuit

Any highlights you’d like to share?

There are quite a few. We took in a schizophrenic man once. His dog was his whole life, which changed our perception of how important personal belongings are. We smuggled the dog in so they could sleep under a blanket together. Not something we’d normally do, but God created not only man but our pets too. 

Our faith plays an important role in how we help and support those in need. We offer prayer, and we’ll reconnect family members if required. We find that, with gentle persuasion, guests usually request contact with their parents, just to inform them they are safe and well. One of my memorable moments was seeing someone from a different faith trying to persuade her eighteen-year-old son, who was in our shelter, to come home. He did not want to, and she was so upset, and problems like these cross faith boundaries; so my wife consoled and hugged this lady as she battled with the love and despair she felt for her son. The good news is: he returned home a week later. 

Working at Sanctuary, we can become ultra-tired: early morning and night shifts can be a killer; plus the forty to fifty hours a week tend to take their toll. What makes this enjoyable is the laughter when a chess game, or a giant jigsaw, is finished; the transformation when someone is clothed and clean and happy, and content to be called by their given name. When a guest weeps at being reconnected with a family member, or at being able to return to their country of origin… It makes the role worthwhile. 

Many of our guests are vulnerable and struggle with their mental health — being homeless is stressful and unsafe. We love it when change occurs and we see the weary person laugh. Being clean and well-fed, and knowing they are cared for by people who have their genuine interest at heart, makes a huge difference.

Can you tell us about a few of the Sanctuary Guests whose lives have been transformed?

There are so many. One woman immediately comes to mind. We’ll call her ‘A’. A spent four years on the street and lost her child as she was considered an unfit mother, so she resorted to drug use. She ended up alone in London with no one to call upon… Today, A is a completely different woman. After spending time at Sanctuary, she started selling The Big Issue magazine at a regular pitch, and saved her money. And now she has a council flat, which she’s furnished, and she responsibly manages her rent payments. She not only has a job, she also provides support for others as a volunteer. Best of all, she’s in touch with her now grown-up son. 

Then there’s an older ex-veteran who used to be our guest. He now resides in a council flat with supportive living access; he cooks and manages his life; and he’s joined SAFFA and a local ex-veteran group from his old regiment.

news article
news article

Can you tell us about a few of the Sanctuary Guests whose lives have been transformed?

There are so many. One woman immediately comes to mind. We’ll call her ‘A’. A spent four years on the street and lost her child as she was considered an unfit mother, so she resorted to drug use. She ended up alone in London with no one to call upon… Today, A is a completely different woman. After spending time at Sanctuary, she started selling The Big Issue magazine at a regular pitch, and saved her money. And now she has a council flat, which she’s furnished, and she responsibly manages her rent payments. She not only has a job, she also provides support for others as a volunteer. Best of all, she’s in touch with her now grown-up son. 

Then there’s an older ex-veteran who used to be our guest. He now resides in a council flat with supportive living access; he cooks and manages his life; and he’s joined SAFFA and a local ex-veteran group from his old regiment.

tattooed hands
airbeds

Do you have any advice for others who aspire to make a difference?

Be Bold. God works when you least expect it. For example, the moment we knew Sanctuary was going ahead, we put out a call for volunteers. Initially it was just to run an overnight shelter with evening meals, three nights a week. In faith we laid out 60 chairs… And what happened? 180 people turned up! 

The best advice I can give is: just learn from our experience. My wife and I had been looking forward to a gentle retirement… but God had an opportunity in mind! We were willing and able, and we learnt a huge amount about homelessness by doing what we set out to do: seeking the lost, feeding the hungry, offering shelter and, above all, supporting those who want change

We are realistic and have Hope at the forefront of our mission. We are there in times of crisis, in the good and bad moments, and we never give up — something other charities and statutory agencies may have to do, due to lack of finances or time. 

We listened to others, travelled around to find information, sought advice from those who had set other shelters up, and joined Homeless Link and Housing Justice (a Christian-led charity for the homeless). 

The Bible says: ‘Share your food with the hungry and give shelter to the homeless; give clothes to those who need them.’ (Isaiah 58:7) Jesus reminded us of this in the book of Matthew. The way we see it: if Jesus says to do this, then so should we.

What was your steepest learning curve?

Being able to understand with compassion the stories we heard from our homeless guests. Until we encountered people sleeping rough: living in bushes, under tarpaulins and in encampments, we had no idea of the prejudice and safety issues they struggle with daily. We learnt very quickly, sometimes after having crawled through bushes to reach them, that homelessness is hidden away

One of the testimonies we heard in the early days from a guy who had been homeless was: ‘Most people as they grow up have hopes and aspirations in life: a family, a home, nice clothes, car, holidays… The list goes on. But if you’re homeless and on the streets, you have none of these. The only thought you have is: How do I survive the next two hours on the street… and the next two after that? And so it goes on.’  

Is it any wonder that some (not all) turn to drink and/or drugs? Wrong choice, of course, but you can well understand why. We have heard some heartbreaking stories over the years. There but for the grace of God go I.

eating area
eating area

What was your steepest learning curve?

Being able to understand with compassion the stories we heard from our homeless guests. Until we encountered people sleeping rough: living in bushes, under tarpaulins and in encampments, we had no idea of the prejudice and safety issues they struggle with daily. We learnt very quickly, sometimes after having crawled through bushes to reach them, that homelessness is hidden away

One of the testimonies we heard in the early days from a guy who had been homeless was: ‘Most people as they grow up have hopes and aspirations in life: a family, a home, nice clothes, car, holidays… The list goes on. But if you’re homeless and on the streets, you have none of these. The only thought you have is: How do I survive the next two hours on the street… and the next two after that? And so it goes on.’  

Is it any wonder that some (not all) turn to drink and/or drugs? Wrong choice, of course, but you can well understand why. We have heard some heartbreaking stories over the years. There but for the grace of God go I.

colouring in

What would you like to say to people struggling with compassion for the homeless?

We think our main role as ambassadors for the homeless is myth busting and breaking taboos. Homelessness can happen to anyone. Having to sleep on the street can occur at any time in someone’s life — and can have devastating consequences.

Where does the financial support come from?

Running the shelter is costly, so we rely on public donations throughout the year. We are constantly amazed by, and always grateful for, people’s generosity: a jar of sweets from a family, a Christmas dinner from a major retailer, ten quid from a pensioner, good-quality clothing from a school, sugar and teabags from a local shop… As the advert says: ‘Every little helps’ — and we make use of every bit we get. 

New underwear and toiletries are essentials for our guests who, after a hot shower, need fresh clothing. We see ‘little’ donations as a blessing and the bigger ones as the providence of God. 

We are supported locally by several schools, churches, Rotary Clubs, Women’s Institutes, small businesses and the community. And when the pandemic started, the government stepped up with a donation through Housing Justice, which saw us through the last two years.

storage room
storage room

Where does the financial support come from?

Running the shelter is costly, so we rely on public donations throughout the year. We are constantly amazed by, and always grateful for, people’s generosity: a jar of sweets from a family, a Christmas dinner from a major retailer, ten quid from a pensioner, good-quality clothing from a school, sugar and teabags from a local shop… As the advert says: ‘Every little helps’ — and we make use of every bit we get. 

New underwear and toiletries are essentials for our guests who, after a hot shower, need fresh clothing. We see ‘little’ donations as a blessing and the bigger ones as the providence of God. 

We are supported locally by several schools, churches, Rotary Clubs, Women’s Institutes, small businesses and the community. And when the pandemic started, the government stepped up with a donation through Housing Justice, which saw us through the last two years.

Dominoes

How can the public help?

Besides funding, which is always a constant challenge for us, we would be grateful for more volunteers. Many of our volunteers are members of the public — you and me. 

We can all help in so many ways: cooking a meal; playing board games; just listening to our guests, and treating them with respect, can improve the lives of those sleeping rough. We can be their support and their encourager.

Steve, thank you so much for giving this interview. You and Lorna are pillars of the community. May God continue to bless your endeavours!

 

Gravesham Sanctuary is a registered charity (no. 1181817 in England & Wales). If you’re local or nearby, why not look them up and see how you can help? Having volunteered there with my husband, I can categorically state that you feel completely uplifted after a shift at Sanctuary! Making a difference in people’s lives is what it’s all about, right?

Connect with Gravesham Sanctuary on Facebook, or Instagram, or on their website.

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

MAKING A DIFFERENCE IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK.

BE BOLD. TAKE ACTION NOW.

WHAT IS LOVE? FEEDING THE HUNGRY. SHELTERING THE HOMELESS. CLOTHING THE NEEDY.

HOMELESSNESS IS HIDDEN AWAY. LET’S DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS!

HOMELESSNESS CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE. THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD GO I.

 

FYI…

I don’t receive any reward/commission for promoting any of the people, businesses or charities on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

 

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

NEXT WEEK on The Hopeaholic blog: 

Want to see what a PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE looks like? Don’t miss next week’s interview! 

Inspiration. Hope. Joy. You’ll find it all here. 

If you subscribe to my weekly news blurb (it’s brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂