Last weekend I had the pleasure of speaking about Empowerment at the Om Shanti Foundation Cocktail Gala. It was a fabulous night full of beautiful people, great food, and most importantly generosity.
I was very honoured that Shanti – the creator of the charity – asked me to speak. Being someone who loves empowerment (particularly the empowerment of women) I was beyond excited at the prospect. Not only that, Shanti and his children Gareth, Tamara and Simon (who is Tamara’s fiance) are my friends, and supporting my friends really fills me up!
Shanti immigrated from Sri Lanka to Australia in 1988. For him, growing up as a child in 60s and 70s Sri Lanka meant life was tough. He was one of seven children in a family with limited means and limited opportunities. He saw the suffering not just of the people surrounding him, but of his family, and during this time he realised the importance of money and what it can do to create choice and freedom.
He dreamt of a life of going somewhere, becoming wildly successful, and then giving back– not only to the people of Sri Lanka but to anyone in need. It was a big dream for a boy from Sri Lanka with limited opportunity, but he did it.
And he did it on a BIG scale!
Shanti has created a business empire whilst raising two beautiful children with whom he now works closely on his philanthropic dreams. Seeing them together last Saturday – talking and laughing in the midst of the amazing event they’d created – was incredibly beautiful.
It reminded me that everything starts with a dream.
And everyone can make a difference if they choose to.
Before I wrote my speech, I met with Gareth to talk about what empowerment meant to the Om Shanti Foundation. He mentioned the fact that people in Australia are sometimes resistant to helping a charity that works predominantly in Sri Lanka. Some of the attitudes went along the lines of: “there are people here in Australia who need help already…so why would I give money to your overseas charity?”.
I was really surprised when Gareth shared this! Yes, I agree that there are Aussies who need help – and there are so many amazing Australian organisations that do fantastic work, but I also thought to myself: Isn’t a person a person…no matter where they come from???
I went home and contemplated that conversation with Gareth and what I was left with was the fact that often we forget that we exist in a global society. We are interacting with other countries every single day – so why do we hesitate to interact in a way where we are giving back and helping them?
Not only that, we are energetically connected to everything and everyone, even if we don’t see them. Help is help and every little scrap of help raises the vibration of our planet.
I thought it would be interesting to see just how many countries show up in my life on a daily basis and did a little study on myself, and guess what? I was quite shocked! I always make a point of buying Australian produce/products but even with that philosophy in mind I still interacted with a phenomenal amount of other countries and their people.
One particular day I put on my Chinese-made bathers to go for a swim. I got in my Italian-made car to drive to the pool. I spoke with the French lifesaver before I swam (yes, he helps me to stay highly motivated with my swimming 😉 and then I came home to make my smoothie with coconut water from Vietnam and hemp seeds from Canada. I sat down in front of my computer which came from China (although parts of it were made in Taiwan) and I rang the call centre based in South Africa to fix my internet issues.
By 10.15am I had already interacted with seven countries!!! If that is not evidence enough that we are living in a highly connected global society then I don’t know what is!
The next place I went with my thoughts was “I wonder what my life would be like if everything I own that came from overseas was removed right this instant?”. In my mind’s eye I pretty much saw everything – my wardrobe, garden, and workplace – empty out in a flash! Items disappeared left right and centre leaving vast spaces around me.
One of the emptiest places was my garden. The Jacaranda tree (originally from Central South America) went, as did the olive tree (from the Mediterranean region). The bougainvillea (from South America) and my herb garden – basil, sage, parsley and mint – were all decimated: gone!
This picture in my head was quite the mindfry!!
By living in a global society we get to live the life we do: abundant variety everywhere from our gardens to our kitchen cupboards to the people we live next door to. This simply wouldn’t be the case if things were otherwise and we lived more isolated lives.
My point is that you may be someone who has never left the shores of your home country, yet EVERY DAY you are supporting, interacting, contributing, buying, or taking from other countries. The belief that because you live where you live, you therefore have no responsibility to help others outside your immediate community is incredibly narrow minded.
Tamara messaged me a couple of days ago to say that over $32,000 was raised on the night. I was so incredibly happy for Shanti, Tamara and Gareth but even more so for the women and families who will now be given micro business so they can earn an income and build a brighter future.
As my wise friend Shanti says “The secret to living is giving”. Amen to that.
(Image Credit – Rift Photography)