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New Year resolutions: ‘Why wait until January 1 to make a change in your life?’, say Fife and Tayside volunteers

Donald Jenks with Cupar Explorer Scouts, doing repair works on the Moor Road between Cupar and Ceres in 2021. Image: Donald Jenks
Donald Jenks with Cupar Explorer Scouts, doing repair works on the Moor Road between Cupar and Ceres in 2021. Image: Donald Jenks

Following a year afflicted by war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis, the aftermath of Covid-19 and ongoing threats of climate Armageddon, it’s easy to feel downbeat as we reflect on the 12 months gone by and look towards the year ahead.

While none of us truly know what 2023 will bring, many will be choosing New Year’s resolutions to be healthier, save more money, or pursue new opportunities.

So what can we learn from those who’ve already done something positive to improve the world in 2022 whether that’s been volunteering for charity, volunteering with youth groups or taking a step towards improving the environment?

Scout leader Donald Jenks

Kirkcaldy-raised Cupar man Donald Jenks doesn’t make New Year resolutions.

But the Scout leader is no stranger to volunteering, taking the view “why wait until January 1 to make a change in your life that you have identified as something you want to do?”

Pictured in 2018 are Explorer leader Helen Cammack, Cupar Explorer of the Year 2018 Charlotte Moffat and Donald Jenks. Image: Donald Jenks

Donald recently retired after over 36 years in public service with both the police and local government.

He’s always been passionate about the outdoors, hillwalking in particular and observing nature in the wild places of Scotland.

During his time with the police, he regularly worked with other organisations, many of them working voluntarily.

It was clear to him that the difference made by those volunteers in communities couldn’t be underestimated.

They made a real difference particularly to young and older people – building strong caring communities.

What does he do?

Today, his main area of volunteering is in Scouting, currently as District Commissioner for North East Fife.

Cupar Explorer Scouts and friends with Santa in Cupar in 2021

“I started volunteering in Scouts to gain my Queen’s Scout Award when I was 18 and other than a short spell have been involved ever since,” he says.

“I also volunteer with Forth and Tay Disabled Ramblers helping to transport their electric buggies to the start of their rambles.

“But the best part of that volunteering opportunity is to be able to have a chat with the clients who might not otherwise have a chance to socialise.”

Donald’s thinking has always been “if you want to get something out of a voluntary group then you should put something in too, particularly your time to help keep that group going”.

Scouting locally is entirely run by volunteers and quite simply would not be able to continue without people willing to give up a few hours of their time to provide a program of activities for young people.

Scouts from St Andrews and Cupar united to help clean up Tarvit Ponds in Cupar in 2017

“Many people say they are too busy to volunteer,” he says, “but I think it is important both for the mental health of volunteers and the health of our communities, it is so rewarding.

“For the time it takes to keep up with EastEnders or Coronation Street someone could make a real difference to the quality of life of people in their communities instead!

“Just get out there and get involved. Not only will you find a whole new network of friends waiting to welcome you to their teams but you will make a difference in the lives you enhance through the dedication of your time to help them.

“Isn’t that more rewarding that wondering who Ken Barlow’s next conquest is going to be?”

Ukrainian refugees: David Fox-Pitt

When Russia invaded Ukraine last February, Perthshire adventurer David Fox-Pitt knew that the equipment and skills he’d developed over many years running his events business, could help refugees fleeing Ukraine.

David Fox-Pitt, 57, from Loch Tay in Perthshire, hands out pizza to people crossing the border point from Ukraine into Medyka, Poland, in March 2022

Leaving his family behind in Perthshire to hold the fort and keep his business going, he set off in early March with three friends, a wood fired pizza oven, a box trailer and the belief that he could make a difference.

Nine months later, after initially setting up their ‘Make Pizza Not War’ operation on the Polish side of the border, they continue to run a fleet of pizza trucks based within Ukraine where the need is greatest, all kitted out with fast efficient gas pizza ovens.

It’s not just about pizza though. While they do serve about 4000 every day, it’s about empathy, compassion and showing distressed displaced Ukrainians that the world hasn’t forgotten them.

“I have many amazing international volunteers who’ve joined us,” says David.

David Fox-Pitt with Ukrainian refugees in March 2022

“Simply by being there we give hope to the people we meet with the message #makepizzanotwar.

“I couldn’t have made a difference in Ukraine without so many wonderful and motivated volunteers.

“Going to a country at war isn’t for everyone but we are always looking for the right people who can give a minimum of two weeks of their time (get in touch via instagram @davidfoxpitt or via info@siobhanstrust.uk).

David adds that he doesn’t tend to make New Year’s resolutions either.

But he does make commitments often and feels passionately that people should try their utmost to keep them.

Volunteers at David Fox-Pitt’s soup kitchen, Poland, in March 2022. Image: Jeanie Gibbs

He read somewhere that ‘commitment is doing the thing you said that you’d do long after the feeling you said it in has left you’.

Other ways to support

While going to Poland/Ukraine isn’t for everyone, he hopes another way people can volunteer or participate is through support of WildFox Events’ The Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon, taking place in, on and around Loch Tay in July 2023.

It will also be supporting the humanitarian family charity Siobhan’s Trust, named after David’s late aunt Siobhan Dundee.

It’s all part of David’s effort to live his life by the ethos “Positiverosity”.

“It’s the title of a book I wrote a few years back,” he says.

David Fox-Pitt
David Fox-Pitt has been running events for years. Image: David Fox-Pitt

“It’s a made up word all about living life with a positive and generous attitude.

“The magic comes once people see that you seriously mean business, people respond to help you and all manner of things start to fall into place to help you achieve your goals.

“It’s all about “can-do”.

“We’ve met so many charities and individuals along the way and work closely with the Ukrainian Police who help us get to the places where our support is most needed.

“Of course we couldn’t do any of this without financial support.

David Fox-Pitt with Perth Polish Scouts before heading off to Poland in March 2022. Image: Jeanie Gibbs

“Thank you to all our wonderful donors who have already contributed.

“We’ve been donated thousands of frozen pizzas which has made a huge difference.”

TCCL secretary – Hazel Melrose

Angus woman Hazel Melrose has been volunteer secretary of Tayside Children with Cancer & Leukaemia (TCCL) for 16 years and finds her role “extremely fulfilling”.

However, in an ideal world she’d never have had to get involved with the charity in the first place.

Just 15 months after her daughter Anna was diagnosed with a brain tumour, the youngster died after a brave and selfless battle aged just eight.

Hazel Melrose presents Molly Crompton, of the 4th Kirriemuir Brownies with the trophy for craftwork in memory of daughter Anna in 2011

“I became involved with TCCL after our daughter, Anna was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2002,” says Hazel.

“TCCL were there to support us all as a family.

“Anna had a younger brother Fraser, then aged five, so the support TCCL provided to us then was invaluable.

“When something like this happens to you, you cannot ever appreciate the shock and fear it causes.

“Having TCCL to help us on that emotional rollercoaster was very re-assuring – it made us feel we weren’t on our own.”

Anna Melrose of Kirriemuir with her brother Fraser. Anna died in 2004 aged eight following a 15-month battle with a brain tumour

After Anna died in 2004, Hazel was invited to join the TCCL committee.

It was then that she became secretary.

Rewards from helping others

“It is a very satisfying and worthwhile role,” she says.

“I enjoy being able to help make a difference to the lives of the children and their families whilst going through their treatment for cancer or leukaemia.

“I am more than happy to help raise funds for what is a very worthy cause.

“I love to see the enjoyment TCCL can bring to the children at our events.

MacAlpine Road Fire Station
Hazel Melrose from TCCL and Derek Miller from Help for Kids in January 2022. Picture: Gareth Jennings.

“The financial grants we can offer families often helps with things that might not have been possible otherwise and TCCL Lodge, our holiday house in St Andrews, is enjoyed by all the families who go there.”

Hazel doesn’t make New Year resolutions – because she’s “never very good at sticking to them”!

But every year she promises to make Anna proud by helping other children and their families who are in the same position as they were.

“I would definitely recommend volunteering to others,” she adds.

“It is extremely fulfilling and when you know you’re making a difference, there’s no better feeling.

Elliot and Aaron Berghuis of Cupar with TCCL Lodge manager Elizabeth Logan re-opening TCCL Lodge after Covid closure in May 2021.

“There are many other volunteers on the committee who sadly share a similar story to myself and I think that’s important to the charity, as we have true empathy with the families we are supporting.”

Timebanker – George Cuthill

Retired West Fife-based sales director George Cuthill is no stranger to volunteering through Fife Voluntary Action.

But it’s the 84-year-old’s recent efforts to raise awareness of time banking in Scotland that has helped given him a worthwhile sense of focus and purpose.

In November, he helped stage a three-day exhibition at the Scottish Parliament to raise awareness of Timebanking Scotland, which was established as a charity last March.

George Cuthill with his wife at home in Fife

Timebanking is an informal way of volunteering which brings people together to help each other out by doing small jobs, favours or tasks. It’s based on the ideal of equality that we are ‘A’ Jock Tamson’s bairns’.

“This is the time of year when we review the past year and look forward and make plans for the coming year,” he says.

“I am a massive fan of Jon Favreau, Barack Obama’s speechwriter and of the president’s oratory skills and can think of no better New Year resolution than his first speech to the Democratic convention.

“He said: ‘Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek.’

George Cuthill is a volunteer with Timebanking Scotland

“What better time with war, cost of living crisis and climate change, to give back to your community and contribute the culture in Scotland of being good neighbours and volunteering.

“Ask not what your community can do for you, but what you can do for your community?”

Helping the planet – Carolyn Hogg

Angus entrepreneur and former Scottish athletics champion Carolyn Hogg doesn’t make new year resolutions either.

She “treats life as an adventure” and prefers to “live in the now”.

However, as the CEO of Arbroath-based Cascade Water Products, she takes great satisfaction from trying to make a positive difference to the environment.

Carolyn Hogg with Aqua Gratis in Arbroath. Image: Carolyn Hogg

The company she and her husband Peter run has created Aqua Gratis – a system which processes waste water from showers and baths which it then utilises to flush toilets.

The small size of the Aqua Gratis means that it can be fitted into a domestic property and removes the need to use drinking water to flush the toilet, saving more than 30% of water in the average home.

With Britain ‘showering away’ more than 2,000,000,000 litres of fresh water each day, Cascade has received funding from Scottish Enterprise, EU Horizon 2020 Phase 1, Scottish Edge and Innovate UK and are working with Thames Water, Barratts and The Duchy of Cornwall.

“I believe I am making an impact with regards to helping people and businesses understand more about water and the environment,” she says.

Cascade Water Products managing director Carolyn Hogg with the Aqua Gratis system

“I have had to work hard for it to be recognised that greywater reuse is part of the circular economy.

“I am working to get it recognised that greywater reuse is the missing element of zero carbon homes.

“There are many benefits to domestic greywater reuse – great environmental impacts in one hit. So, what Cascade Water Products is doing is very important globally.”

Growing demand

With growing international interest, Carolyn says 2023 is shaping up to be “very exciting”.

Carolyn Hogg pitching at World Water conference

Global water scarcity and wastewater management problems are only going to accelerate due to population growth, migration, geo-political crisis, housing and climate change.

However, following a summer when Britain had its worst drought since 1976, and with rivers drying up worldwide, she believes everyone can take it upon themselves to make a positive difference to the planet in the new year, however small.

“What the public can do right now to make a difference and help the environment, is be more conscious on how much water is being used,” she says.

“Start using less water. Take shorter showers, do not run the tap when cleaning your teeth. The Waterwise website has many good water saving tips.”

Ukraine refugees: Meet the selfless Tayside and Fife volunteers serving up humanity on the frontlines

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