• Helen Ferguson

Samantha - Walk 4 Dignity

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

Meet Samantha - Volunteer for Share The Dignity



Born and raised in the Southern suburbs of Sydney, Samantha has built a career based on her strong Administration skills.

She’s currently the Office Manager of a busy I.T. company, specialising in Data Centre products and services.

Her varied career has seen her working at the kitchen tables of 'Start-Up' entrepreneurs and also pack her bags to move her entire life to Canberra, Australia's Capital city and home of the Federal Government, to take on the big challenges that were presented to her in her 30's.

Samantha

This woman is a ‘Doer’, she likes to have a project with an outcome to aim for. She’s happiest when she has something to show for her time and effort.

She is also a helper and a volunteer.

Sometimes the Doing and the Helping combine to give her a project that provides balance and clear perspective in her life.



Share The Dignity - (#sharethedignity)


Samantha has been heavily involved with the Australian charity Share The Dignity for years as a volunteer, both in Canberra and now back in Sydney.

This year she committed to a sponsored program called 'Move4Dignity' to actively fund-raise throughout the month of October for the charity.

www.sharethedignity.org.au

I asked Samantha to describe ‘Share The Dignity’ to someone who has never heard about it?


“Share the Dignity began as a way to provide Sanitary items to women and girls who had difficulty accessing them, for various reasons; Women experiencing homelessness, living in homeless shelters, women fleeing domestic and family violence or women living below the poverty line and experiencing period poverty.


Share the Dignity was founded by Rochelle Courtney in March 2015, aiming to restore dignity in the lives of women in a way that most of us take for granted. Rochelle started small by collecting sanitary items and donating them to her local shelter and the movement grew from there.

It has moved on from providing just pads and tampons to looking for ways to do more for women.

It now holds two ‘Dignity Drives’ each year in March and August. The point of the Dignity Drive is to encourage people to drop off sanitary items at collection points hosted by their major partner, Woolworths, and lots of other local businesses.”



Move For Dignity - (#move4dignity)


This year is the inaugural year of the Move4Dignity initiative, encouraging supporters to commit to a sponsored effort.

You can walk, run, swim, do yoga, cycling; be it a solo endeavor or picking up the bat-phone and building a team….whatever is your thing…. commit to a pre-established number of sessions or number of kilometers throughout October and off you go.


Samantha elected to walk, for as many days as she could realistically manage, set her goals as 100Km for the month and initially wanted to raise $500.

She put the call out on her social media, revved up her cheer squad, laced up the training shoes, and got walking.


She was aiming for 3-5 kms per day, knowing that some days would be a breeze and others would explode in her face!



There was the day she attempted to walk along a beautiful coastal track with her toddler nephew in his pram and his pre-schooler brother on his scooter. That deserved a gold star for optimism and 10 out of 10 for effort, but come on, that was never going to end well!


Then there was the rainy day she jumped onto her sister’s treadmill and realised pretty quickly that neither she nor her shins enjoyed that experience one jot.


By mid-October Samantha had already reached her $500 target, so announced that she was increasing her fundraising goal to $1000 and kept on walking.


I met up with Samantha in late October to join her on her second walk for the day, and discover more about her involvement with Share the Dignity…..

(spoiler alert, at the time of our walk, she had surpassed her $1,000 goal and was tracking to be the third highest individual walker fundraiser in the whole country!)


Walk and Talk


How did you become involved with Share the Dignity, what drew you to it?


“I was living in Canberra, having just moved down from Sydney to progress my career. Work was great but I hadn’t built any real social connections yet, so I had time on my hands.

My friend back in Sydney was having a baby-shower, but instead of gifts for the baby, she asked everybody to bring a handbag with them, either a brand new one or a used bag in very good condition.

She explained to us that the bags would be donated to Share the Dignity and they would be filled with Sanitary items and toiletries and given to ladies in need.

The goal was not to just provide pads and tampons, but to create a beautiful experience for a woman who was going through a tough time.


I loved what I heard, and soon after volunteered to help out locally in Canberra and I became a Shero.”


Share the Dignity is powered by around 5000 volunteers across the nation, who are lovingly called ‘Sheroes and Heroes’.


“My first task was to drive around the local collection points to gather all of the donations of pads and tampons made by the public, sort them out into batches and deliver them to charities.


Donations are essential all year round

Around that time, Share the Dignity were about to launch Canberra's first

Pink-Box Dignity Vending Machine (#PinkBox)

a machine where, with the press of a button, a free pack of 6 tampons and 2 pads is dispensed every 10 minutes. I was allocated the job of looking after and restocking this machine.

There are similar vending machines installed across Australia in various Domestic Violence Refuges, Public Bathrooms, Aboriginal Health Service Centres and Hospitals.

It was just so different from my work day.”


Is there a social aspect to being a Shero?


“Not really, we do meet up once or twice a year, and it’s a very eclectic group, but realistically, anything you did you were doing alone. It’s not like volunteering at a Kitchen or a shelter.

Which, for me, was absolutely fine.


When I moved back to Sydney I signed up as a ‘Charity Queen’, which is a promotion from Shero, as I am an experienced volunteer, so you can legitimately call me Queen!

I liaise with the receiving charities, such as Vinnie’s or Salvation Army, in my area, and check what they have or need throughout the year.

You do as much as you can but it’s understood that people are working, running families etc.”


It’s In The Bag - (#ItsInTheBag)


“In the lead up to Christmas we work towards the It’s In The Bag donation drive.

We collect donations of new or nearly new handbags, we combine them with the donations of sanitary items, toiletries, books, scarves and work to create a beautiful gift for a woman to receive.

Some bags come complete with the contents, some have so much and others have none, so we try to even it all out to supply as many presents as possible.


Not Just Pads and Tampons

For some women, it might be the only gift they get that year.

It can be very moving to witness a woman become emotional because they can’t remember the last time anybody considered them in that way.”



Donation Drop Off Points


So where do we take our donations to?


“Bunnings are our partners for Bag Drop Off, and have been for the last two years.

There will be a huge box near the front of Bunnings, they are open long hours, they are easily accessible.


They don’t sell bags, don’t go there looking to buy a bag!!!


You should see what we had last year, huuuuge boxes filled with beautiful handbags in the middle of a hardware store. It’s fabulous!!

Some of last years donations

Then I just go through everything, make sure it’s lovely and drop them to the charities to give to individual women.



What’s In It For You?


From your point of view, what do you get out of doing this?


“Well, it just confirms for me that I am ok.

I’ve got a roof over my head, I own a home, I’m connected to my family.

It’s good, I’ve got everything I need.

I can make my own choices about my life.

I’ve been raised to roll my sleeves up and do something, it’s a few hours here and there, if more people did a few hours it would make a massive difference for the individual women.”


Walking: why this year?

What has that done for you?


“Well finally, this year I was truly ready to start exercising!

It popped up in my FB feed and I just jumped on it and said yes, I’m doing it!

I built in a few circuit breakers in case I struggled.

In the beginning it was hard to fit it into my day, especially now that I’m back into the office a bit more after Social Isolation. The days that I work from home I can go for a walk around 7.30, but on office days I’m getting out of bed to walk at 5.30. I haven’t done that for years!


I think I will keep walking after the challenge, I’m feeling better about myself.

Also, I have a dance concert in December, one of my hobbies, I dance two nights a week, and I’ve got little sparkly outfits to fit into, so I think I should keep going!


I find walking really helps with my mental health too, it helps with anxiety.

It’s a proactive thing for me to do, it enhances the care that I give myself.

Bonus….I’ve noticed that it helps my sleep, which is not something I take lightly. I always used to struggle to get to sleep, then have crappy sleep and wake early.

Recently I’m sleeping deeper and waking later, so that’s got to be a good thing.


My nephews always want to be involved with things that I’m doing too, I can’t expect them to walk at the speed that I want to walk at, so they kick a ball back and forth with each other and I walk in laps around them.

It feels good to model that for them.


Walking, Volunteering, Dancing; What else is happening for you?


"Oh, my garden! I love gardening, my Magnolia flowered today!!

I adore sticking my earphones in and just listening to music or audio books.

At the moment I have got 3 hours left in a series of books that I’ve been enjoying, called

The Wheel of Time” by Robert Jordan, so being engrossed in that has been motivating for walks and gardening.

Samantha loves being in her garden

I’ve also enjoyed Stephen Fry reading 'Harry Potter'.

I want to find some good podcasts to get into next, change it up a bit.”


Her Middle Age


I couldn’t find a clear set of parameters to define Middle Age when I first started on this project of mine, so I am using 45 - 65 as my goal posts.

By that measurement, you are not middle aged, but you can see it in the distance.

What are your thoughts about that life stage?

What possibilities does it hold for you?


“ I feel like “middle age” will be different for me than for my friends.


I’m currently single and I have no children, which wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision by the way,

but I think I may have more options; greater opportunities possibly.

That being said, I’m not sure what those options or opportunities are!


I don’t have the type of responsibilities some others have, the type that could be considered restricting.

My ‘path’ might be a bit more difficult to discover.

I don’t know any people that have lead themselves down a path like that, free of any typical responsibilities that might hold a woman back from doing whatever she wants.

A lot of my friends don’t understand that my situation isn’t necessarily ‘better’. Or easier!

In some ways, it’s harder.


I am spending more of my time working on hobbies and working out what I enjoy doing.



My job pays the bills and it suits me well for now.

I’m good at what I do. I’m an excellent administrator.

So I have pride in the success of that.

But it isn’t the dream, I’m just not sure what is.


I find myself, more and more, thinking about psychology or counseling.

I’m not yet brave enough to jump into that though.

The thought of a full career change at this point in my life is scary!

But, early 40s isn’t old. I’ve still got 25+ years of working life ahead, so I had better figure it out soon!!


As someone that struggles with decision making, too much choice isn’t always a good thing!!

Our 'Shero' Walks Off Into the Sunset

Latest Update: Samantha has been told that of the thousands of people who participated in this years #Move4Dignity, 50 of them were Sheroes, and she has been named as the highest fundraising Shero for 2020!!! Well Done Samantha xxxx


For further information on all Share The Dignity activities and initiatives go to

https://www.sharethedignity.org.au/home


Walk With Me

October 2020

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