observations, Personal, videos

Not Dark But Light

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With cameraman Ash and participants Petra and Rania

I probably expected to hear some profound truths, some clarity of vision, some tears but what I encountered instead was strength, humour and resilience. Over the weekend I was in Milan shooting interviews with women who had metastatic breast cancer. What this means is that the cancer that was originally diagnosed in their breasts, had now spread to other part(s) of their bodies (although some women are diagnosed directly with metastatic breast cancer, others not, and the cancer spreads afterwards) . The women had been drawn from across the world for a two-day conference organised by the non-profit organisation Europa Donna.

The women who spoke to the camera talked about a range of topics affecting their lives. One woman from Malta who is still only in her late 30s talked about how she used to worry about leaving her partner alone after she died and how he was tragically killed in a road accident just a month earlier. And now it was she that was left behind. And remarkably, she recounted her loss without the slightest trace of self pity.

A British woman talked about how she was now helping other cancer patients find their voice. She was convinced about the healing powers of singing aloud and was now running workshops in local hospitals.

A tall Dutch woman who I overheard say that the cancer was now all over her body, had gone on a three hour bike ride under the scorching Milanese sun the previous day. She said that she was determined to live each day to the fullest. She also drew shrieks of laughter when she turned up for the evening drinks do, wearing a bright red wig of ringlet curls over her bald head that we’d seen earlier

Perhaps the one that touched me the most was the soft-spoken Swedish woman I had a long conversation with later in the evening. She is only a couple of years older than me and she talked about how she has to listen to her friends complain about minor ailments like tooth ache and how she has little to say when they talk about their long-term career plans as she can no longer afford to have any.

She said that she was not religious but spiritual. When I asked to explain what that meant, she said that when she spoke to therapists and other trained professionals, she found what they were saying was something they had been taught. As if they were reading from their training manuals. But when spoke to someone of faith, she found their words coming from a different dimension that was altogether removed from what a therapist might say. And in this she found her strength and solace.

It would be too simplistic to say that I came away with new insights into life. But what I could glean from the women who had had this devastating diagnosis was a genuine appreciation of life. An unwavering hope that they would live long beyond their original prognosis (as some of them clearly had). And an acute awareness that often life could change irrevocably and dramatically with no warning. It would be fair to say that what I earned on this project was significantly more than what my invoices would reflect.

advent, observations, Personal, videos

An Advent Calendar Of Videos 25

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If someone had pitched this story to a movie producer, it would have been dismissed as being too preposterous, too far-fetched and just too outlandish. But reality often summons the most incredulous plot lines.

Today’s advent video is from Google and features a remarkable homeward journey of a young man who left home as a five year old halfway across the world. It is a story about never losing hope and one ideally suited for Christmas day on an eventful year worldwide. Happy Christmas!

Cross posted on my Linkedin page. Header image is a screen grab from Saroo Brierley: Homeward Bound. 
advent, observations, Personal, videos

An Advent Calendar Of Videos 23

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At networking events when asked to pitch, many of us tend to rattle off, barely stopping to breathe, a prepared spiel in one furious ramble. In today’s video, we see the master orator himself showing the importance of silence. The emptiness which emphasises the words, the nothingness that says more, the silence that speaks volumes.

Watch out for what happens between the 9th and the 21st second of the video. And marvel at how sometimes it is important to say very little to convey a whole lot.

Cross posted on my Linkedin page. Header image is a screen grab from President Obams sings Amazing Grace (C-Span)
advent, observations, Personal, videos

An Advent Calendar Of Videos 22

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Today’s video is a scripted ad. And it’s a soppy one from IKEA and I love it. May be because I’m mum to a teenager who is a foot taller than me and I struggle to reconcile this strapping young lad to the tiny baby I once held (see?) or may be it’s just an old-fashioned heartstring puller of an ad, either way this one is a real winner.

ETA – the above video is in French as the one with the English subtitles has been removed. You should still be able to get the gist of the whole video.
Cross posted on my Linkedin page. Header image is a screen grab from IKEA – My Son
advent, Personal

An Advent Calendar Of Videos 21

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As a Fellow of the School For Social Entrepreneurs, I am fortunate to have known inspiring individuals who started their enterprise as a response to a need in the community that they felt was going unaddressed. And today’s video is about one such social entrepreneur who started his business as a way of finding gainful employment for his autistic son. It shows how it is not sympathy that drives the business but the embracing of the invaluable diversity of its employees.

And here’s the really important thing, this video is part of Starbucks’ Upstanders series. What the coffee chain have to do with a car wash? Seemingly nothing but it is powerful to be associated with individuals who are making a difference. And the brand’s richer for it.


Cross posted on my Linkedin page. Header image is a screen grab from Upstanders-Employing The Full Spectrum.
advent, Personal

An Advent Calendar Of Videos 18

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They say, never work with kids or animals. That rule does not apply when you are Google. Their Friends Furever viral ad proved so hugely popular last year that it was one of most widely shared. I don’t need to say much more than go ‘awww…’

Cross posted on my Linkedin page. Header image is a screen grab from Android: Friends Furever.
advent, observations, Personal, videos

An Advent Calendar Of Videos 17

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At the Women Of The World Festival at the Southbank Centre in London, I had the opportunity to hear author and activist Eve Ensler deliver the keynote address which was about the violence facing women and girls in today’s world. At the end of the address, she played this video and by the end of which, the entire Queen Elizabeth Hall which was packed to the rafters was up on its feet dancing. And you can see why.

Cross posted on my Linkedin page. Header image is a screen grab from One Billion Rising.