Originally from Bristol, Carly now lives in London. Her interest in helping other started at a young age, and her resilience has lead her to some amazing places.
After she graduated school, she started a program called Upendo (which means love) in Tanzania. They registered as a charity in 2009 and she was able to take her first lot of volunteers, a group of students from Manchester, over that summer. Their goal was a large one: to start a children's home. "I thought it would be easy and so lovely," she shared laughing, "three years later, we had a structure." Their goal grew with them in time. It became less about the place, and more about finding people to care for the children inside their communities and supporting them, especially with schooling. They worked with volunteers who would exchange skills such as teaching, healthcare, and more.
Over the past 8 years of going back and forth to Tanzania, she has learned a lot about how much so many of us take for granted. She also experienced first hand the difficulties of running a non-profit, even being denied access to the land recently. "It hasn't been as smooth sailing as I hoped, but we still have wonderful children. The resilience that they have is incredible... and they are massively mischievous!"
When she's in London, she works as a nurse at the National Health Service (NHS). While she loves helping others, she has sometimes found her work environment to have low moral, and to be a kind of "box-ticking" environment. "I just want to be able to do my job and put the skills that I have to use," she shared, "it really is frustrating sometimes."
Carly saw the news about the current refugee crisis, and looked up on various forms of social media what people were doing to help. "The organizations that were supposed to be accountable were not responding," she said, "but there are so many people with a range of skills, willing to give time." With her nurse training, she realized "I have time, this is something I can do." She took off for Lesvos, Greece and worked as a first responder with Grassroots organizations. Lesvos is the closest island to Turkey, and one of the fastest routes into Europe for many refugees.
In her 3 weeks there, she joined a house clinic providing healthcare to unregistered refugees. "They were wounded. They had been in the jungle for weeks. They were completely traumatized. And they arrived to pretty much no response." Carly said what made her experience most rewarding was the people that she worked with.
"While I was there I was fortunate enough to be apart of a wonderful team. We were all there believing in the same thing and working for the same reason. All of this was achievable because of my confidence in the other people around me. There was one night that we drove down to the shores and found lots of boats coming in- it was a bit chaotic. I was new and didn't fully know what I was doing... they had this kind of system in place. It was all hands on deck with emergency blankets and escorting the incoming families up to the refugee camps."
She helped a young Syrian family, and the mother had a baby, only about 3 weeks old, in a rag. She said, "You could see, the mom was just so happy they were safe on land, but they had experienced this horrendous journey and the child was crying. She kept repeating, 'I don't care where I am, I just want to bring up my family somewhere peaceful.'"
"People have this idea that refugees all want welfare and free housing, but they just want to live in a safe place. This awful journey they take is the safer choice for them. It is that, or living in a war zone. You're going to make those risks because you have the opportunity for a better life, and everyone should strive for that. They would, and have given up everything to stay in their home where they have a house, a job, friends and family, but they are leaving because they have nothing left.
Being there, I felt overwhelmed. How do you explain this situation?
It was everything. It was every emotion you could possibly experience.
I was filled with so much love, there is so much humanity, and so many incredible people that have given up their jobs and lives for others."
Carly was completely moved by her time volunteering in Lesvos, and since returning has realized this is something she wants to do. She has managed to recruit others that would be good first responder candidates. She has also begun fundraising efforts, and is looking to raise awareness and get other people involved. "This has kind of taken over my life," she laughed, but you can tell that the passion is genuine. Her experience in Greece changed her, and she has found another way for her to help change the world.
If you are interested in learning more about Carly and her work, you can visit Upendo her non-profit site here upendo.org.uk. Let your passions guide you, help when you can, and don't let your talents go to waste. Each of us has the power to change the world.