Happy 2014 Islandistas! What better way to start the new year than with the positivity of a feel-good feature? In our Holiday 2013 print edition, we highlighted some very charitable chicks – Tracey Worme, Dr Madhuvanti ‘Maddy’ Murphy and Kelly Gibson, the founders and trustees of Charity Chicks Barbados.
There was so much more that they had to say that couldn’t fit on just two pages and it was fascinating – about work-life-charity balance, about their big plans for 2014 and what motivates them in their charitable so we’ve decided to kick off 2014 with a bit more from our interview with the Charity Chicks!
Islandista: How did you decide to start the Charity Chicks?
CCB: The Tickled Pink event was actually established before the Charity Chicks; Kelly’s mother is a breast cancer survivor; she decided to host a small fundraising event in her honour; Tracey offered assistance in planning the event, and Maddy and a few other close girlfriends joined the initiative. Working together, the initial idea evolved into Tickled Pink, which has been the Charity Chicks’ main fundraising event to date. Tickled Pink’s concept focuses on a glamorous ‘ladies’ night out’, with elegant décor, fantastic food, delicious cocktails and plenty of dancing! We focus on unique details that bring a fresh perspective to each event. We also have an incredible corps of male volunteers, affectionately known as the Men in Pink, who help us manage the event’s logistics, including serving food, bartending and managing our Tickled Pink Raffle, which has raised $6,000-$11,000 each event.
Islandista: What was your first fund-raising event?
CCB: Our first fundraising event was held in November 2010 in honour of The Gift Foundation, a charity established by Gail Skeete to provide support to women undergoing treatment for breast cancer. The Gift Foundation provides two bras and the necessary prosthesis to each woman assisted. We donated $22,700 to The Gift Foundation. Gail provided the Charity Chicks with great inspiration; unfortunately she passed away in late 2012, but we continue to support The Gift Foundation, currently managed by Gail’s daughter, Loralie Seymour, and draw motivation from her incredible example.
Islandista: What was that experience like?
CCB: Incredibly challenging and rewarding! Planning and executing an event of Tickled Pink’s calibre takes a lot of resourcefulness and imagination, not to mention hands-on hard work! After our first event, a few of our original members decided not to continue with the commitment, but the three of us have a shared faith in the impact Charity Chicks can have within our community and made the decision to grow the organization.
Islandista: What has been your biggest challenge in running Charity Chicks?
CCB: There are a handful of larger charities that maintain a permanent presence in the spotlight – but there are so many wonderful, smaller organizations, run by dedicated individuals, who are effecting great change in our community. Our goal is to help those organizations by raising awareness of their cause, identifying ways the community can provide support and encouraging that participation, whether it is through fundraising, donations or volunteerism. We keep a constant ear to the ground to discover these charities and initiatives, but have found it much harder to do so than we thought – we encourage organizations to add us to their mailing lists at email@example.com and keep us up to date on what they’re doing. We have well over 1,000 members looking to help! By expanding the breadth of charities in our network, we help those members find the cause that is most meaningful to them.
Islandista: Tell me about some of your greatest/most rewarding moments in running Charity Chicks?
Tracey: There are moments at each of our events – from the cocktail parties to our volunteer initiatives such as our beach clean ups – when I stop and observe how much fun people are having coming together and effecting positive change in our community. I love when I’m at one of our events and there is a sea of new faces to meet – it means our message has reached beyond our immediate circle of family and friends and we are making important connections between members of our community. It is only by working together that we strengthen our community at large. Specifically, when we met with Gail Skeete to present her with our donation check – the culmination of the proverbial blood, sweat and tears put into our first event, not to mention our hearts – that is a moment I will never forget, and continues to inspire me.
Maddy: Giving our very first fundraising cheque to Gail Skeete for the Gift Foundation, the emotions all around were overwhelming; that will always be an amazing moment. Also, the day my older son came into the kitchen to ask me when he would be eligible to be a Man in Pink; both of my children participate in the volunteer and set-up activities for our events, and the fact that he wanted to participate more was the essence of what we’re trying to achieve (he’s our very first Teen in Pink!).
Kelly: As Tracey and Maddy mentioned, the most rewarding moment was handing over our first fundraising check to Gail and seeing her heart felt gratitude for our efforts. Gail was such an inspiring women and it was a great honour to throw a fundraising party that coincided with the 10th year anniversary of the Gift Foundation. This will forever hold a special place in my heart. Also along the same lines as Maddy, my 5 year old always asks when she can be a Charity Chick! I tell her she already is, as she helps me behind the scenes preparing for our fundraising efforts as well as participating in volunteer activities. It is rewarding to see that she is already compassionate about helping others. I believe through our passion that we are inspiring and motivating our family and peers to come together to give to those in need.
Islandista: How do you decide which charitable causes to donate to/support each year?
CCB: The Charity Chicks organization aims to support charities and organizations that are effecting positive change in our community by raising awareness, encouraging volunteerism and providing meaningful contribution to community initiatives – it isn’t just about the fundraising.
For our ongoing initiatives, we keep our eyes and ears to the ground to learn about worthy initiatives that could use increased community support, such as The Story Club, a wonderful organization that’s managing reading programmes in our primary schools. We managed an awareness campaign and book drive for them in 2012, and solicit needed volunteers for the programme.
When we plan a major fundraiser, we each bring ideas to the table and have a candid discussion about the potential causes – to date we have chosen causes we have a personal connection with, such as breast cancer and juvenile diabetes (Tickled Pink 2012)
Islandista: Do you have pet causes or some kind of overall philosophy that dictates the kinds of causes you choose to support?
CCB: Our primary focus is on causes that improve the lives of women and children in our community. With that said, we couldn’t do this without the support of the men in our lives, and we look out for them, too!
Islandista: Where and how do you find your members?
CCB: We initially grew our support group through word of mouth; over the past three years this has grown beyond our initial circles via use of social media, particularly Facebook. We have also established a monthly newsletter to share information about our upcoming initiatives, as well as opportunities to support other local charities through donation, events and volunteerism. We have a diverse membership, including many men, which is something we’re very proud of.
Islandista: We’ve noticed that the Charity Chicks is kind of a charity that supports other charities and that you also encourage your members to volunteer for a range of causes. What was the reason for deciding to go for this model?
CCB: The three of us share a background in volunteerism – during our time in the US, we were each involved in charity work. Moving to Barbados, we found it difficult to continue our community involvement due to lack of information about local charity organizations or ways to meaningfully contribute to their initiatives. There are a few large organizations that do a great job of staying in the spotlight, but there are many smaller, lesser-known organizations effecting meaningful change in our community. Sharing information about our local charities and how our community can support them is one of our core values. We want to help everyone support local charities (and thereby our community) in the way that works for them – whether it is attending fundraising events, donating supplies or volunteering their time.
Islandista: How do you balance running the Charity Chicks with your work lives and/or family lives?
Tracey: I think I speak for all three of us when I say this is an ongoing effort! We are three spirited women who are entrepreneurs / business owners, partners and mothers – that alone makes for a full plate! With that said, charity work is a fundamental part of who we are, and as such, we make an ongoing commitment to including it in our life balance. As Kelly says, like all things in life, if something is worth doing, you figure it out. Our partners are very supportive of our work with the Charity (all three are Men in Pink), and we are raising our children to be community-conscious as well; while our fundraisers are typically adults-only events, we strive to include a few family events on our volunteer calendar each year. Our extended families and friends are also very supportive, and often lend many helping hands to help us manifest our vision.
Islandista: What are your thoughts on volunteerism and philanthropy in Barbados?
CCB: We think it is incredibly important for people to give back to their community, and as such one of our primary goals has been to help people identify the way that works best for them. For some, that may be attending a fundraising event, for others it may be volunteering a few hours a week or even joining the committee of a charity or cause close to their heart. Our goal is to facilitate our members’ identification of the cause that speaks to them by raising awareness of the organizations that need community support.
Islandista: What are your plans for 2014?
CCB: 2014 will be an exciting year for us. We are currently planning our next major fundraiser, which, as has become our trademark, will be unlike anything we’ve done in the past. While we love our Tickled Pink and will be hosting it again in future, our next fundraiser is going to be for both men and women to attend. Our goal is to maximize our fundraising potential and we think, given the current economic conditions, strengthening our numbers will bring continued success.
We are also participating in the resurgence of the International Fair, which will be happening on March 15, 2014 at Government House. With focus on our youth, the theme of the Fair is ‘Building a Better Barbados’; we are excited to participate in this initiative in conjunction with our current efforts to establish a new organization dedicated to helping our youth realize their full potential and provide training to effect change in our community.
In the latter half of 2013 we began a monthly initiatives campaign, which we will be continuing in the near year. We participated in Clean Up Barbados, The Globeathon Barbados Walk to End Women’s Cancers and The Michael Kors #WatchHungerEnd Campaign.
Editor’s note: There was an error in the original print version of our feature on the Charity Chicks, entitled ‘Charity Chicks Spread the Joy of Giving Back. The charity started by the late Gail Skeete was incorrectly referred to as The Little Pink Gift Foundation. The correct name is The Gift Foundation. The two are separate and distinct charities. The Little Pink Gift Foundation pays for patients’ diagnosis and treatment procedures, and hosts a support network for breast cancer patients and survivors while The Gift Foundation provides support, special bras and prostheses to breast cancer survivors who have undergone mastectomies. We apologise for the error.