The little island between England and France in which I lived for most of my professional career is famous for many things. Jersey Royal potatoes are appreciated world-wide, and its 30+ pristine beaches, all within a tiny frame of nine miles by five, are appreciated by thousands of holidaymakers each year, as well as the 100,000 or so locals who make up the population. It was also the setting for one of the most popular BBC prime-time detective series of all time – Bergerac, which ran from 1981 for over a decade.
What is less well known is that Jersey accrues an incredible amount of funding for almost 450 local charities. You may well ask why a relatively rich island needs so much public funding, but despite the multi-millionaires, there are shed-loads of extremely poor and vulnerable people; this is one of the most expensive places to live anywhere in the world, but rather luckily, it’s folk are also one of the most generous to be found anywhere.
Which is why I nominate the Jersey Sports Association for the Disabled, or JSAD for short, for my favourite organisation. I have to be honest here and say I have a personal interest in this group. I was asked to be a patron some 20 years ago, a position which I proudly still hold today. So, what makes it so special?
In sport, when there’s a winner to celebrate, you can read, watch and listen to the reports. What you don’t get to know is the thousands and thousands of hours that are spent backstage getting disabled sportsmen and women to achieve extraordinary things.
And of course, it’s not only about winning. That’s the point. The old, once-upon-a-time Olympic spirit of simply taking part is oh-so important here. Sometimes, getting someone merely to the starting line can a breath-taking achievement, worthy of any gold medal in any sport.
The people behind this incredible group are simply remarkable. Led by Paul Patterson, a former disability sportsperson himself, and a charming fellow, awarded an MBE for his work with disability sport in Jersey, the JSAD can boast an astonishing array of talented coaches, and a network of unbelievably hard-working individuals. They all spend an inordinate amount of time and energy to make sure that those with disabilities, some profound, are not denied the chance to play sport. It takes a lot of courage, guts, talent and perseverance. And it bloody well works!
Every year, I am delighted and honoured to travel a 6,000km round trip to present the Disability Sports Awards in Jersey. It is a heart-warming evening of much emotion, and much celebration of all sorts of marvellous achievements. As I look around the packed auditorium, I just see unbridled joy – so many people who have had to overcome so many difficulties just to take part in sport. Each and every one of them have grasped the opportunities given them, and it’s a truly humbling experience to know just what goes on behind the scenes to allow all this happen. Long may it continue.
My favourite organization
Talking about my favorite organization, it is in the past. This was Reader’s Digest Russia, the American publishing house I used to work from October 2009 to April 2015 when it was closed down.
I believe looking too much back in the past is not good, still, the Russian Reader’s Digest was the best organization I’ve ever seen or been a part of.
I entered (and left) it as a promotion copywriter. It was the best job in my life: I was doing things I love and was getting paid for it! Working in a creative unit in Reader’s Digest was like serving in a special force in the army, taking into account its status and thrill.
Across the years I’ve done several creative workshops working in a team (copywriter plus designer) all across Europe as part of a big RD family. We had American and European tutors who offered us cool creative tasks to develop and then defend in front of our fellow copywriters and designers. Working together, competing, and at the same time sharing ideas was fun. Those were one-week tours, with working days from Monday to Friday. Usually, we were arriving on a previous Sunday and left on a Saturday after the last working Friday. I’ve had lots of time to see Prague, Paris, Lisbon, and Stuttgart. What parties we had there, both our internal Russian adventures and joint international ones.
Back to Reader’s Digest, it all seemed to me like a big never-ending party, too. We had our company of people, centered around the creative department. The RD’s local top management was taking us for what we were: a group of gifted but sometimes recklessly behaving people who were among the best in Europe compared to other Reader’s Digest creative teams.
Finally, my dream to visit Alaska came true when my film documentary project dedicated to the Russian heritage abroad (‘Russian World Without Borders’) was approved and implemented by the company. As a project holder and its executive producer, I led the production team that implemented three cool production expeditions to France, Alaska, and Nepal back in 2011. It was a fantastic experience to see the world, from the South of France’s Martian-colored beaches to the spruce-covered Alaskan islands in the North Pacific to picturesque Nepalese landscapes. When we released it in October 2011, this 3-DVD set project was an absolute success becoming the #1 in terms of sales in the Reader’s Digest video films segment.
The magic is gone now but those magnificent years filled with great people and memories will never fade away. Reader’s Digest was the Organization.
My Favorite Organization
Organization is a fairly open word, it could mean a Government, a club, or even a business. That has made writing this article more difficult for me.
Organizations are a lot like people; some do good works and some are evil but they all tell themselves (and us!) that they are working to make this world a better place. The damage the evil organizations can do is stunning. Can you think of an organization that’s currently murdering on a vast scale, the whole time extolling the good work they are doing? It’s the lead story in every newscast. In my home country there are several organizations combining their efforts in trying to end the Republic in its current form. They will never say that, in fact they claim the exact opposite. With a voting rights assist from another organization, the Supreme Kangaroo Court, they most likely will stage a successful coup in 2024.
The organizations we create are a mirror image of us, with the vast majority working to better us all. But a few create sorrow and despair by eating what is good in us. George Orwell was very clear; one pillar of an evil organization is the wish to re-write and control history. For example: Who won the 2020 US Presidential election? Should white school children in the US be taught about slavery? Just to be on the safe side, lets remove books we don’t like from libraries.
Over the arc of history, the good organizations triumph, even after they sometimes lose. You don’t need to look too far back to see what I mean. Only three hundred years ago the entire planet was ruled by despots called Kings. While there are still a couple of absolute monarchies, the institution has been transformed into organizations that work for good. Roger’s Queen Mum being an excellent example. We weren’t too fond of George III but us Yanks quite like Elizabeth II.
As for an absolute favorite organization, I think I’ll say SPOT. Each year they bring young college students from the UK & local volunteers to area beaches and work to protect turtle nests. Each nest is marked, cataloged and checked daily. The beaches are cleaned and looked after.
They also assist local fishermen by trying to educate them about bycatch. That’s when the net contains animals the fisherman didn’t intend to catch and doesn’t want. These scared animals will sometimes damage valuable nets that fishermen cannot afford to simply replace.
SPOT has helped to transform the attitudes of an island towards the sea. Their impact has been so great that even laws have changed. Their hatchling release programs are well attended by locals and tourist alike. And they have several other programs I haven’t even touched on. To me SOPT embodies the very concept of an organization working for a better world.