Walk to inspire compassion and hope
It is in times of crisis that we really see people coming together. With that in mind, Helen Orchard is hoping for a hurricane.
She has pulled together a growing list of 30 businesses and charities for Walk Together Bermuda after being inspired by Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.
Next Sunday’s stroll will begin at 2pm. It aims to “inspire hope and compassion” as participants make their way from Victoria Park and around North Hamilton.
“Everyone in our community is familiar with the way this island comes together after a hurricane; we help each other out with no consideration of a person’s colour, the school they went to or where they work — that’s the spirit of this walk,” she said.
“After the hurricane, we would do anything for anybody else, there’s no question. We are unified — age, sex, race — it doesn’t matter. We help each other out.”
The office manager and coordinator at Benedict Associates was online when she came across The Elders, which she described as “a group of global leaders who are supporting peace building, addressing human suffering and promoting the shared interests of humanity”.
“Nelson Mandela called on [them] to walk the earth for principles he espouses — health, peace, justice and equality,” she said.
“I have always been interested in the way people talk to and treat one other. It’s important to find ways to develop compassion, understanding and collaboration.”
The mother of three’s first son has special needs. For years she and her husband Mark did not know what was wrong.
He would be loving and affectionate one minute; the next he would become “angry and volatile”, throwing whatever was in his hands.
Doctor’s eventually diagnosed ring chromosome 17, a chromosome disorder, when Oliver was 10.
“We just thought we were really bad parents,” she said. “We didn’t know how to manage him.
“It was great for the medical community because it explained the seizures, but it didn’t give us a path forward on how to parent him and a way that would give him a thriving life.”
Now 26, Oliver volunteers at WindReach and Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo twice a week. Mrs Orchard said that experience gave her empathy for others in the community; she did not want to see anyone flounder without support.
“My love and acceptance of him as he is, really as he is, and not wanting to change him, because I did want to change him for a long time,” she said.
“He has shifted out of this aggression and anger. That love and acceptance has allowed me to have that with other people.
“[My husband] Mark [Orchard] has been incredibly loving and supportive; my number one champion through everything that we’ve dealt with.”
She took her first leadership training and development course five years ago.
She also participated in Curb’s truth and reconciliation conversations as part of her journey.
“What I discovered was it’s really about leadership in your own life. That has a ripple effect out into your environment — my environment, my family, my world, my Bermuda.
“Anybody who lives in Bermuda and has been touched in their hearts by Bermuda is a collaborator.
“I started talking to people saying, ‘Would you like to collaborate on this idea?’ Yes, yes, yes, yes, everywhere has been a yes.”
The 58-year-old said it had been hard to put herself out there; she prefers to “stay behind the scenes”, but was spurred on by two quotes that she loves.
“Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone — and here I am standing at the edge of the cliff,” she laughed.
“The other quote is Martin Luther King: ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’
“It’s not about me; it’s about what gets created out of this walk. That’s what’s really powerful — possibility.”
She hopes the walk will connect people that would not usually have the opportunity to have a conversation “to share and listen and learn”.
“To not be afraid to talk about things that are important, that matter in your life, things that challenge or concern you. We have no idea what’s behind anybody’s face or what’s in their heart,” she said.
“When people connect, miracles can happen. Miracles don’t have to be big things, they can just be holding somebody’s hand because that’s what they need.
“It could be the death of a loved one, people who are dealing with gangs or somebody that’s died in a bike accident.
“Imagine what our island could be like when people care about each other deeply and show kindness and care daily.”
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