‘Why have a life and not help someone else?’
Struck by the plight of families struggling to pay their bills, Bermuda College student Shakir Amory came to a personal decision to give back and recruit as many people as possible to help him do it.
The 18-year-old has banded together with friends to found BrightSide, a group dedicated to assisting others. Now, in between studies, Shakir and others want to turn BrightSide into a fully-functioning family services charity.
Shakir acknowledges that, for many residents, his name has become indelibly linked with the crash two years ago that left him fighting for his life, after a drunk driver hit his auxiliary cycle.
“Everybody asks about it,” he said. “Right now, I’m pretty good. I got the metal taken out of my left leg; I still have metal in my right leg, and I’ve got eye surgery coming up in May. I played my first sports two weeks ago in a basketball game at the college, and I’m still hurting from that.”
Undaunted, Shakir was inspired by the financial difficulties of friends to found BrightSide, with the motto ‘Why have a life and not help someone else?’
The group admits their Boxing Day car wash to raise money for two families was a trial by fire.
“We didn’t know what we were doing,” laughed BrightSide member Jah-Che Cooper, also 18. “Everything was rushed, the weather was bad and we spent a lot of time just standing there. It was a learning experience.”
Shakir said that day’s takings, just a couple of hundred dollars, remain in a bank account as the group juggles college work with learning the basics of how to become a charity.
“We went to help at the Somerset Seventh-day Adventist clothes drive two weeks ago, and I saw a lot of people I knew, people I didn’t know needed help,” Shakir said. “There’s a lot of need out there.”
The group is offering its services to seniors’ advocates Age Concern. Recruiting people to do unpaid odd jobs for the elderly hasn’t always been easy, he said.
“A lot of people have said no,” he shrugged. “But a couple have said yes, and that’s how it gets started.”
The group hasn’t evolved to the point of making financial contributions, he said, but helps out with small tasks.
Part of why BrightSide has won sponsorship from the Seventh-day Adventist Church is Shakir’s openness to others, according to pastor and director of Family Ministries Jeffrey Brown,
“Shakir is one of our finest young people, and we’re pleased that his outreach is not limited to the church,” Pastor Brown said. “They seem to have united people from different faiths and backgrounds to help better the community.”
At the urging of Families Minister Glenn Blakeney, Shakir is seeking sponsorship and guidance to develop BrightSide into a charity.
“We really want to have a summer camp ready for families around the Prospect and back of town neighbourhoods,” he explained. “We want something extremely low-cost that can offer families activities, like field trips and art classes, football, even educational activities. Mr Blakeney said we could be looking at $10,000 in costs.”
Learning how to attract sponsorship and track down a work space in the midst of liberal arts studies at the college is “tough”, he said, but the group continues to grow.
To join BrightSide, offer a day’s help with chores, or to chip in with sponsorship, contact Shakir, Jah-Che or Peter McGlashin at BrightsideSA[AT]hotmail.com, BrightSideJC[AT]hotmail.com or BrightSidePM[AT]hotmail.com.