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Put yourself in David Pescud’s shoes in 1993.
You’re 46. Thanks to your own hard work and business savvy (and despite profound dyslexia) you’re financially bulletproof and able to retire.
You’ve just built a 50 foot yacht and you’re all set to take off for an idyllic life of cruising the oceans...
Sounds wonderful right?
So why do you stop, take a massive u-turn, create a non-profit organisation called Sailors with disABILITIES, and volunteer the next 20+ years working tirelessly for it?
When I asked David Pescud the big ‘Why’ question, his answer cut to the core of humanity.
'I’m fascinated by challenge.’ he said
'Not just me and a team taking on a challenge, but how other people cope when they are faced with testing circumstances.
For example, how does our 2013 Hobart skipper Kirk Watson accept his blindness AND have gratitude for everything he has AND carve out a successful career as a public servant AND swim in the ocean every day?
Why does Albert Lee, after falling under a train and losing both legs, say, "Wow. I am so grateful to be alive - what can I do with the rest of my life?"
And why does another person in a similar situation become a victim and allow negativity to consume his or her life?
And then, I guess the challenge for me is - Can I help?
Can I show people a way to look at their circumstances without comparing themselves either to the past or to what they think they should be?
And if a person can look at things another way, can I then help that person find new solutions for their challenges?'
David paused, so I asked a big question.
'So I guess SWD must be changing lives, otherwise would you be on that yacht cruising the South Pacific Islands with a beer in your hand?
David’s reply was measured and honest.
‘Because of its plain talking and simple approach to finding solutions, SWD is the best organisation I’ve seen in creating a sense of freedom and an opportunity for people to be who they want to be.
While the ocean is wild and the grumpy skipper might yell sometimes, SWD is a gentle place. SWD does not not judge you. You are safe.
But you’d better not judge yourself either. If you play the disabled card on our yachts, we won’t tolerate it, and you’ll be heading back to shore pretty damn fast.'
And from that place of non-judgment people start to find themselves. They stop comparing, and start finding solutions.
Disadvantaged and ‘at risk’ youth become team players and mentors. Profoundly disabled kids engage with life.
And our Hobart team members leave Sydney as disabled people and arrive in Tasmania as sailors. Somewhere in the middle of Bass Strait, they find themselves.
Of course, permanent change comes slowly. We open up a window and offer people the opportunity to look through it. But it’s up to them to facilitate the outcome.
For some, the view can be just too frightening to confront.
I guess if I sum it up, my career is helping people. I think that’s the only thing that is of real worth on this planet and I believe that’s why we’re here. Others have helped me with my challenges throughout my life, and now it's my turn to pass the baton on to the next generation - to show them what was shown to me.
I feel it’s all of our responsibilities to pick up this baton, to offer love and support, kindness and care, and to show others how to pick up the baton and complete the cycle. One of my greatest fascinations is that we just never know what massive trees might grow from the seeds we sow.
For the kids we take out sailing, the experience might as well be a trip to the moon, because it is so far outside of their normal environment.
There’s no air-conditioning, no artificial light, no noise. It’s just nature pushing the boat along.
The kids get to steer the yacht, and when it takes off in a gust, they really feel the acceleration.
It’s like the boat’s alive and they are riding on a dragon’s back on a sea that has been there since the dawn of time.
Who knows how this will stimulate their imagination and where that will take them?
If we can give a single mum, living 25 miles inland from MacKay, with 2 kids with Cerebral Palsy and one other child ‘the best day she’s had for 20 years’, do we also provide her with happy memories to hold on to and the option to hope and dream?
And if a troubled teenager can come through our Winds of Change program, join our twilight racing team, and accept advice and mentoring from one of our volunteers, does this prompt him to start to consider the places he can go in his life?
I believe that as humans we have an almost unlimited ability to solve problems, if we only look at the world in fresh ways, and work together.
When people are touched by what we do, and they find non-comparative ways of looking at life and learning new outcomes, that's when change begins.
And when that process starts to invade every part of their life, and positive thought patterns slowly become the norm - that’s when I know I’ve done a good day’s work.