This is the first in a weekly series of interviews with Starfishers. Starfishers are amazing people who are making a difference in a community or in the world. To read more about Starfishers and Operation Starfish, click here. The purpose of this is to inspire us to begin projects of our own. I believe that many of us have that “If only we had this, we could do help/save that…” feeling but aren’t sure where to start. I thought a good way to inspire others would be to have those that have done it share their stories.

First up is Jo Wright and Mineseeker Foundation.

Mineseeker Foundation - The Sole of Africa

  1. Please tell us about your project, when you started it, and how it has made a difference for others.

    As with much in life (well critical moments anyway! i.e. meeting my Husband, becoming self-employed, discovering minimalism, blogging etc…) I stumbled across this project. It actually came out of the blue and is an interesting story which I will likely share one day – Think serendipity!

    An unexpected phone call introduced me to Mineseeker Foundation and their campaign ‘The Sole of Africa’ last August. I decided to do a little research and came across Julio’s Story.

    I watched [this video] and was totally inspired and humbled by Julio.
    Upon meeting with Mineseeker I discovered that Julio (am amputee victim supported by Mineseeker foundation, and their campaign ‘The Sole of Africa’, to complete his computer science diploma) had since got employment with a South African ISP provider based in Mozambique. On his own initiative Julio created a school program for less fortunate landmine victims such as himself. He has organised 2 classrooms in a local school in his hometown of Boarne (approx 30miles from Maputo, where he works). As well as the classrooms he has recruited the services of two English teachers who are giving the rural based survivors Basic English lessons (their home language is Portuguese). This will prepare them for better opportunities to seek employment in an office environment, as agricultural work with no limbs is not an easy option. As well as this, Julio wishes to use his computer knowledge to also teach basic computer skills to bolster their capabilities.

  2. What inspired you to create change in this area?

    When I met with Mineseeker we spoke in depth about Julio and how through their support Julio had made a difference not only to his life, but had started to make a difference to those around him.

    I had an idea to engage UK High School Students to help Julio’s School Project in Mozambique. Many schools get involved in fundraising in the UK, My idea was to approach a local school and to ask for their support. The concept was that I’d go into the school and help them develop fundraising events in a defined timeframe, whilst also helping to educate them about fundraising and what it means to be socially responsible and be a good Citizen. The money they raise would be donated to help fund and thus develop Julio’s School Project.

  3. What does it mean for you, personally, to inspire change in this area?

    Those of us in the UK, US and other developed countries are incredibly lucky. There is an abundance of opportunity; all that stops anyone fulfilling their dreams is themselves – in my opinion of course. This doesn’t necessarily mean making lots of money – for me that certainly isn’t the primary motivator. To be so privileged is it not our duty to make some positive change to those who do not have the luxuries we have? By luxury I mean an education system, medication, life’s necessities (the things we take for granted and in some cases complain about – the NHS for example in the UK – many a joke has been made there, but if my child is sick it will be treated) – these are luxuries to many other countries including Africa. Julio has taken responsibility he is looking to improve the lives of those affected by landmines, if I can help just a little I will.

  4. I think that many of us get inspired at one time or another to make a change somewhere, but a lot of us never do anything about it. Once you had the inspiration, how did you get started? What was the first step you took?

    Very simple! Just do it! It’s not complicated! I wanted to do something to help Julio – look at what he is accomplishing with all the adversity he has encountered in life. I can easily volunteer a few hours a week to assist a class of students. I also wanted to help the UK students understand a little more of what is happening in the world beyond the UK and how they can help in their own way.

    I made a few calls, dropped a few e-mails, met a couple of people and job done.

  5. Did you research to see if any other foundations or people were addressing these issues?

    My day job is fundraising. I have a good feeling for what is going on in the not-for-profit sector. Landmines have been big news in years gone by, but it has gone quiet of late. There is much work to do, and Mineseeker are addressing these issues. For me I wanted to start small and simple and give Julio (an inspiration to all) a bit of help. From small seeds, great things grow. I wanted to see whether a little help from a few students could really kick-start Julio’s project.

  6. What is your background? What did you do full time before this project?

    I’m a self-employed Fundraising and Marketing Consultant and love, love, love what I do. For me it isn’t a job, it’s my calling. That may sound awfully idealistic but I love my work, sometimes I get paid, sometimes I don’t – it makes no difference ultimately (apart from paying the bills haha!).

  7. What were your fears starting out and how did you get over them?

    Whenever I start any project (I’m self-employed) there are two major fears:
    • Fear of failure
    • Fear of Success

    And both are as scary! What if I can’t get any interest in the project, what if I cannot motivate anyone to support the cause/campaign. What if the hopes and expectations of those in need are unrealized – will I let them down?
    On the flip side, what if there is lots of interest, what if I am spread too thin, under-prepared, could I miss opportunities?

    I’ve learnt a lot in 36 (nearly 37) years of life, but one thing that stands out is not to worry about what might be. Life tends not to be that predictable. A person’s biggest fear should be inertia – once you get momentum it tends to work out. Stickability is 95% of ability (David J Schwartz)

  8. How did you acquire your first donations and how difficult was it?

    I’m not directly asking for donations through this project as others are doing the fundraising. However in my experience it’s not that difficult to get donations. As a professional fundraiser you grow the hind of a rhino 🙂

    You ask, ask a second time and then ask again – the asking never stops. Doors get closed, but one always opens. Perseverance is key. If you are genuinely passionate about the cause, charity or project, that will inspire others. Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm. My advice is not to ever get involved in something that doesn’t mean something to you – potential donors can see through any half-hearted approach. Your reservations are theirs also. Passion and enthusiasm are the two main ingredients to successful fundraising.

  9. How much of your time does this project take?

    At the moment just 2-3 voluntary hours each week. It may be that I get more involved with time – I’d like to.

  10. Were there times you thought to yourself “What am I doing?” Did you have second thoughts? If so, what kept you going?

    I haven’t had any second thoughts about this project, but there have been other projects that I have had these thoughts about. Sometimes you do need to know when to call something a day. That’s healthy in my opinion.

  11. At what point did you realize that your project was actually taking off?

    When I met with the UK students and some had already completed their fundraising and had been kindly supported by family and friends. That was fantastic. Not just for Julio’s project but for the students themselves. They had put time and effort into doing the fundraising, I was proud of them and they should be proud of themselves.

  12. How many people have you inspired to help (not just monetarily) in your mission?

    So far my involvement has been with a class of approximately 25 UK students (which reaches out to those they have contacted and asked to get involved by sponsoring and donating) and I have also had dealings with teaching staff. My hope is that they will enjoy fundraising, talk about it, and that will inspire others to get involved.

  13. Have you gotten to see first-hand the results of your efforts (the reactions of the people you have helped, etc?) If yes, how was that for you the first time? Describe how you felt.

    I have not met Julio in person but I hope to one day. We’ll have to see what happens – let nature take its course. However the world is a very small place now, I’m sure there will be opportunity to have a face to face at some point by the miracle that is the world wide web!

  14. Do you have plans to create other projects?

    It would be great to see the project rolled out to other High Schools. It is very scalable. I’m a “take it one step at a time gal”. I want to learn as much as possible from this first stage and see what improvements can be made to be even more successful next time.

  15. What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far? What is the biggest challenge you face everyday? What is your biggest challenge right now?

    No challenges so far, perhaps as and when it grows they will arise. No problem – they’ll get dealt with – nothing is impossible!

  16. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

    Yes Marianne – I’d like to thank you for letting me share Julio’s School Project with your readers…
    If anyone would like any more information, or would like to get involved then please, please drop me a line at simplybeingmum(at)gmail(dot)com

    Please do go and take a look at his clip on You Tube – the first time I saw it I cried…

    I’ll leave you with Julio’s own words
    ‘I can’t run, but I can run to the future…’

Thank you so much Jo for sharing with us your work. It’s absolutely fantastic what you are doing and I just know that many people will be inspired by this!
While charity work is her day job, Jo also blogs about simple living at SimplyBeingMum. Be sure to check out her blog!

If you have any further questions for Jo, please ask them in the comments. And don’t forget to share this interview to help Jo and the Mineseeker Foundation spread the word about the danger of landmines. The links are located just below this sentence!

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34 Responses

  1. Gena on 28 Mar 2011

    I am so glad to know about this, Jo & Marianney! What a great organization, I’ll have to share this with some friends of ours who live part time in Kenya. Looking forward to more Starfishers’ stories! So great to know this is what Jo is up to besides inspiring our menus 😉

    • Jo@simplybeingmum on 28 Mar 2011

      Thank you Gena (and Marianne for interviewing me!)…
      It would be fantastic if you did pass on the link/info. It really is a ‘word of mouth’ exercise at the moment to start getting the message out there.
      Back to the kitchen for me! haha! Have a lovely day on your beautiful island – Jo

  2. […] want Deb’s Story to stay up as the main post on my blog. There is an interview I did over at A Life Set Free today – so if you want to see what I get up to when I am not in the kitchen – check it […]

  3. Hi Marianne and Jo,

    Great interview, it’s always wonderful to hear of people who are out there making a difference in the lives of others.
    Little by little, bit by bit, every time we make an effort we can help others.

    “Perseverance is key. If you are genuinely passionate about the cause, charity or project, that will inspire others. Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm.”- great words, great truth.

    • Jo@simplybeingmum on 28 Mar 2011

      Thank you David! There’s a famous strapline over here by one of the big supermarkets
      “Every Little Helps!” – and it’s true

  4. Jo@simplybeingmum on 28 Mar 2011

    Wanted to drop Julio’s Blog in here also in case anyone is interested in finding out more about him personally as well as Mineseeker…

  5. This is a great post and a good cause.

    I’m glad to see you mention fear of success, Jo. I’ve often said that stops more people than fear of failure. I have one friend in particular who refuses to enjoy success and instead abandons projects just as they are coming into their own. I’ve seen it happen with her lots of time — and it makes we wonder if I’m doing it too…

    • Jo@simplybeingmum on 28 Mar 2011

      It is so much easier to talk about something than do it… There is no doubt that ideas and progress can be sabotaged by the owner, I have seen it happen many times. Yet at that point of potential sabotage, if you press on instead it can be the make or break point. Next time you hit the spot Gip go with it ,see what happens and make sure you keep me posted!

  6. Amy @ Nomadtopia on 28 Mar 2011

    Great interview, Marianne, and great project, Jo! This is really inspiring, and Jo’s story is a wonderful reminder that we can all just take an idea and run with it.

    And yes, I think it’s true that the fear of success can sometimes be just as daunting as the fear of failure – another good reason to just go for it no matter what.

    • Jo@simplybeingmum on 28 Mar 2011

      Thanks Amy! To coin a phrase ‘Just Do It’ – don’t talk about it, have a go… Some things work, some don’t – you learn as much if not more by your mistakes than your successes….

      • Ah yes this is sooooo true Jo! I have learned from many failures!

        • Jo@simplybeingmum on 28 Mar 2011

          Me too….Twas the voice of experience speaking 🙂

  7. Jenny @ exconsumer on 28 Mar 2011

    Thanks for sharing Jo’s story with us Marianne. 🙂

    Jo – I think it’s amazing that you’re doing this as an ongoing project. Devoting 2-3 hours per week seems so doable, I think your story will certainly inspire people to get involved.

    And yes, fear of success is very real. Wishing for success is one thing, but coming into success — well, it can be downright terrifying!

    • Jo@simplybeingmum on 28 Mar 2011

      I predict great success for you Jenny! I do hope that the word gets spread and Julio’s story inspires others…

  8. Kai on 28 Mar 2011

    You can connect with Julio on his Facebook page at!/profile.php?id=100001409402265

    He would love to hear from you!

    • Jo@simplybeingmum on 28 Mar 2011

      Hi Kai – fancy bumping into you here! thanks for the link….Jo

  9. Thanks everyone for reading Jo’s story! Did you watch the video? It really is touching and it makes me so happy to see Julio rise above what has happened to him. Makes all of my problems seem so insignificant in comparison!

    Thank you for the link to Julio’s FB page, Kai!

    • Jo@simplybeingmum on 28 Mar 2011

      Thanks again Marianne… It was a privilege to be interviewed… Jo

  10. I read the whole interview never realizing (until I hit the comments) that I was reading about my Jo!!! What do I mean by that? I know one Jo and she’s Simply Being Mum. I didn’t know this lovely Jo was also a full-time fundraiser and spear-heading good work on the side too.

    How do you find the time? You’re a mom, a blogger, a full-time professional, and a charity start-up. Amazing, and thanks so much for sharing Julio’s story with us Jo.

    And thanks to you Marianney, for starting your Starfishers interviews. I’m blown away by this new series.

    • so glad you enjoyed it Tanja!

      And yes, our little Jo is an amazing woman is she not?? 🙂

      • Jo@simplybeingmum on 01 Apr 2011

        How puffed up do I feel! Literally I can feel pride rising! haha!
        Didn’t you know I wear a superwoman costume under my apron (double haha!)
        Of course only joking! Better not let the Hubby get wind of that he’ll think it’s his birthday (triple haha!)
        The little I do to help is a drop in the ocean, Julio is the one who is really making the difference!
        I feel very honoured to be ‘our/my Jo’ – made my day Girls………..
        ps posting on Sunday something you may be interested in – if I ever get chance to write it… It’s about how we can make a difference

        • marianney on 01 Apr 2011

          can’t wait to see what it is Jo!

  11. deb Life Beyond Stuff on 31 Mar 2011

    I’m late with this but I have to say great work to both of you.

    With all the disasters in the world today it’s really easy to get compassion fatigue but Jo you have a really nice way of enabling the connection.

    I think it’s great that there are “starfish” but also important to remember that most of us can be starfish in some way in our own little corners of the world and that’s important too.

    • Jo@simplybeingmum on 01 Apr 2011

      Fatigue is a great word for it Deb. I talk a lot about Donor fatigue when trying to keep charities expectations in check. For me raising funds is about connection, When promoting or supporting a charity it is key that the relationship is genuine, being personally affected is the main motivator in many cases – but not all. What struck me about Julio is how regardless of the adversity he has encountered he is able to motivate himself to help others. How can that not motivate me even though I am not personally affected by it? It struck a chord with key beliefs I hold.

    • marianney on 01 Apr 2011

      Thanks for coming by Deb! And I whole-heartedly agree that we can all be “starfishers” in our own way and that’s why I want to profile people like Jo, so the rest of us can see that anyone can do it and that we should do it!

  12. Julio HELP Intiative on 02 Apr 2011

    Hi good people,

    I just thank you everbody to be involved in get donation to put my school umputees stand and garanty the future of the victims of war her in Mozambique.

    Thank you

    • marianney on 03 Apr 2011

      Julio! Your story is so inspiring! Thank you so much for everything that YOU do! I hope we can spread the word about what you are doing and get more support for you!

    • Jo@simplybeingmum on 04 Apr 2011

      Hi Julio – Hope it’s all going well over there – Jo

  13. jenny smythe on 02 Apr 2011

    Marianne thank you so much this is AMAZING. I love how Jo says ‘it isn’t a job, it’s my calling.’. Wonderful interview. This is such an inspiration to me. I love reading how she got started it truly is wonderful.

    • Jo@simplybeingmum on 02 Apr 2011

      Thanks Jenny – It sounds a bit idealistic to term it a ‘calling’ but it is true. I was lucky to find the right ‘job’ for me in my mid-late twenties. It’s also a job that allows me to be self-employed which I love, and to do pro-bona work when I wish to as in this case for this small project.

      • marianney on 03 Apr 2011

        I hope that we can all be so lucky as to follow our callings Jo! I think that giving and being of service to others is what brings us true happiness and joy.

        Jenny I’m so glad you’re inspired by this! That’s what I hope to spread with this series 🙂

  14. Julio Colete on 07 Jun 2011

    Your commeHello everyone,

    I liked to tease you again for your collaboration for effective implementation of the school project for disabled people and their communities in Mozambique, still with a lot of difficulties to achieve …. Please help me!

  15. Julio Colete on 07 Jun 2011

    Hello everyone,

    I liked to tease you again for your collaboration for effective implementation of the school project for disabled people and their communities in Mozambique, still with a lot of difficulties to achieve …. Please help me!
    +258 826760480

  16. Julio Colete on 07 Jun 2011

    Hello good people
    We all have the right education to ensure a future, no matter the social component in that each is but the humanism and that it’s time to extend a hand to the next … ddeficiente be no physical limitations but rather a means hope and hope esra on self-formation for self-employment. The poor physical reveals itself when there is hope on his face, and for that we should all do something to support you to prepare your future without the Phantasm the war that affected them. Help me help!