In the movie Forrest Gump, there is one particular line that has taken its place in the pantheon of great cinema quotes. Tom Hanks’ titular character states it on several occasions but the advice comes from his Mama.
“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”
It’s one of those chin-scratchers that initially drench you in profundity but, once you’ve taken time to dry off, you soon realise it is vapid nonsense.
And yet, the sentiment resonates. Whilst we may dismiss them at the time, the words of our parents and often, our Mothers, leave the most lasting of impressions.
This is certainly the case with Manx-born, London-based Anna Cottle.
Anna’s selfless charity ventures and empathy for her fellow peoples stems from not only her upbringing but from the wise words of her own Mum. Upon leaving home for the States – as part of the Ella Ohlsen scholarship awarded by the IOM Government – Anna’s Mum left her a little book; a pocketbook of wisdom for her to cling to. In it were the words that no matter what happened in her life, “the world is still a beautiful place and we are very fortunate to be in it”.
Get that in ya Mrs Gump!
From a cursory glance at Anna’s achievements, one makes the assumption she’s carried these words with her throughout her intrepid adventures. After a year in the States promoting general Manx awesomeness, she found herself in Stockholm for seven years and now resides in London, working as a freelance event manager. Our Anna has found herself catering for the needs of Wimbledon, Jameson and Cadbury’s. Not to mention Serena Williams, Rudimental, the participants in Prince Harry’s Invictus Games and the ’20 Rugby Legends’ during the 2015 Rugby World Cup opening ceremony. And you thought your job was exciting!
It was her move to London that brought Anna to focus on a campaign she believed in passionately. The inequality of wealth in England’s capital was laid bare. Something didn’t sit right with her; that grim, inescapable, unfathomable reality that there are people out there who are homeless, cold, and alone. Then there were others, those less overtly in distress; in full-time employment but unable to afford basic essentials like food or sanitary protection. It’s something we are fairly disconnected from here on the Island, but this painful truth was unavoidable in London.
In April 2017, Anna had an idea. The end of May would welcome International Menstrual Hygiene day and so, she decided to see how many sanitary items she could collect during the month. The response and generosity was overwhelming; a true testament to Anna’s Mum’s words; a rabble-rousing call to arms for humanity!
When the big day came, they had collected enough sanitary wear to equip one woman for 16 years. Expanding upon the infectious altruistic chain, nearly half of the sanitary towels and all the tampons were then donated to the Hackney Food Bank, an organisation close to Anna’s heart as it served the needs of people near her area. Finally, all remaining sanitary towels were donated to the Helen Bamber Foundation. This organisation provides counselling and support for women arriving to the UK who have been the victims of torture. As many of these women come from cultures where the use of tampons is forbidden, they were understandably extremely thankful for the generosity.
What is most apparent here is that indignation at the crushing disparity in the world can be channelled into positive change. Rather than losing herself to despondency at our plight, Anna was charged with a desire to help, to make things better somehow. All is not lost.
Calling upon organisational, planning and strategizing skills from her career background aided with community support, Anna’s generosity has helped less fortunate people. What a simple and wonderful thing to give.
And she’s not done yet. This summer she will be traveling to Uganda for a month, to coach and play netball with local schoolchildren as part of the Netball Development Trust. Whilst there, Anna is hoping to promote a huge drive to collect sanitary towels for the teenage girls – many of them are missing up to 25% of their education due to lack of supplies. This is a staggering and truly disheartening statistic. Anna and her team are hoping to keep the girls in education and also playing netball! If you wish to donate to this incredible cause please read more here.
So, finally, what is International Women’s Day to Anna? Another astute assertion from Mrs. Cottle, was when she told her daughter that she was a human being first, and a woman second. This is what true feminism is to Anna. Not the stereotype that results in antagonistic whataboutery from the dim-witted, no.
Feminism is about equality and the simple and reasonable expectation that no person should be held back on account of their gender.
“International Woman’s Day is about highlighting areas of life which can be improved for women, celebrating areas in which we have achieved equality, and supporting and thanking all those who are helping to reduce the imbalance, whoever and wherever they are”
Consider this our thanks and support for a kindly soul who we are proud to call one of our own.