Following on from my previous interview with Global Hand, I decided to find out a bit more about the people behind the organisation. In this next part of the series, I sat down with the director of the charity, Ben, and asked him about his background, the advice he would give to his younger self, and his family.
Name: BEN SOLANKY
Title: DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL HAND UK
DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL JOURNEY, BACKGROUND, AND PREVIOUS PROJECTS YOU HAVE BEEN A PART OF.
My background could be summarised in a simple way – i am the son of a refugee. My father was given 30 days to leave Uganda on august 4th 1971. In a dramatic change in my family’s hopes of raising a family in there, they were given days to leave the country with one suitcase. My eldest brother was 6 months old, and I was subsequently born. It was a community group that came and rallied round and supported my family in ways that equated to stitching up mattresses, providing clothes and food, picking up my family at airports and taking us to a strange country. It was that goodwill, that love and that help which allowed my family to survive potentially quite a critical point in our lives. So I believe that experience has played a powerful part in my desire to say ‘thank you’ throughout my life.
In terms of what I have done with my life? I am a student of philosophy, so I find I’m pretty much qualified for good pub conversations and very little else! I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I ended up working in a charity. I didn’t plan for it, but I enjoyed it and kept drifting from charity to charity. I have now acquired enough wisdom and experience to understand this sector a bit better and to apply what are my hopes for trying to influence the whole sector.
“I LOVE LISTENING TO PEOPLE AND HEARING THEIR STORIES…I’M A BIT OF A SOCAL ANIMAL.”
OUTSIDE OF GLOBAL HAND, WHAT ARE YOUR INTERESTS AND HOBBIES THAT YOU TAKE ON?
I feel I’m quite boring! I have three children, soon to be four, and I find that they keep me occupied. I absolutely love my family – i’ve got three boys and they’re very active – I love hanging out with them. I really like stories and narratives so I enjoy watching and reading good stories, I love listening to people and hearing their stories so I’m a bit of a social animal. I’m also a lover of music.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
I don’t know – however, it’s a profound ‘i don’t know’. I would love to counsel and listen to that younger self, but I would also encourage that younger self; the people who have inspired me most are the ones who have encouraged and inspired me. So I don’t know what I would say, but I think I would encourage.
IS THERE ANYTHING/ ANY ISSUE YOU FEEL PARTICULARLY STRONGLY ABOUT?
Yes…what I care about is caring and loving. I would love to see more of that. I see a lot of this hatred, anger and a lot of people throwing their hands up in despair and it’s hard to think what the antidotes are to such situations where somebody wants to hurt another and take their land. It just feels like a massive spiral that if somebody hurts someone, they have to do the same to the next person and it’s a cycle that we keep observing. Personally, I see that cycle continuing, and there is nothing that will break it until an action of love breaks it down. As an organisation, we take inspiration seriously….it is a powerful tool against that hatred, that hurt.