The importance of giving
While pro bono work is a significant part of how the Bar gives back to society, over a third of barristers volunteer for charity work outside their profession. Haresh Sood inspires with some alternative ways of giving
We all see and hear of people doing charity runs, walks and triathlons for a number of causes, which is a valuable source of fundraising.
The message I would like to spread at the Bar, however, is that giving can come in many forms – donating blood, organs or hair, or helping someone get back on their feet. All these are alternative forms of giving and can yield great personal pleasure. We can get caught up in our daily working lives and materialism, sometimes forgetting those in need who are less fortunate in health or finances. ‘Giving yourself’ means spreading positive energy which, I believe, will always come back to you.
I come from a Hindu background in which helping others has always been promoted through various philosophies. This had an impact upon my thinking as I was growing up and during my school days in the early 90s, friends, family and I started to engage in charity work with a difference – we always felt a personal touch was very important when helping others and raising awareness. Haresh Sood Productions (HSP), a group of aspiring young musicians, actors and writers, was established to produce and direct theatre productions raising awareness of social, medical and charitable issues.
Over the years, the HSP team has raised over £10,000 and much needed publicity and awareness for various causes, such as Save the Children and the importance of its work educating and feeding children and shielding them from abuse. The team has also spread the word on the importance of healthy living in South Asian communities in conjunction with the British Heart Foundation, as these communities suffer from more heart-related conditions. We have helped the SNJ Trust in India and the UK with its work ensuring that diabetic girls – disregarded for being ‘only girls’ – get insulin. Other HSP projects have included rebuilding the lives of those affected by cancer, leukaemia and natural disasters such as in the Indian earthquake appeal. I spent four months working with children with epilepsy in a children’s hospital in New Delhi in India. This is a condition I also have, and I wanted to understand why treatment was not given to patients from villages. The support of various dignitaries and international celebrities, including actor and film director contacts made through my media and drama work, has assisted many projects. In 2004 at the age of 27, I was the youngest person invited to sit on Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Unsung Heroes Judging Panel which awards people for their outstanding contribution for giving to others in alternative ways that rarely get heard about. Next year, HSP will mark 25 years of its work and plans to raise awareness of acid attacks and problems with the law on acid selling.
‘Giving yourself’ – real hair wigs
Before becoming a barrister I explored other career paths, including acting, and was often cast in roles which made use of my curly hair. During this time, one of my friends suggested I donate my hair for a wig and in 2007, HSP launched ‘Give Yourself’, a project which encouraged people to give more than just money and give something of themselves. We discovered the Little Princess Trust, which makes real hair wigs for children going through chemotherapy, and in 2010, after three years of growth, my first donation was made. In 2013, the second donation was made while teaching at the QMC Hospital School and now the third cut is pending. In court, I usually tie it back as we are a profession in which men don’t really have long hair. The comedy of it is that I have often been called ‘Miss Sood’ by judges who mistake me for a woman.
Contributor Haresh Sood, Derwent Chambers, Derby and a member of Counsel’s editorial board