Updated: May 16, 2020
As we say goodbye to a turbulent year, Sunshine People founder Nahla Summers sets out her vision for 2020.
Eight years ago, Nahla Summers' life changed completely. Her husband, while taking part in a charity bike ride, suddenly passed away. She fell into a deep depression, unable to leave the house.
“At that time in my life, everything in my peripheral vision was dark,” she says.
When Nahla was ready to face the outside world again, she decided to take a walk to her local beach. As the sun began to set, she stopped to watch a man on a horse completing a complicated routine of backwards figures of eight.
“Whilst I was watching this, a man came up to me walking his dog,” she recalls. “He started to share stories of his life, just being friendly really, saying how he had worked with horses and sharing how horses had healing powers.”
Once he had left, Nahla experienced an overwhelming feeling of hope. It was this chance meeting that spurred her into action. Just six months later, she climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, raising £14,000 in memory of her partner.
Curious as to how the money would be spent, she got in touch with the charity. She was told that it had 'gone into the big pot'. Looking back over her relationship with her partner – one, she describes, of deep kindness and understanding – Nahla decided she wanted to better represent her partner. It was then that Sunshine People was born.
“Each year I complete a challenge in his memory, and instead of asking people to donate money, I ask them to do an act of kindness for a stranger instead,” Nahla says. “It's been me on my own up to this point, but now people are coming on board and we're getting some momentum.”
So, what's next for Sunshine People?
After a year of uncertainty, society is crying out for kindness.
“2020 will be where we see some major change,” says Nahla. “Right now, nobody wants politics to be happening like it is. They are sick and tired of it and want to see kindness and collaboration.”
In 2020, Sunshine People will bring kindness to the masses by collecting one million acts of kindness. The first ever campaign of its kind will invite individuals and organisations to donate acts of kindness, tracking them via an online portal on the Sunshine People website.
“It's not just the million acts of kindness that will be dedicated on our website – it's all of the other acts of kindness that will happen because of that. There's another two, three, four, five million acts that will happen off of the back of it,” Nahla explains. “Eight years ago, I met a guy on a beach who, indirectly, without realising, sparked the creation of Sunshine People by having the kindness to speak to someone who looked a bit sad. That has snowballed into thousands of acts of kindness.”
New year, new challenge
Also in 2020, Nahla and the growing Sunshine People team will take on their biggest challenge yet. They will travel to 20 countries across the world, completing a major act of kindness in each location. With plans yet to be finalised, it's an exciting time for Nahla and the movement she is spearheading. As well as opening up vital conversations of kindness between global organisations, the challenge will give social media students from Bournemouth University and Nottingham Trent University the opportunity to work on a life changing project.
A shift in society
Moving into the new year, Nahla is confident that the political and social climate is ready to adopt a culture of kindness. It's only when society recognises the need for change that change is able to happen – and, if there's anything to be taken from the past 12 months, it's a feeling of deep disillusion with the way things are currently run. Now, there is a real understanding that we need to create a kinder world. This recognition will propel Nahla's vision forward as Sunshine People continues to expand.
“Simon Kempton, the Treasurer of the National Board for Police Federation, gives the example of drink driving,” says Nahla. “The change didn't really start until society decided it wasn't acceptable to be in the pub drinking and then driving home. It's so frowned up today, but it wasn't before. Society has to make that shift.”