What can this one Avis do?

We have the pleasure of sharing this story with you. The story was written by a V Star Sydney member Mark Whittle, on his Blog – Excellence of Service. Mark wanted to share the stories of the everyday people who are passionate about what they do, irrespective of payment.

This story below is about another V Star in Avis Mulhall. Anyone who has met Avis would describe her as vivacious and tenacious. Avis preferes to say she likes to bounce off the walls. In this interview with Avis, Mark captures the essence and drive of one lass who is creating the waves of change through mmMule and Think-Act-Change…

We all know that saying: Never, never, never, give up – Winston ChurchillAvis Mulhall is the person that never gives up in her life, she gets up and gets on with it, no matter whatever struggles are put in her way. I first met Avis back in December at the second Think Act Change meetup she organised. Over the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know her and hear about her personal journey and the goals and plans she has set for the future.

She’s not your ordinary 32 year old woman, and she’s about as far from a Carrie Bradshaw wanna-be as you can get. She has made some life sacrifices and continues to battle with health issues. Even while we were putting this story together she had to spend the whole day in St Vincent’s hospital getting iron infusions to help with her health. But still found the time to let people know that donating blood especially during the holidays is so important.

Hopefully after you read her story, it might make you want to “THINK ACT CHANGE”

This is her story:

” I grew up in Dublin, you can say I was a little bit random, so the Mary Tyler Moore show, a retro show, is how I pictured myself. I don’t know why though, always pictured myself being single, independent woman, instead of having those dreams of being married and all that stuff.

I was always fascinated by National Geographic as a kid and always had this obsession with travelling and going to Africa. My Mum always says that from when I was really tiny, I had this fascination with Africa and don’t really know where it came from, but I always wanted to go there.

I had the perfect childhood, every memory I have from when I was really young is amazing. But life changed forever when Dad died, I was only eight years old, so that sort of put a little bit of dampener on things. My mum was 42 and was left with five kids under the age of 12. Mum struggled bringing us up, and the money that we did have we lost. During the summer we were sometimes separated, aunts and uncles and our next-door neighbour looked after us, so it was a fairly tough few years.The only people at the time between 8 and 19 years of age that I related to was my art teacher and photography teacher at school, and being both males, I craved the attention from them both, and saw them as important male figures because of the loss of my dad. Even to this day we are still in contact.

I find that photography and drawing is very therapeutic and you can loose yourself for hours in it, and then after six hours you can think where has the day gone, I have one of these brains that doesn’t turn off and it sort of helps me relax and have Avis time. My poor mother though she had five kids who were obsessed with art and we would destroy the place with paint all over the house.

I went off to University and studied photography, loved university, but had a few troubles there. When you go to art school, they are keen for you to get in touch with your feelings and I always thought that was all a bit of bullshit. But I started to accept it more and the more I explored my own journey through photography I realised that it was probably the first time I actually dealt with my fathers death.  I suffered with depression, but found art and creativity a great force in helping me dealing with depression and the struggles in my life.”

At 19 years of age, everything changed again in her life, her little brother Mark at aged 18 at the time fell ill with leukaemia. At the same time her sister was getting married yet he wouldn’t let her cancel the wedding. Avis became the match for the bone marrow transplant, and ended up being the donor for Mark, during the same time her thesis was due.

“The transplant went well, Mark was horribly unwell, and I had a bad reaction to the transplant and was sick afterwards, but Mark was sick for about two years total, so after that it sort of turned me off photography and I didn’t pick up a camera for close to 3 years.

So I decided to go to Africa at the age of 21, but two days before I was supposed to go, I ended up in hospital and had to cancel my trip. I ended up staying in Ireland then, falling in love and put off my trip and got a job in recruitment between the ages of 24 – 29.

During this time I was earning a big six-figure salary, was in a long term relationship and got swept up with the money and the social life of it all. I was living the dream, buying the best clothes, we bought two beautiful cars, two beautiful houses, but something just didn’t feel right. I started to think I have all theses things in my life, but still I felt empty inside. I said to myself if this is all there is, it’s fairly dull. I knew I wanted something more, I knew there had to be more to life than all these things that I owned.

I wasn’t ready to get married and settle down so I decided I needed to leave. I took a career break at 29 years of age and thought I’ll go travelling by myself and have that adventure I’ve always craved. I finally booked that ticket to Africa after so many years waiting to do it. I found this awesome charity after loads of research called Village Africa, in a really small village in the rainforest in Tanzania.

I remember having this weird feeling a few weeks into it, not knowing what it is was, but then I suddenly realised that this was the first time in my life that I wasn’t stressed out. My job back home was so high pressured and my relationship was all over the place, but I was genuinely happier with fewer things in my life. For the first time everything was right in the world. Africa just feels like home for me, it is home to me.

I learnt so much about life, and the only things that matter to the people in this village are three key things:

  1. Family
  2. Community
  3. Food.
They just inject joy, passion, and life into everything they do. It just wakes you up and makes you think. Having all the money in the world, its just bullshit. Money doesn’t make you happy. When you see how happy people can be without it, you begin to question – why do we need so many things in our life to try to make ourselves happy?

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