‘Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth’ – Muhammad Ali
People often ask us why we started the Aaron Sansoni Foundation. It was something that we thought about, and spoke about for a long time before finally creating it, and even during those many conversations over the years, it was hard to articulate exactly why we felt compelled to set up the foundation; it was more of an emotional urge than an intellectual one for both Aaron and myself.
Like many others, we both grew up with not a lot. Aaron in a single mum family and myself migrating here at a young age with parents who had nothing, not even the English language when the plane landed. We joke now about the difficulties of our childhoods; about Aaron having to wear plastic bags over his socks because he had holes in his school shoes and his mum couldn’t afford new ones; about me having to sleep in a crib until I was 5 because we couldn’t afford a new bed (that’s why I’m so short now haha). It’s easy in retrospect, and with the hindsight of adults who have ‘come good’, to reminisce about the hard times with a sense of humour, but at the time there’s no denying – it was tough. It was tough as a child to feel the burning embarrassment of wearing holey shoes to school, but even more heartbreakingly tough to hear kids call your family poor. I distinctly remember as a child hurting the most when I felt my parents were hurting. Aaron’s mum and my parents did a phenomenal job in such tough circumstances, and we can never really thank them enough (we do try J), but even as children, regardless of how well they tried to hide it, we could tell it was a struggle.
During these times, it was kindness and generosity of other people that made a difference. Neighbours who would look after my sister and I from 6am until school started every single day because both parents worked long hours. Friends of friends who handed down their children’s clothing when we outgrew our own. Relatives who would all chip in what little money they had to help out when times were tough. None of these acts of kindness were owed to us, and were repaid only in our gratitude, and yet all of those people, most of whom themselves experienced disadvantage at some point in their lives, were more than happy to help. They felt a sense of obligation to help because they could. As one of my neighbours said to my mum many years ago, ‘you need help, and I can help, so I should. When I needed help I was helped, and when you can help, you will’. And so it is with that simple sentiment of obligation that the Aaron Sansoni Foundation was created. It was inspired by our own childhoods, and has grown with the generous contributions of time and money from our amazing supporters.