When I first started volunteering with Lives Not Knives, I never thought that I would be hurtling out of an aeroplane towards the ground at somewhere around 120 miles per hour. Needless to say, working at LNK has certainly been a different experience to my previous work history.
When Eliza Rebeiro, founder of Lives Not Knives, first asked me if I wanted to jump out of a plane, I wasn’t sure how seriously I was meant to take it. Part of me thought of it as a joke, another part of me was confused, and yet another part of me was mildly concerned for Eliza’s mental health! Nevertheless, I found myself agreeing to plummet down to earth. I suppose I should have been a little more concerned for my own mental health at that stage.
It was then revealed that I would be required to raise money – a sponsored jump. I had never participated in a sponsored event before (unless sponsoring other people counts) and was a little concerned about the amount of money I could raise. Agreeing to give it my best shot, I began to tell my friends and family that I was due to fall through the air and try to survive it. Pledges of money began to trickle in and the realisation of what I had actually agreed to had not yet hit me.
The days began to count down and the event drew closer. More jumpers were added to the list of supporting Lives Not Knives. After mentioning our intention to jump at a meeting Eliza and I attended at BeatBullying, we had three new jumpers – Ross, Tom, and Niall.
“BeatBullying knows the importance of the work that Lives Not Knives carries out with young people and we were more than happy to help raise funds for them. The dive was great fun and the camaraderie on the day helped to ease our nerves… somewhat!” – Ross Banford
Before I knew it, it was the day of the jump. Surprisingly, I felt rather calm. I arrived at East Croydon to meet the other jumpers at a minibus (the use of which, along with a driver, had been generously donated by Moving On) and head off to along the motorways to Headcorn, Kent. Our journey was uneventful and the weather seemed nice enough along the way. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived the weather had changed somewhat. Dark clouds had rolled in and blotted out the sun, the wind was picking up.
We signed in, completed forms to say that no one would sue in the event of injury or death, and were briefed on how to fall out of a plane. Now we were set to jump, we just had to wait for the weather to clear up a little. This took several hours – the wait did nothing to calm the nerves of many of our jumpers.
Fortunately the weather began to clear and the first group of people were called. We watched the skies for Ian, many of us looking in entirely different directions for the plane hidden in the clouds. Eventually we spotted some parachutes and awaited his return.
Eliza and Monique were set to jump next. A very generous donation had been received to film Eliza’s jump, and she was to have a camera man follow her on her way down.
When it came to my jump, I still wasn’t feeling nervous. I went to get kitted up, pulled on my cheesy 80s sci-fi jumpsuit and harness, then met up with the man to whom I would be strapped while I came back to earth. I was taken over to a rather small plane, and about 14 people were bundled (squashed) in. The plane took off and we began to climb. The climb took approximately fifteen minutes until we had reached just over 12,000 feet. The door was opened and I was directed towards the door, my instructor stood on the edge (with me hanging outside the plane!) and told me that we would wait a moment before jumping. Before he had even finished saying this, however, we were out of the plane and tumbled down at increasing speeds. After about 40 seconds, the parachute was opened, however, I would say that while that 40 seconds seemed to pass in no time at all, it also seemed to take an eternity. I felt at peace, a moment of serenity. After the parachute was opened we spun around one way and the other before landing. It was an exhilarating experience – something I would definitely like to try again.
“I believe the experience was brilliant, liberating and LNK is a great organisation which deserves all the support.” – Farida Ramy