published on 15 Jul 2014

The Oxford Dictionaries (as distinct from the Oxford English Dictionary) defines a “Johnny-come-lately” as “a newcomer to or late starter at a particular place or sphere of activity”.

If one sets aside the poor punctuation – it seems as if commas are a foreign concept to whomever posted the definition – then my topic for this week’s blog makes me the very personification of a Johnny-come-lately.  

The topic? The Ice Bucket Challenge! Now, I’ve been told – politely but firmly – that for me to be addressing this in mid-September is akin to a “child of the 60s” trotting out retired phrases like “groovy” and “psychedelic”. But I’ll risk it.  

Being dunked with a bucket of ice-water became a phenomenon when it went viral midsummer as hundreds of thousands of people took part in aid of the ALS Association and Motor Neurone Disease Association. It was thrilling to see so many people engaged in raising awareness and much-needed funding for these and other charities. Some 17 per cent of the UK population participated and over £60million was raised globally.  Inevitably, I was challenged – several times – by intrepid dunkers! Now, while I hate cold water at the best of times, I was happy to suffer for a brief moment if it could help someone who endures lifelong suffering. I therefore made a generic announcement on Facebook to would-be challengers to avoid the temptation to nominate me because I would be doing something different, though using a similar concept.  

My social media announcement sparked off an interesting discussion, and two worthy concerns were raised:  

- The first was the possible ethical problem of pilfering an idea from one good cause to promote another. Was it acceptable to “steal” the idea from the ALS Association? I believe it to be a non-issue for the following reasons:

• Firstly, given the overwhelming success of the Ice Bucket Challenge, I hardly thought that my focusing on a Salvation Army project would cause the ALS Association’s campaign to collapse.  

• Secondly, I reasoned that in my position I could influence people who were not engaged by the ALS Association campaign but who would consider contributing to something they felt a greater connection with.

• Thirdly, when the Ice Bucket Challenge was at its peak in July and August, other charities were employing the same idea. And even The Salvation Army was using it before it went viral, albeit in another territory.  

- The second concern was about water wastage. Jason Samenow, writing in The Washington Post estimated that five million gallons of water had been used – the equivalent of 120,000 baths or half an inch of rain falling on 300 football fields.    

Many pointed out the moral dilemma caused by “wasting” water as millions of people around the world were unable to access to clean drinking water.   “Water is vital!  Water is life! 1 in 8 people on the planet lack access to clean water! … Water is powerful… transformational… precious… We all need water!  We all long for it!  We need to keep up the fight until we all have access to it.  The good news is the fight is working!”  

These are a few poignant words from a short video about our Watershed project. You can watch the video on our website at  The link also provides access to some uplifting stories of lives and communities being changed through gaining access to clean water.  

The work is not finished and therefore, Johnny-come-lately or not, I’m seeking to raise awareness of the Army’s work with various communities to improve their water supply. I had intended on being dunked by rainwater collected from the gutters of London but due to a lack of rain that plan had to be abandoned. There has been too little rain in the last two months to get me dunked!  

The irony should not be missed – I could not be dunked to raise awareness of a lack of water in the world due to a lack of rain in London! The team have assured me they will find a suitable alternative, and so I enter the week with some trepidation.      

But I also enter the week with a change in attitude. The lack of rain that thwarted my plans to help others without water has changed my feelings about the rain that does fall in London. I’m a lot more grateful for it.