I believe it is incredibly important to give back. I run a successful business, I work hard, I have 3 amazing kids, and we have the privilege of living in a country where we feel safe, with access to everything we need.
I was keen to support a cause that I identified with, that resonated with me both as a woman and as a mum. I was also keen to make a tangible difference. Handing over a pot of money did not feel like it was personal enough. I really wanted to be involved.
Initially I looked off-shore. I mean, that’s where most of the underprivileged, at risk, children live, right? But then I met Jessica Brown, an Australian woman and founder of the SISTER2sister program which aims to break the generational cycle of suffering by helping ‘at risk’ Australian teenage girls to make better choices for a positive future and to equip them with skills for mastering life’s challenges.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not naive. I know that there are many kids in Australia who don’t have access to the same privileges as my kids (who by the way have received a fairly traditional 1970’s style upbringing). However, the stats and data Jess shared with me about the little sisters prior to the program, shocked me – data like:
- 64% are the first generation in their family to attend high school
- 59% don’t feel safe in their own home
- 77% are bullied
- 41% have required foster carer or crisis accommodation
- 91% are identified as high risk with significant emotional, behavioural, peer and self esteem issues
- 23% have been hospitalised for suicide attempts
- 82% see a psychiatrist/ counsellor
- 32% have been admitted to a child/ adolescent mental health unit
and, how they felt before and after the SISTER2sister program:
- 42% (before): 86% (after) can identify relationships that are bad for them
- 64% (before): 91% (after) think VCE is important for their future
- 5% (before): 50% (after) feel confident in social situations
- 36 (before): 79% (after) believe in themselves
In Australia? Yes.
My off-shore focus moved on-shore: I wanted to help clean up my own backyard.
Jessica is a giver. When I asked her what she needed by way of help she was reluctant to impose, but admitted that she had so much on her plate in trying to manage the Program that she was finding it hard to manage her time. Perfect. I offered to work with Jess to coach her on her personal time management and to coach her on strategies to help run the business side of the program more productively by putting in place the right processes and systems to ensure maximum efficiency.
I love working with Jess. She is extraordinary. She is fun, humble, driven, keen to learn and try new things, and incredibly positive – nothing throws this woman! She constantly thanks me for my time when all I want to do is thank her for letting me be involved.
Jess is 100% focussed on her ‘girls’.
Having started Sister2Sister in 2003 she now has an annual intake of 30 little sisters who she teams up 1:1 with a big sister/ mentor – these numbers are limited so that the foundation can work with the girls on a deeper level for a longer period, noting that most big sisters continue their support well beyond the program. The SISTER2Sister program runs over 8 months to ensure that it doesn’t just provide a bandaid solution to challenges that run far deeper once you scratch the surface.
To date, SISTER2Sister has made a difference to the lives of 416 little sisters and has been just as impactful for the big sisters. The foundation survives on limited government grants, and needs to continually tap in to the generosity of corporate sponsors and individual donors at a rate of approximately $10,000 per little sister.
If you feel compelled to tackle our own backyard first and would like to donate to the SISTER2Sister program please go to http://www.lifechangingexperiences.org/donate/