Over the last 6 months I have been working towards my goal of fundraising $10k for The Hunger Project as part of my pledge to participate in their Leadership Immersion Program run in partnership with Business Chicks.  The best part is that I hit my target whilst attending the Business Chicks Movers & Breakers conference where I was lucky enough to hear Cathy Burke, past Australian CEO and now Global Partnerships Leader for The Hunger Project.  Listening to Cathy speak on the 9 steps of Transformation gave me a small insight into what I was about to participate in and the empowerment that these 9 steps have given to so many women and communities to take action.

Over the last few months I have discovered many things, about fundraising, people and myself.

Many people want to do something good in the world but often just don’t know where to start, how do they reach out and to whom? Sometimes just having the opportunity to contribute to something that they can tangibly connect with is all it takes.

I have learnt that there are many different reasons why people have donated towards my target.  Some have done it out of personal support for me in achieving my goal.  Some have donated as they have money but no time.  One of my dear friends who generously supported me in achieving my target put it this way…

“I am very proud of you for being so selfless with your time.  Money is not so hard but finding the time to do what you’re doing is the real hero”

This gave me a whole other perspective on why people were supporting me.  Through me, and what I was doing, they felt as though they were able to make a difference by contributing in a way that was achievable to them.  They didn’t feel that they had the time to leave their families, their work, their lives and spend it with people far less fortunate than ourselves on the other side of the world, but they could support me in doing that by contributing to the cause financially.

Whilst I was at the conference, in the break following Cathy’s presentation a group of women were discussing how a coffee shop in Melbourne had enabled its customers to “buy a soup for you and one for someone else”.  This simple concept enabled its customers to do that good deed that they were looking for without having to go out and find it.  Some of these women, said “I’d even buy 5!”, because they can.

I also had many people tell me of their own charity work.  Colleagues who sponsored children, builders who went to Tanzania once a year to build orphanages, and a client’s daughter who was presently on exchange in an African School for a term.

I also had a few no’s, but it was due to their present alignment with other charity organisations.  Even these no’s I found inspiring as these people had taken the time to reply to my requests and let me know why they couldn’t support me.  Something I greatly respected, as we all have an affinity with different aspects of society and where we feel we wish to direct our support and our money.

Over the few months that I was telling the story of The Hunger Project to those around me and everyone I met, I really didn’t have a clear affinity with my purpose on this mission and so with each explanation of the charities work, I slowly began to refine my message.  I gradually began to find my connection with the charity and what my alignment and affinity with it was.

I had started my fundraising campaign focused on THP’s goal of ending World Hunger by 2030, but they didn’t really explain how they were going to do this.  Sure it is a great mission but many people, nor I really understood how they planned to do this.  I then began to read Cathy’s book, Unlikely Leaders, and the stories of women and communities that had lifted themselves in the face of adversity and retribution to make change for a greater good.  I began to understand the cycle of malnutrition and the impact that child marriage had on this and worse still the impact that being born a girl had on this cycle; fed sweetened water rather than breast milk so their mothers could return to work, eating last if at all and having children of their own in their underdeveloped child’s bodies only for the cycle to start again…

But just as I was coming to the end of my fundraising goal I got the clarity I had been looking for, and the personal connection that I felt I needed.  That clarity came to me through the social media I saw and was reading around International Day of the Girl Child.  And it was a post quoting Michelle Obama that I think said it best…

“We have to change the norms that say girls aren’t worthy of an education”

That through education we can improve the life and gender equality of the girl child.

The reason that this has such an affinity with me, is that without the opportunities and education that I have received as a girl child, I would never have achieved what I have nor have the lifestyle that I do.  Education creates opportunities.  Opportunities for a safer life.  One free of child marriage.  One with Choice.

The knock on effects of education go so much further than learning to read and write.  Through education communities can understand their nutritional needs, the effects of marring off their daughters and as young as 13 producing children of their own and the impact this has on the cycle of malnutrition and disease.  Through education, communities are able to financially support their elderly by lobbying the countries support system to provide a pension to these widowed women, previously invisible to their governments.  Through education communities are able to understand their cultural values and the true impact that some of their customs have on the spread of disease and hunger, and work together to develop a solution that respects their traditions whilst improving their quality of life.

That is was drew me to the work of The Hunger Project.  The organisation’s basis in education and the empowerment of women in their communities.  Their belief that through education we have the opportunity to have a better life, that is filled with hope and promise.  And as a girl child that has been afforded many opportunities in what is often called the “lucky country”, I feel a responsibility to give back in some way to help these girls and women, to give them a voice in a place where they are often not heard and hope that in some small way that my contribution can help better their opportunities.