Here at Igniting change we live by the mantra “meet the people- feel the issues” and regularly take the time to visit the community organisations and groups who we work with, bringing along our supporters and friends … combining extraordinary lives!
This week we share a guest blog by Rachel English (in the red skirt) who came with us on our Igniting Change Visit on the 1st of July 2014 to three extraordinary organizations and who was kind enough to share what she learnt with us.
The Three Things I Learnt From A Day With Igniting Change: By Rachel English
On Tuesday 1 July a group of people welcomed in the new financial year by going on an amazing cross Melbourne trip with Igniting Change. We visited the Port Phillip Youth Unit, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, the TWICH Sewing Collective and New Stars Basketball Association all in one day! While I learnt roughly a million things, I’m going to share my top three.
1. Good Things Come in Small Packages
While I feel this is the real beauty of Igniting Change – connecting little gems with the people that can help them grow – this really hit home when we visited, in quick succession, a game changing youth unit in a massive prison that caters to just 35 inmates but makes a seriously meaningful impact on their lives. And TWICH, a tiny sewing collective established by a South Sudanese graduate of the Social Studio. Or New Stars, a group using basketball as an engagement and education tool for young people in Springvale.
The depth of impact these projects are making on the people involved warms this cold heart but more than that it creates a tangible difference. Case in point was during our visit to New Stars Basketball, where on school holidays, there was a packed out room of about 40 teenage boys listening to a lecture on sexual health. That’s how powerful an influence these guys are making…
2. You Shouldn’t Judge a Book by it’s Cover
As a 25 year old woman, I had a mixture of feelings walking into a male maximum security prison. Equal parts excitement, intrigue and concern over how to handle what was sure to be construction site heckling on steroids.
In reality the inmates at the Port Phillip Prison Youth Unit that we spoke to were all so lovely, made us all feel very comfortable and to see these young men take a terrible situation, acknowledge their role in it and then want to do something to make it meaningful was so great.
I really believe that the way to decrease stigma and fear associated with people in different walks of life is to be able and willing to have a conversation with them; This is why I find it so great having the opportunity to have a conversation with a guy like Jason, an inmate who’s managing the social enterprise within the prison, Doin’Time, about making a difference and giving back really set the tone for an inspiring day.
3. Never Underestimate The Power Of A Good Leader
The organisations that we visited over the course of the day were so varied and different in every way, except for one running theme: The compelling nature of the person at the helm.
Like Anne at the Port Phillip Prison Youth Centre who single headedly put together the program to change the outcomes for young prisoners. Or Kon from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and their new digs in Footscray. I had been out to see the location in March when it wasn’t more than a empty warehouse and the cynic within me thought that Kon and the crew at the ASRC were nuts to think they could be up and running in 12 weeks – dynamic and engaging, yes, but I was dubious on Kons ability to follow through. I was so very wrong. Not only was the ASRC open, it was pumping. From children playing on their school holidays, to people able to collect food from the food bank or waiting on a delicious hot meal. The Innovation Hub downstairs was not open yet but after seeing upstairs, I’m looking forward to a third visit to check it out soon.
Similarly when Joe, the mammothly dynamic man leading New Stars on roughly $200,000 per year for 200 young people who just flock to him. That’s 200 young people, while $200,000 is the cost of keeping one young person in the juvenile justice system.
I guess this is why my father advocates for having a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) – they’re more achievable than you think.
It’s days like these that showcase the impact Igniting Change makes for small organisations. But not just the organisations; being able to connect with the people that are on the ground doing the work to make a change in our society is so powerful, and so important. As a young person just stepping into this world I find it invaluable and cannot wait for the next chance to connect with Igniting Change!