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MUMPRENEURS / Oct ‘2015

GIVIT the most

MUMPRENEURS / OCT ‘2015

GIVIT the most

2015 Australian of the Year Local Hero and Mum of two, Juliette Wright, explains why ‘thank yous’ are the impetus behind GIVIT and the currency in which she thrives.

Words NICOLE COX

“The first day of kindergarten and wow, my son looks like a million bucks in his new school shoes,” Juliette reads. “Thanks heaps to the kind person who bought him his shiny shoes.
“When I was growing up I never had any shoes, only ones with scratches and holes which I tried to cover up with the teacher’s sticky tape.
“My son looked as good as the rest of the kids with his new shoes. Thank you again for your wonderful work.”

It’s these simple thank-you gestures that tug at her heartstrings and have driven the 41-year-old to turn the humble act of Giving into an incredible mass outpouring of community generosity across our nation. That she has earned deserved kudos and was named the 2015 Australian Local Hero at January’s prestigious Australian of the Year Awards is just a bonus.
“For everyone else in the world, their currency is money. But my currency is thank-yous because that’s how we all survive. At GIVIT we thrive on them,” Juliette tells Offspring.

Since 2010 GIVIT has facilitated the contribution of more than 145,000 items, including during devastating storms, cyclones, floods, to victims of crime and people who have literally lost everything in house fires.

For Juliette Wright, the thank-yous come thick and fast. Day in, day out. Email, snail mail, greeting cards, phone calls.
And the joy, happiness and fulfilment they bring is what makes this Queensland mother-of-two’s job one of the most rewarding on offer. She is helping change lives for the better – and having a real impact on impoverished, vulnerable and marginalised Australians.

It was 2010 when Juliette launched GIVIT – Goods for Good Causes – an online platform that links charities with their communities. Charities, including domestic violence shelters, homeless networks, child safety groups and at-risk youth agencies, can list the urgent needs of their clients and individuals wanting to donate can advertise specific items they have to give.
“Charities get authenticated and then they can go into a virtual warehouse where they put in their postcode, how far they’re willing to travel and a search word. All the items within their area field that have been pledged by local donors come up,” Juliette explains.
“Or, if they can’t find what they need for their clients, they do a new request and that goes onto our urgently-needed list which goes into a postcode related email…And if there are no registered charities in your area, you only receive postal goods.”
In the first year, the website assisted in 3000 donations and since 2010 has facilitated the contribution of more than 145,000 items, including during devastating storms, cyclones, floods, to victims of crime and people who have literally lost everything in house fires.
In 2011, GIVIT became the Queensland Government’s official donation website when flooding wreaked havoc on the state. There were 1.8 million hits on the website, which resulted in 33,500 items being matched to needy recipients in a three-week period.
Donations in the aftermath of natural disasters span from safety gear in the initial days to the need for care packages and toiletries and later, building goods such as doors, window panes, bricks and paint as communities start to rebuild. Furniture and whitegoods are also donated.
It was after the birth of Juliette’s second child, Hudson, six years ago, that she realised the need for individualised and targeted donations to charities.

I rang a charity for children and they needed closed-toe work boots and I was like: ‘what for?’ and the woman told me that the reason the children are homeless was because their father had lost his job and if we got him a pair of boots, he would be able to get work on the roads.

 

After enduring placenta accreta during pregnancy – a condition where the placenta abnormally attaches too deeply to the uterine wall – and the rapid associated weight gain in Hudson after birth, Juliette contacted local charities looking to donate Top Brand children’s clothing he had outgrown.
“Hudson had actually put on so much weight that he went from 000 clothes to 0 size clothing in about six weeks,” Juliette recounts. “So, I had all these beautiful clothes – Sprout, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren that Hudson could never wear.
“Someone had put a severed pig head in our local charity bin and I thought I’m not putting them in the donation bin because that’s disgusting and these clothes are way too valuable… So I thought I’d ring charities in Brisbane and drop them off but none of the charities wanted them – not one charity. I asked them what they did need and I think that’s when GIVIT was really born.

“I realised that one charity needed new undies. I rang another charity and they said they needed tampons. I rang a charity for children and they needed closed-toe work boots and I was like: ‘What for?’ and the woman told me that the reason the children are homeless was because their father had lost his job and if we got him a pair of boots, he would be able to get work on the roads.
“It was then I realised that a pair of boots can actually pull a family out of poverty. How could we have guessed that a charity for children needed closed-toe work boots? There’s no way we could do that so I saw the gap for GIVIT.
“I realised that there is no way for a charity to tell you daily what they need for their clients. There’s no advertising agency list or anything like that. And secondly, we’re really bad at guessing what charities need and we’re always going to be bad at it because what they need is random and weird and different absolutely every single day.”
Australian Council of Social Services research shows that almost 14 per cent of Australians are living below the poverty line, with single adults earning just $400 a week and a family of four surviving on $841 a week.

In addition, one in six Australian children are living in poverty, a statistic that devastates Juliette.
“That’s really, really difficult to swallow in this day and age,” she says. “It’s like there’s a hidden poverty but it’s also a quiet poverty because people can go about their daily lives and not be aware.
“So I decided to start a GIVIT website. I didn’t know if anyone was going to donate and I was pretty terrified that no one would donate.”

But within two hours a microwave had been pledged to a man whose wife had recently died.
“He couldn’t cook hot meals so without a microwave all he was going to have was toast,” Juliette says. “It was a really life-changing item for him because the charity could cook meals, put them in the freezer and he could have nutritious meals.”
Soon after, the second item was donated – a bicycle with a baby carriage that enabled a homeless mother to take her child to daycare and get herself a part-time job.
In an unusual case, a West Australian charity requested a boxing bag in a desperate bid to avert further assaults on a young mother whose children had been attacking her.

“Two weeks later, it was donated and we got feedback from the charity that once the mother had received that boxing bag, the children were using it and they had not hit her once,” Juliette says.

“So, what I deemed as a non-essential item for me was an absolutely life-saving item for her because her children were violent and aggressive. They had been abused and she was getting abused by them.

Australian Council of Social Services research shows that almost 14 per cent of Australians are living below the poverty line, with single adults earning just $400 a week and a family of four surviving on $841 a week.
One in six Australian children are living in poverty.

In the five years since its inception, GIVIT has grown to have a presence in every Australian state, with more than 1000 frontline charities now supported by the model. In Queensland, 646 charities are registered to the GIVIT site, with more than 100 in each New South Wales and Victoria and 77 West Australian groups have joined the movement.
The overwhelming popularity of GIVIT has also spawned GIVIT Kids – a program to “breed philanthropists and givers” and engage youngsters in the joy of giving.
“The GIVIT Kids website is about engaging them in giving, no matter what they want to give,” Juliette says. “But also allowing them to donate the stuff that they no longer need around the house, the beautiful items that they no longer require, to a child who doesn’t have what they need – the school recorders or the shiny black shoes that they bought in October and didn’t need in January.
“It’s about teaching them how to contribute in ways that you don’t need money.”
The program also includes specialist education, which has been adopted in the Queensland schools’ civic and citizenship curriculum and is now an approved teaching resource for Years 3, 5 and 6.
“The funny thing about the GIVIT model is that I really want to help impoverished people all the time but when I actually go to a homeless shelter sometimes I spend the whole next day crying in bed because it really upsets me,” Juliette says.

“I launched through Facebook only having 10 charities on board and now I’ve got 1000 charities on board and we’ve donated 145,000 items. And it’s all because of me and that first addiction when I dropped off the new undies at that charity and they looked at me like I was Santa Claus. No one’s ever done that before and it just made me feel like I was really connected to my community.”

“I decided at that point not to judge any more. We have to trust the charities because the charities are the ones in the room…Charities don’t abuse the system because they are social workers who just want the best for their clients and we trust them.”
“If I go to an injecting user service and I see people and their young children, I don’t recover like everybody else. I take that really personally. I can’t handle it so I think the GIVIT model really works for people like me. It’s enabling charities who are the social workers to do all the great work and we make sure they get everything they need.
“I remember I went to Grantham after the floods and I was crying for the whole three days later. I was still working but was rendered hopeless in meetings so I’d have to work from home.”
Juliette says she is humbled at GIVIT’s success and honoured that her initiative is connecting communities and improving the lives of society’s most needy.

www.givit.org.auwww.givitkids.org.au

STATE-BY-STATE: THE NUMBER OF CHARITIES SUPPORTED BY GIVIT

Queensland: 64620-24 One of our first GIVIT Kids donors.Madison Mc Carthy_LR
New South Wales: 113
Victoria: 108
Western Australia: 77
South Australia: 13
Northern Territory: 8
Australian Capital Territory: 6
Tasmania: 4

 

NICOLE COX

Nicole has worked in print and online media for 15 years in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. Now she has the most adventurous job of her life - mum to energetic toddler, Matteo. Nicole says the flexibility of freelance journalism allows her to combine her two loves, motherhood and writing.

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