It is hard to comprehend that the Leadership Awards for 2020 were only 7 months ago. It feels like a lifetime ago that I sat surrounded by hundreds of amazing, empathic leaders all celebrating the milestones and achievements they had made.
It was an important event in my growth and development, but not for reasons that you would expect. It was the first time I had stepped out into the business world without my mum by my side. It was the first event where my friend Amy and I were ‘Adulting’ alone to face the expectations and challenges of our society. I think too it was a growth moment for mum, she had nurtured me, cared for me, guided me and given me the tools to create the change I wanted to see. Now it was time release me into the world.
So what have I been doing with my new maturity, what opportunities have I been able to take up and what lessons have I learned in this era of COVID.
We held the annual 8×8 Art Exhibition in November 2020. I have to admit this event terrified me this year, after so much success in 2019, this year looked different. The pandemic, the uncertainty, I wondered if we could pull it off again. Entries were slow to come in, we were pivoting to an online sales platform and like the rest of the world facing challenges with shaky knees. There was one thing we had in our corner though, an amazing community, artists, volunteers and supporters. I don’t think until that point I had fully realised the impact a community can make.
We were overwhelmed in the days leading up to the exhibition to realise we had grown 30% during a pandemic, and despite a huge hail storm which coincided precisely with opening night, the Dust Temple was filled to its COVID capacity. The event raised just over $10,000 and is now supporting a newly formed scholarship program for girls in two countries. This year we have taken on four new students from Tanzania. Girls with a passion for the medical field and 8×8 will cover the cost of their education, right way through to the end of university.
One of the girls what we sponsor was facing an issue with food security. We didn’t have any budget allocated for this type of expenditure so we needed to look outside our current revenue streams for other ways to raise funds. We were offered a home to renovate, with the rental going to fund our new food security project, we just had to provide the labour. The issue was at 15 I didn’t really have renovation experience. Now there’s a growth opportunity…. So Matika and I rolled up our sleeves and learned the skills of tiling, kitchen installation (and the required university degree to decipher Ikea Instructions), and painting. The renovation was completed, and we now provide monthly food hampers to Mozambique. What did I learn from this experience, that opportunities come from places you never thought of, and it is our responsibility to embrace them.
With face to face classes returning in both Mozambique and Tanzania 8×8 wanted to address the issue of attendance of girls in school. Sadly poverty has an impact for girls disproportionally to boys as they have to face the issue of period poverty. This was an issue that one of our sponsored girls had been looking at. The continual cost of pads is out of reach for most girls so she decided to look at reusable ones. We are proud to say that we have partnered with a South African supplier and the first delivery of 200 reusable pads is due any day. That will enable 33 girls to attend school for their entire school life. Our community will be able to assist with this micro business by purchasing a pad which will be delivered to a girl in need. The idea is to develop production in country and enable this young lady to enter the SME world with a sustainable business that will change the outcome for thousands of girls educational opportunities.
With every success though there is a learning opportunity, ours has come with the novel ‘Rina’s Story’. The amazing story of a young lady who needs to find her way home. The author, Dr Natasha Yates asked my sister and I to illustrate the novel and it was agreed that 100% of the profits would be to the school in Mozambique. This project has not been the huge success we were hoping for, and despite receiving international literacy awards sales are lagging. We have to view this as an opportunity for growth and have decided to alter our marketing strategy to bulk sales for the education sector. We have a target of 10×100 book packs at $1500 each to be sold my 2022. The lesson here is that is your strategy is not succeeding, it is time to change your strategy!
So where to now for me? Well I am now immersed in year 11/12 at All Saints Anglican School, undertaking a head start program at the University of Southern Queensland and growing 8×8 and the art exhibition. We have begun talks regarding an exciting new partnership that I hope to be able to announce early 2020. Watch this space as we continue to change the outcome for girls education in the developing world!