Raising Money: Saving Lives
Raising Money: Saving Lives
By Rebecca Scott
The best ideas are often the simplest. Take Australia’s 10,000 schools – Catholic, independent and government, primary and secondary. Get each of them to raise $100 for charity, and what do you have? A million dollars to donate to charity!
It’s called SchoolAid and it is a concept founded by Sean Gordon, principal of Nudgee Junior College in suburban Brisbane.
Gordon compares SchoolAid to the ‘Clean Up Australia’ campaign: “But instead of picking up rubbish, we are picking up lives,” he says.
The charity chosen for this year’s inaugural million-dollar fundraising target is the Fred Hollows Foundation which, in Australia, has been working to improve the health of the Northern Territory’s Jawoyn people. Most Jawoyn are dead by age 50. The Foundation south to help the community treat the underlying causes of their early mortality. An education program aimed at improving health and nutrition was judged ineffective because exceptionally low literacy levels meant that the message simply couldn’t get out. Now the Foundation wants to implement a literacy program which, hopefully, will facilitate the nutrition and health campaign and rapidly improve the health and raise longevity of the Jawoyn people.
Gordon says schools fundraising for the SchoolAid project will be able to access information from the project website. Schools will be able to see how their money has actually been spent. Plus they will learn about the communities they are helping. He hopes that this will lead students to reflect on their own privilege, and their ability – through small actions – to improve the lives of others.
Gordon is passionate about fostering a philosophy of hope amongst Australia’s youth. “Where do we get hope, where does it come from, how can we teach it?” he asks. “Why is it that a young person in East Timor can still be hopeful even when they have had members of their family murdered, their mother raped and their home trashed? But here in Australia we have students wanting to jump under a bus and end their young lives when, on the face of it, they have every reason to be hopeful?”
Gordon’s answer is to empower Australian students to help others. A million dollars, properly directed, can have a significant impact on improving the lives of the beneficiaries. But equally important, he says, are the lessons learnt in the process by the benefactors.
They gain a perspective on their own relatively privileged circumstances and an understanding about why groups of people are disadvantaged. They also learn that a little altruism can make a huge difference; that they have the power to help others. Then, it’s only a small step to the realisation that they also have the power to help themselves.
“I’m hoping that will make them more hopeful and have the spin-off effect of reducing suicide rates and drug use,” Gordon says.
The million-dollar SchoolAid concept has the endorsement of and representation from all the peak principals’ organisations – primary and secondary, across the three sectors, Australia-wide. Gordon says the next step is to hand the organisation over to students themselves. “Then,” he predicts, “SchoolAid will become deadly powerful.”
This article was originally published in “The Principal” Issue 1, 2003