Jessica Brown is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Life Changing Experiences which runs a SISTER2Sister program to help Australia’s most marginalised girls grow into strong and independent women.
This week the Foundation will host it’s biggest ever annual fundrasing event, a MadHatters Ball hosted by Natalie Bassingthwaighte.
We caught up with Jessica to find out a bit more about her charity and why we should all buy a ticket.
Tell us a bit about who you are and your background?
I am 48, lived in Sydney my whole life and my career started out as a high school teacher.
Can you tell us about your foundation its programs and why it’s important in 4 sentences or less?
Our flagship program is called the SISTER2sister program which is a year long mentoring and resilience building program for vulnerable teenage girls. Each girl is paired with a positive female role model who is there to support and guide them through life’s challenges. Together each match attends an intensive risk management program to help build confidence, equips them with crucial life skills and empowers them to make positive choices for a better future.
Tell us about what led to you creating the Foundation and Sister2Sister program?
As a school teacher it broke my heart to see students falling through the cracks because of their home circumstances. Children who have experiences trauma are most likely to be three years behind in maths and English by the time they are 15 and quite often present as behavioural problems in the classroom. They need extra support. So I started out to break the cycle of abuse and neglect by providing young girls with positive female role models in a safe and supportive environment to help them heal, grow and blossom. Only then can they start to reach their potential.
What year did the Foundation start and how hard was it to generate support?
2003. It was a steep learning curve, a leap of faith really and often scary at times but when you believe in something so strongly and you know you can bring positive change to others it drives you through the difficult times.
When did it become your full time job and what was that like?
I continued to teach for over 2 years after starting the foundation but it was a full time job from the beginning so I was juggling two full time jobs at once.
What are the greatest challenges you have?
Raising funds is always high on the agenda. It is a constant challenge in a very crowded space with so many others amazing charities fighting for the dollar. You need to raise a profile for people to know that you exist in order for people to donate and you need people to donate to keep going. Self sustainability is the ultimate goal.
What are the greatest achievements of the Foundation to date?
Changing the lives of over 500 girls in need. 84 % of girls go on to complete high school which they never imagined was possible. Many are the first person in the family to ever do so. 100% feel safe with their mentor and 95% of mentors continue to support the girls after the formal program is finished forging life long bonds.
How many little and big sisters do you have in the program currently and what does the future look like?
We work with a small group of 30-50 girls each year. We work with fewer girls on a deeper level for a longer period of time. With demand for our services through out Australia we want to expand, however this is dictated by funding each year.
How can we help?
Attend our fundraising events. We have a Life Changing MadHatter’s ball coming up on the 2nd of June hosted by long term ambassador Natalie Bassingthwaighte. We are seeking to build close relationships with family trusts for ongoing support and welcome monthly giving through our online donation page.
Tell us about the MadHatters Ball?
$250 a ticket. Saturday 2nd of June 2018, 7pm
Grand Ballroom, The Westin Sydney
To purchase a single ticket or a corporate table, visit this link: https://www.stickytickets.com.au/63019/the_life_changing_mad_hatters_ball_2018.aspx
Guest presenters including Jacinta Tynan and Jayne Azzopardi.
Musical Entertainment by Natalie Bassingthwaighte and La Fiesta Sound System.
Live Auction by Tom Panos, Silent Auction prizes and much more!!!
Will there be little sisters in attendance and are they helping to organise the ball?
Some will be helping out on the night which is great.
Who are your role models ?
Wonder woman comes to mind even though I know she isn’t real! I’m surrounded by so many women like her who are successful in their own right yet give their precious time to help others. They are my board, ambassadors, team leaders, mentors and staff. Passionate women supporting women is a very powerful thing. I’m blessed to see if first hand every day!
What does a typical week look like for you and how do you find your balance in life?
It’s always busy and quite often the to do list goes out the window no matter how organised I try to be. It’s a juggle to find that balance at the busier times of the year so I up the self care. I’m lucky to have a fiancé who is equally passionate about my charity and is my cheerleader. He volunteers much of his time to support the foundation so I’m very grateful for that. We always try to plan the next holiday as we are returning from one to recharge.
What is your favourite saying?
“Is it possible you could donate that”. Also, we do have a swear jar in the office for those particularly challenging days. It all goes to charity!
What are five things you’ve learnt that you would want to share with the Balance community?
- Sometimes you don’t have to do things perfectly
- Try to do something you love every day
- Tell people you love that you love them because seasons can change
- Surround yourself with positive people
- Practice self-care no matter how busy you are