Determined to Make a Difference

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Sunday Telegraph, 9 March 2014

They are women inspired. Determined to make the world better, and with a small notion of how, they were given the extraordinary opportunity to do exactly that.
And what a difference they’ve made.

Jackie Ruddock, Kat Armstrong, Juliette Wright and Loren O’Keeffe all left their day jobs behind for a year to make an impact on something close to their hearts, thanks to the Vodafone Foundation’s World of Difference Program.
Now in its 11th year, in 2014 the program will again give two lucky Australians the chance to take paid leave to work for a charity of their choice, by funding their work up to $85,000.

Sydney’s Kat Armstrong, who founded the Women in Prison Advocacy Network pairing recently released of- fenders with life-changing mentors, said the charity was able to continue its work this year only because of the World of Difference funding.
“It has meant the organisation can continue, so it has been instrumental,” she said.
“It has been fundamental in growing the network to include young female offenders, aged 15 to 25 from Juvenile Justice, and we have also expanded the mentoring pro- gram from 50 women a year to 200, and 80 per cent of them have not reoffended.
“It costs $111,000 per woman to sit in a jail cell — it costs $4000 a year to run this organisation.”

Jackie Ruddock from Sydney’s The Social Outfit, also said the grant was instrumental in establishing the charity, empowering refugees from Sydney’s western suburbs.
“It allowed me to leave my job and become its first full- time staff member,” she said.
“We are in start-up phase so I have been able to concentrate all my energy on it — all of this would have been impossible without it.”

Victoria’s Loren O’Keeffe famously started the Dan Come Home campaign when her brother went missing in 2011. With the help of the funding, she has established the Missing Persons Advocacy Network, to help families like hers.
“It is not an exaggeration to say the organisation wouldn’t exist without it,” she said. “It is remarkable — we had no business cards, no website — and now we can help give support to those who need it. I think Dan would be happy to know that.”

Brisbane mother Juliette Wright has spent the past eight months managing GIVIT, a website that enables people to donate everyday items directly to those in need. “Taking part in the World of Difference program has been a life-changing experience,” she said.
“It was a dream to be funded to work for my dream charity — I wanted to make sure people could donate what they had and it went to some- one who actually needed it, and this year has been our best yet — this funding has been our tipping point.”

After a torturous upbringing of domestic violence and sexual abuse, Kat Armstrong had become dependent on drugs to mask her trauma. Drugs led to crime, and crime saw her end up in prison. During her 10-year sentence, she began a law degree and when released in 2003 was determined to make a change. She founded the Women in Prison Advocacy Network. “What I soon discovered was that so many of these women shouldn’t have even been in prison, so I got this drive and anger about such an injustice and I decided that when I got out, I wanted to help women in prison.
“For all the good intention I had, I had nowhere to live, no money, just the clothes on my back. I was put in a board- ing house in Blacktown that was full of drugs — I was set up to fail. I remembered reading about Justice Action and I called them from the boarding house. They said get in a cab and come here, and my life changed. They mentored me and within a week I was in shared accommodation.”

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