Have you ever wondered if you could make a difference? Wondered if you could change the world or, at least, another person’s life? Those questions are quite daunting. What even is making a difference? How do you do it? Who can you help?
I have always wanted to make a change or do something beneficial for the world. I’ve just never known how to do it or anyone who has. That was, until I met Christy Hildyard. She is an incredibly inspiring woman who is now someone I aspire to be like. At only 21 years of age, she started an organisation called ‘Grace Pads’ helping vulnerable women and girls in Malawi access sanitary hygiene kits and resources. These kits and resources empower women in Malawi through education and job opportunities, improving their quality of life.
A few months ago I attended the yLead Making A Difference Leadership Summit. I was very fortunate to meet many motivating people who had an abundance of valuable advice. We heard from numerous speakers who shared stories about their change-making experiences. After the first day, I was truly inspired to make a change of my own.
Quoting the booklet given to us ‘Your words have great power. Use them to support and inspire’. On this day, I met Christy Hildyard, co-founder of Grace Pads. Immediately after I heard Christy talk, I was determined to help her and her cause. To make my own difference in this world, I decided to write this article about Christy and her organisation. I have decided to use the power of my words to inspire others and inform as many people of the wonderful organisation, ‘Grace Pads’.
Did you know that 1 in 10 girls in Malawi drop out of school because they are scared of leaking through their clothing? Menstruation also makes it extremely hard to work in the fields, a factor that contributes to women in Malawi losing up to 20% of their salary due to their periods.
During Christy’s presentation at the conference, she told us to define our ‘why’. This ‘why’ is the fire in your belly when you see something that makes you upset, the frustration of seeing something that is overtly unjust. According to Christy, it is vital to stay connected to your ‘why’ when starting an organization or initiative. The experiences of women in Malawi is Christy’s ‘why’ and her connection to it is what helped change the lives of countless women.
I was fortunate enough to interview Christy about the organisation so that I could gain an insight into the mind of a change-making woman. I wanted to know how one person could make such an important difference, so I asked her:
What inspired you to start Grace Pads?
“When I realised that millions of women and girls across the world have no access to sanitary products I just knew in my heart that I had to do something about it. I had an overwhelming sense of empathy for these women and girls who were struggling every single month simply because they couldn’t afford to buy sanitary pads. Little girls as young as 11 are beginning their periods with no support and are not educated about the changes to their bodies.”
I believe that every single person in the world is capable of creating change, so I asked Christy:
What is your advice to those thinking of creating or helping not-for-profit organisations?
“Australia has approx. 54,0000 registered charities so find out if there are any other organizations you can collaborate and partner up with. Setting up an organization is also a costly and time consuming process, so you must be prepared for this.
If you really want to set up your own not-for-profit, start small and allow it to grow organically, stay connected to your why and don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to save the whole world.
My most practical piece of advice is to never be scared to ask for help. Get a mentor who has worked in the industry and connect and network with people who have business experience.”
How can other people help Grace Pads?
“We are always looking for people to help out because we operate purely on a voluntary basis. There are so many opportunities for people to get involved by just offering Grace Pads their time and skills. If you are passionate about female empowerment, you can also utilise your connections and networks to get the word out there and create awareness. At this point we are just encouraging people to email us to get the conversation started.”
Making change seems pretty daunting, but taking Christy’s advice you can always start small. If there’s a charity or non-for-profit organisation that you are passionate about, or you have ‘defined your why’, email, ring, follow them on Instagram and offer your skills and connections to help change the world. You don’t have to hold a fundraiser or build their website- it can be as simple as sharing a post on Facebook or bringing it up at the dinner table.
This article is my way of utilising my connections and networks to create awareness. What will yours be?
If you are looking to donate or learn more about Grace Pads this is their website.
There were many other great organisations at the ylead Making A Difference conference. If you are looking to help or ‘define your why’, have a peek at the links below:
Oaktree – “Young people leading, demanding and creating a more just world.”
Fitted for Work – “A future where women contribute equally to the positive transformation of society through their role in the workplace.”
Second Chance Animal Rescue – “Enriching the lives of companion animals by reducing overpopulation, increasing adoptions and engaging the hearts, hands and minds of the community.”
Crêpes for Change – “1 van, 1 cart – 100% for youth homelessness”
OnePlate – “A social enterprise which unites restaurants, cafés, pubs and bars with socially-conscious customers, under the common goal of supporting vulnerable people in the developing world.”
Catherine is a 15 year old girl who likes listening to music, reading books, drawing and singing her favourite songs (badly).