After discovering that many homeless women struggled to manage their periods, often resorting to using wadded up toilet paper or socks, Share the Dignity founder Rochelle Courtenay wanted to ensure that women and girls didn’t go without the most basic of essentials.
She became known as the “Pad Lady” and is set to share her charity’s story at the next Change the World event on May 25 to inspire others to look for ways to improve the lives of others.
Rochelle told Hope 103.2 that Share the Dignity initially had no staff.
“We were completely volunteer based for three years,” she said.
Sharing the load – from one to 5000
The organisation began with Rochelle collecting sanitary items to donate to her local shelter and has now grown into a national charity boasting an army of more than 5000 volunteers.
Rochelle said she’s immensely proud many of the volunteers from the early days are still heavily involved in the charity.
“Our volunteer team leaders who were with me at the very beginning and had baskets on their verandah are still here. And they form part of lots of decisions,” she said.
Rochelle said that many of those long-term volunteers have stuck around because they care about the impact Share the Dignity’s work continues to have for so many women and girls.
“Just last night we heard a story of a young girl whose Mum died 18 months ago and for her to get a bag that had shampoo and conditioner, she was crying,” she told Hope 103.2.
“When our volunteers are going out there, and they are hearing these stories, they are understanding that while we can’t solve homelessness or make domestic violence go away or eradicate poverty in itself, the little bit that we do, does make a difference for people.”
“When our volunteers are going out there, and they are hearing these stories, they are understanding that while we can’t solve homelessness or make domestic violence go away or eradicate poverty in itself, the little bit that we do, does make a difference for people,” – Share the Dignity founder Rochelle Courtenay
Even the smallest efforts can change the world in a big way
The idea of making a difference for people is something that resonates with Hancock Creative founder Alecia Hancock, who run Change the World. Like Rochelle, she saw a need. Working in marketing, Alecia said she recognised that charities and not-for-profit causes weren’t getting access to the same sort of social media education and expertise of corporate businesses.
Alecia told Hope 103.2, “We decided we would create a free, digital marketing summit and we called it Change the World, with the idea that if we could teach charities and good causes how to do digital marketing, they would use that to change the world for the better”.
Now it its fifth year, Change the World brings together charities, non-profits, community organisations, social enterprises and NGOs, providing what Alecia refers to as, “a full day of totally free training”.
That training, now delivered virtually due to COVID-19, comes from a variety of speakers with lived experiences of working in the charity and non-profit space including people like Rochelle Courtenay.
“I’m really excited about being part of this forum. It’s an amazing line-up,” Rochelle said.
That line-up is something that Alecia takes great care to curate.
“Whenever I come up to a Change the World, I’m always looking at ‘What does the market need right now?’, ‘What do they most need help with?’ and I go out and find the people who can deliver on that most effectively,” she said.
This year, what the market needs right now is speakers able to share about the importance of social media for organisations to survive and thrive.
“A lot of people are still unsure about the benefit of social media,” Alecia said.
“Not everyone sees why it’s actually going to be important for the future of their organisation and they struggle with that concept.”
“[Share the Dignity is] relatively young in the not-for-profit space, but they have had this really huge impact in terms of the people they’re communicating with,” – Hancock Creative founder Alecia Hancock
So explaining that importance is part of the reason Alecia approached Rochelle to be part of this year’s Change the World.
“[Share the Dignity is] relatively young in the not-for-profit space, but they have had this really huge impact in terms of the people they’re communicating with. They’ve built this really strong community behind them,” Alecia said.
Rochelle puts that community down to Share the Dignity’s willingness to share authentic stories.
“It was never about how perfect we were. It was about how imperfectly we saw the world,” she said.
“And using our voice of authenticity to share stories and connect the community with what we do.”
Rochelle said she’s excited to share her learnings with other community organisations hoping to change the world.
“I think it’s so important, as you’ve stepped up the ladder to make sure that you drop the ladder back down again and make sure that other people can climb up and learn from your mistakes and benefit from some of your achievements.”
Change the World will also feature Tyler Riewer, creative director of charity water; Richard Bell, director of Business Leaderz Group; and a number of speakers from Hancock Creative, Crux Creative and Hootsuite.