Juliette Wright, founder of GIVIT. Our thanks go to Juliette for taking the time to share her inspiring story.
I get unbelievably sad when I think 2.5 million Australians are living in poverty, with one in six being children. Many do not have the simple items they need to get through the day or week. A child’s mum can’t afford the bus ticket to the doctor, a person experiencing homelessness doesn’t have a warm blanket for the night, and a refugee needs books to help learn English.
Imagine the difference we could make if every Australian undertook an act of kindness and gave one of their pre-loved items to someone else who really needed it.
In 2009, I started GIVIT with a goal of making giving easy. I wanted to alleviate the effects of poverty in Australia by ensuring every charity has what it needs through the simple act of in-kind giving.
Following the birth of my second child in 2008, I was surprised at the struggle endured trying to donate second-hand baby clothes to someone in need. Instead, local charities were searching for essential items such as sanitary products for women who had fled domestic violence, steel-capped boots to enable unemployed fathers to secure work and clean mattresses to stop disadvantaged children sleeping on the floor.
Trying to give away our baby clothes gave me huge insight into the gap we had in Australia with in-kind giving going directly to those in need. It was impossible to ring the thousands of charities which exist to find out what items they needed.
I wanted to make giving simple and easy and what better way to do this than online?
Within six months, I’d set up a website and recruited 15 charities to request items. After launching the website on Facebook, the first items were donated and the importance of each item realised. A donated bike enabled a single mother to get to work and a donated microwave heated meals for a man who had recently lost his wife and was unable to cook.
One memory in particular stuck with me; I recall dropping off new donated underwear for women facing homelessness at Pindari Women’s Service in Brisbane. I remember being greeted like I was Santa Claus himself. When the social workers saw I had donations that were exactly what they needed – and NEW – their gratefulness was palpable. But I was the one who was grateful. I felt a deep compassion for the women there and knew it could be me after a few unwise choices and some bad luck.
I left Pindari feeling so good and humbled, and really connected to my community. I felt a part of a larger system and smaller network as well as a massive issue. I was connected to the women, the social workers, the need and felt really grateful to them. In that instance, it was me that was getting something new.
In the coming years GIVIT’s website kept growing and we turned into a national network, connecting thousands of Australians wanting to support 1,100 trusted charities.
Today, more than 300,000 essential, everyday items have been donated through GIVIT to help someone else in need. Many of these items, the donor already had at home:
- A donated washing machine allowed a mother of four to stop washing clothes by hand all day and secure a part time job
- An MP3 player supported a boy with schizophrenia by helping to drown out persistent internal noise
- Donated rugby boots enabled disadvantaged men living on a remote island to start their first rugby team, improving social community engagement
What we’ve learnt at GIVIT is that you don’t have to be rich and powerful to make an enormous difference. At the moment I see a massive movement of small and effective individual philanthropy happening – because no matter what your financial situation – we are all able to support others.
It is the awareness and resulting act of kindness which matters. As Confucius said, “Not feeling compassion for a stranger is like not feeling when one’s foot has caught fire”.
Driven and inspired, Juliette Wright is on a mission to alleviate the effects of poverty across Australia. Establishing an online platform in 2009 to connect those who have with those who need, Juliette is changing how society helps its most vulnerable. Founder and CEO of GIVIT, Juliette created the portal givit.org.au to ensure quality goods easily get to where they are most needed by safely connecting and inspiring an online network of givers.
In 2011 when Queensland was hit by devastating floods, GIVIT became the state government’s official website for matching donations – with 1.8 million hits resulting in 33,500 goods matched over three weeks. This led to the establishment of a dedicated GIVIT Disaster Recovery service in partnership with the Queensland Government, activated during the Bundaberg floods, Cyclone Ita, Tropical Cyclone Marcia and the Ravenshoe Café Explosion.
Juliette’s vision, hard work and determination have resulted in 315,000 items donated through GIVIT to assist vulnerable, marginalised and impoverished Australians. GIVIT currently supports 1,100 charities nationally, earning Juliette the title of Australia’s Local Hero 2015.