The statistics are horrifying: last year over 48,000 Australian children suffered from abuse or neglect, with young girls two to three times more likely to be abused than their male counterparts.
Unsurprisingly, this abuse impacts all aspects of a child’s life.
In 2003, teacher Jessica Brown recognised that nine out of ten students struggling in her classroom were experiencing problems at home and decided to do something about it. Rather than punishing these students, Jessica looked for the root of their problems to determine how she could help. This commitment led Jessica to create Life Changing Experiences Foundation (LCEF) to support and nurture Australia’s underprivileged and disadvantaged youth, by breaking the cycle of suffering and reversing the detrimental effects associated with low self esteem.
Fast forward to 2014, and Jessica has changed hundreds of our most vulnerable girls’ lives, primarily through LCEF’s SISTER2sister program. This program is a year-long mentoring initiative that empowers girls aged between 12 and 18 who are ‘at risk’ as a direct result of trauma, bereavement, poverty, sexual abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse, neglect, homelessness, sickness or disability and destitution by matching them with a “big sister” to help build their confidence and find a better path in life.
For Jessica, every girl who has completed the program is a success story. One girl continued her education to achieve first class honours in neuroscience, with others being the first in their family to finish high school. Jessica’s pride is evident when she explains how some of her little sisters are now fantastic mothers themselves, committed to never letting their children grow up in a hostile environment. A true testament to the success of SISTER2sister is the fact that, over a decade on, 95% of little sisters are still in regular contact with their big sisters.
When I chatted to Jessica, her passion and commitment to helping disadvantaged girls was immediately apparent. LCEF has now raised over $4,000,000 with only two staff members and a network of volunteers. Not one to dwell on her achievements, Jessica is now working to make LCEF and the SISTER2sister program household names, working tirelessly to transition herself from the founder of a small charity, to a leader of a national charity changing the lives of young Australian girls. In 2015, LCEF is expanding the SISTER2sister program to Victoria, with wait lists of mentors already eager to help in other states and territories.
To achieve these goals, Jessica and the LCEF team need your help. From the 17th to 21st of November, LCEF is running Step up for SISTERHOOD week, encouraging men and women across Australia to wear their most statement pair of shoes in exchange for a donation.
“There are thousands of young girls in Australia that need someone to stand up for them. Step up for SISTERHOOD Week is about using the power of community to finally break the cycle of trauma, offering hope and support to the girls in this country who have fallen through the cracks or been left behind.”
Make sure you sign up online now at Step up for SISTERHOOD.
As a fellow Leader in Heels, we urge you to slip on your favourite pair of shoes, donate and spread the word this week and step up to make a difference for some of the most vulnerable members of our society.