As the Leading Women Fund nears its first birthday, we asked a selection of our Founding 50 members why they decided to join. All from very different backgrounds – and with a fascinating set of reasons – these women are united in the belief that together they can make a real difference to the lives of refugee women.

 

Founding 50 member Kim Keating

Leading Women Fund donor Kim Keating @ Supplied

I love the freedom our donations give to women

Kim Keating heads a recruitment and HR company in the not-for-profit space

“I love the simplicity of the Fund – the fact that the money we donate goes directly to Syrian refugee women. I really believe in financial freedom for women – I think it’s the most powerful thing you can give anyone.

In Jordan only five per cent of working visas for Syrian refugees go to women. These women need to have a place at the table; they need money and access to money. I love the freedom that they get to spend their cash assistance however they need.”

 

Founding 50 member Shanelle Clapham

Leading Women Fund donor Shanelle Newton Clapham @ Supplied

“It’s great to be part of a pioneering group”

Shanelle Newton Clapham is a digital marketing expert in the not-for-profit sector

“What I like about the Leading Women Fund is how individualised it feels. Through the Connecting Worlds app, we had the chance to connect directly with a woman who was receiving cash assistance through UNHCR, as well as the opportunity to give feedback that would refine the app for future users.

I also love the ethos of the Fund, which enables women to choose their own path rather than having to take what they’re given. It’s great to be part of a pioneering new group that could have a significant impact.”

 

Leading Women Fund donor Abby Hart @ Supplied

“There’s complete respect for refugee women”

Abby Hart works with special needs children in Melbourne

“When you commit to making a monthly donation, you want to know it’s going to the right place and that it’s delivered in a way that’s empowering for people. Through the LWF webinars I attended, I could see that everyone involved with the Fund had complete respect for the Syrian refugee women who were heads of their household. They knew they’d budget and buy exactly what they needed for their families.

The situation in Syria is so sad, and it’s been going on for such a long time. It can feel really overwhelming, but if you want to make a difference, donating to the LWF is a tangible way to help a family. And the woman I was matched with through the app seemed to value our connection. Towards the end, she said, ‘It’s going to be hard to lose you, I have lost so much in my life.’”

 

Founding 50 member Kim Graham Nye

Leading Women Fund donor Kim Graham-Nye @ Supplied

“I’ve met some really dynamic, engaged women”

Kim Graham-Nye is an entrepreneur and businesswoman who has always had an interest in refugees

“As a white, English-speaking woman, it was relatively easy for me to immigrate to Australia in 1994. I arrived on a tourist visa and was allowed to remain here while my application was processed. Meanwhile, refugees in overcrowded boats were being turned away. These would have been people with so much to offer, with degrees in all sorts of fields, and there was I, a young girl with no real experience, being able to stay. I always felt guilt around that.

For me, the Fund enabled me to engage in a real, tangible way in helping refugee women who’ve fled their homes in order to protect their families. Anyone who undertakes the refugee journey is, by definition, incredibly strong and brave. I’ve also enjoyed being part of this community of female donors. There are some really dynamic, engaged women in the group who want to do more. I’m looking forward to what we can achieve.”

 

Founding 50 member Penny Del Castillo

Leading Women Fund donor Penny Del Castillo @ Supplied

“Neither of us wanted our friendship to end”

Interior designer Penny Del Castillo knew little about the Syrian crisis before donating to the LWF

“I made a new friend during lockdown in Melbourne: my match through the Connecting Worlds app. She had five adopted children and I have stepchildren, so we had common ground in a way. I was amazed by her strength and determination, and her positive attitude. She had a sister living in Lebanon at the time of the dreadful chemical blast and she’d say, ‘I’m so lucky to be here,’ despite her own difficult circumstance.

I was working extra-long hours during the app trial, trying to keep my business together, so we’d often exchange messages late at night. I felt we supported each other. Giving through the Fund, with the personal connection I formed through the app, brought me to a place of empathy that’s quite different to traditional giving. Neither of us wanted our friendship to end.”

 

Founding 50 member Marie Richardson

Leading Women Fund donor Marie Richardson @ Supplied

“For the price of a dress, you can pay a woman’s rent”

Financial planner Marie Richardson works for Derby Council in WA

“I’ve had a difficult time in the past few years, but the down period I experienced was nothing in comparison to the situation of refugees. I was never in danger of being homeless. I knew I would step up again. For refugees, like the woman I texted via the app, the future is a difficult concept.

I’ve always fundraised for charity, but giving through the LWF sounded more personal; more like it was specific to an individual. My Connecting Worlds match had a friend living in a camp whose son might have to leave as he’s turning 18 soon. I’m going to keep donating until that refugee camp doesn’t exist. For the price of a new dress each month, a dress I don’t need, my money can go towards paying this woman’s rent.”

 

Founding 50 member Tonii Tran

Leading Women Fund donor Tonii Tran @ Supplied

“I loved meeting the other donors”

Tonii Tran owns several childcare centres in Melbourne

“Even though the pandemic prevented us meeting in person, I loved meeting other LWF donors in small-group Zoom meetings after the app trial. They were all such interesting women. Usually when you donate to a charity, you don’t have the opportunity to form those personal connections with other donors, or with the women actually receiving the funds.

I’m from a refugee family, which is why the LWF appealed. When we texted through the app, though, my match and I connected over subjects like family and school. We supported each other emotionally because we worried about our children, their schooling, health and futures. She was so resilient, and she made me realise how my problems are small after what she’d been through. She was so resilient, and she made me realise how my problems are small after what she’d been through.”

Founding 50 member Joy Donovan

Leading Women Fund donor Joy Donovan @ Supplied

“I loved the personal contact with a Syrian woman”

Joy Donovan is a retired nurse

“I came to the Fund because I donate to the UN for various projects, and I’m really interested in refugees. I’m part of an advocacy group here in Wollongong that campaigns for the release of people detained in Manus and Nauru, as well as those in indefinite detention here.

I’m an older woman, stumbling around with the technology needed for the app trial, but Ashley [LWF’s coordinator] helped me, and I was lucky to connect with a Syrian woman who really opened up to me. She had a 10-year-old daughter and they lived in a flat that had mould on the walls. She slept on a thin mattress on a tiled floor, which must be freezing in winter.

I love the personal contact that the Fund enabled me to have with her, and I think about her often. I worry for her future.”

Founding 50 member Liz Lewis

Leading Women Fund donor Liz Lewis @ Supplied

“My match and I connected on a philosophical level”

Liz Lewis is a former language teacher and volunteers with Australia for UNHCR

“I used to teach refugees so I know some of the issues they face, which is one of the reasons I decided to donate to the LWF. The future and safety of women are also really important to me. I come from a family of feminist women who believed education was the key to success. Both my grandmothers were strong role models. One was a pioneering Adelaide University woman graduate. The other had an ABC radio show for women in the 1940s, and the war office used to check her scripts! She and my mother inspired me to travel, work hard and donate to benefit those less fortunate.


My match told me she loved reading. We connected on a philosophical level, talking about the inner qualities she needed to survive the challenges she'd endured and stay determined and positive. I admired her and tried to encourage her. I know how people’s lives can change for the better over time if they have the right support."

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