If you ever tried to donate something special to charity and had your donation refused, you’ll know how Juliette Wright felt in 2009 when she tried to donate a bag of brand new, high quality children’s clothes to her local charities, only to be told that they didn’t want her donation.
Sure, she could have left the clothes in the local Vinnie’s bin or dropped them into her nearest second-hand shop, but Juliette was craving a sense of connection with the people who would receive the donation, so she phoned homeless shelters herself in the hope to find a child who would fit her son Hudson’s unused clothes, perfectly.
But, phone call after phone call, her donation was turned down. With frustration creeping in, Juliette asked, “Well, what do you want me to donate?” and that was her light bulb moment.
It turned out that what the charities most needed was new underwear and sanitary products for the mums, plus steel-capped boots for the dads so the dads could go back to work and move their family out of the shelter.
From her initial donation experience, Juliette embarked on what has become a seven-year mission to match charities’ needs with donations offered, through her web portal, GIVIT.
Run mostly by volunteers, GIVIT accepted 3,000 donations in its first year and as at August 2016, GIVIT – now the official Queensland Government organisation for coordinating donations during natural disasters – had accepted 319,000 donations.
It hasn’t come easy. She’s on the seventh version of her website – each version coming at a financial and emotional cost – and there have been some years when Juliette has questioned where she would get enough external funding and/or sponsorship for the service to stay alive.
Meeting her in person at the Queensland Disability Conference in Cairns in August after her keynote on stage, Juliette credited the profile she built after receiving a Australia’s Local Hero Award on Australia Day 2015, as the reason she now has enough funding to keep alive her dream to alleviate poverty worldwide.
When asked what motivates her, Juliette replied, “I’m motivated by thank yous and a sense of connection with the people we’re helping…I’m also motivated by the generosity of our donators. I’ve seen people donate houses and caravans. I’ve seen children of refugees donate their teddies. It’s incredible how much people are willing to give.”
Asked if she would fall victim to compassion fatigue anytime soon, Juliette replied, “Everyone in the services industry experiences compassion fatigue sometimes. But one in six Queenslanders still live under the internationally accepted poverty line and need help. So, as long as people still need help, I’d like to think GIVIT will still be there to help them.”