Small Change Adds Up to Big Change
21 June 2012 at 12:09 pm
From loose change at the bottom of her handbag, Sydneysider Sophie Bartho has helped build a health clinic in Laos that will treat 5000 children a year.
It might seem like too simple an idea; inspiring the nation to part with their forgotten coins in a bid to raise funds for some of the world’s poorest children.
In 2007, Sydney resident Sophie Bartho was searching for ways to use her expertise as a brand expert for a social purpose.
She found it at the bottom of her handbag.
“I don’t want to call it a mid-life crisis but it was one of those significant life milestones where I stopped and thought about what I had done in the last 40 years and what I wanted to achieve in the next 40,” Bartho said.
“I started thinking about how I could use the skills I had learnt in the marketing industry to have a greater social impact. I was playing around with a few ideas when I found all this small change at the bottom of my handbag, in my wallet, on the kitchen bench, in the car and on the dressing table. I realised a lot of people have similar change lying around. It’s inactive, lazy money.’’
“The very fact it was lying there meant it didn’t have any great value to our family, but it could mean so much to people who aren’t as lucky as us. My husband Rob had been entertaining similar career thoughts and we began brainstorming how we could make the message clear. In the end we came up with One Dollar Day (1$day) – when we ask everyone who can to give just $1 for those who can’t.’’
In 2011, with Australian actor Susie Porter signing up as an ambassador, the inaugural 1$day raised over $55,000 for Save the Children Australia. The leading child rights agency has used the funds to build a new village health centre in Phieng District, Laos, which will serve over 11,750 people living in eleven surrounding villages, including nearly 5,000 children.
The clinic, which was completed earlier this month, is staffed by four nurses trained by Save the Children’s Primary Health Care Program and the district health team monitors activities at the clinic every quarter.
Save the Children’s Chief Health Advisor in Laos Carol Perks said the new clinic is providing a large variety of primary health care services that will make a huge difference to the community.
“The clinic provides more than just basic healthcare, and includes maternal and child health services, overnight stays and dispensaries,’’ Perks said.
“It’s important that these women have access to family planning services. In remote regions and developing nations such as Laos, providing these accessible health services can literally change, and save, people’s lives.’’
Bartho said the 1$day Board initially considered six charities which have programs that reduce the global inequities in children’s health and education.
“The decision was made to support Save the Children because its health clinics in Laos ticked all the boxes in terms of being proven, measurable, and having a substantial and sustainable impact on a community,’’ she said.
Bartho’s personal experience with “elitist” fundraising events helped convince her that the idea of 1$day had the additional benefit of being a real equaliser and accessible to everyone.
“A lot of people have charity fatigue and many fundraising events cost between $100 and $500 to attend. Obviously not everyone can afford that. Many events also rely on selling merchandise which no-one needs or wants. I wanted to do something measurable and inclusive, where people could give money without expecting anything in return and not having to produce more landfill.’’
“There are over 22 million people in Australia. If the majority of us who live above the poverty line can give just one dollar on one day of the year, the funds raised are enormous.”
This year’s 1$day funds will be used for water, sanitation and hygiene projects in Ethiopian schools, as well as Save the Children’s successful Indigenous school attendance programs in the Northern Territory.
Bartho, a mother of three young children, said reducing inequities in children’s health and education was her core objective by enabling everyone to participate in the simple act of giving just $1 on one day.
“My children and I have been lucky enough to be born into a country at peace, have had caring families and a community that educated and provided health care. Not every child is that fortunate. As a mother, the thought of my children not going to school or not having access to basic sanitation and healthcare is terrifying. It’s just not acceptable to allow that to continue.’’
She said she was proud of what the event had achieved so far but is aiming to triple the funds this year and has plans to expand 1$day internationally.
“I’m not very good at stopping and celebrating what we’ve achieved. People say to me that there’s a clinic in Laos that wouldn’t have existed without 1$day. I’ll be proud when we have 1$day in three different currencies. If we can have it in the Euro, Pound and Dollar, the potential
is absolutely huge.’’
“When I’m dead and buried hopefully I would have done something of value in my life. I feel like we’ve got the ball rolling with a whole lot of help from people who share our vision ‘when every 1 counts’, but we’ve got a lot more to do.’’
About the author: Daniel Clarke is from Save the Children.