Uni Student Raises Hope For Disadvantaged
6 March 2013 at 10:54 am
For University student Ben Duggan, it’s difficult trying to juggle assignments, part time work, and being the Managing Director of a Foundation to end educational disadvantage in the nation’s capital, Canberra. Pro Bono Australia spoke to founder Ben Duggan as part of our ‘Spotlight on Social Enterprise’ series.
With the help of a team of volunteers, the Raising Hope Foundation is making a difference in high schools in the Canberra area to let youths with low self esteem feel ‘awesome’ about themselves.
Ben Duggan says his Raising Hope Foundation is designed to provide mentoring and assistance to high school students with an ‘educational disadvantage’ and helping students to control of their mental health.
Duggan says that he tells his volunteers from Canberra’s two universities – Australian National University (ANU) and University of Canberra (UC) to focus on increasing the self esteem, confidence and self worth of the disadvantaged high school students.
Using an internal university campaign drive and Facebook advertising to promote the cause, Duggan and his team have encouraged about 250 students to list themselves as interested in becoming involved in some way or another with the Foundation.
Discussing his experience working with Federal members in the Canberra area as a policy advisor, Duggan says that he discovered that there were genuine disadvantages in local high schools which weren’t discussed.
“There was an opportunity gap between elite private schools and rural public schools,” he says.
“But it’s important that education goes beyond traditional debate of public vs private.”
Duggan believes that if high school students affected by educational disadvantage graduate with elements of self confidence and mental health issues, from low self esteem and low self-confidence, that it will impact on their contribution to society down the track.
Duggan emphasises that mentoring is the organisation’s main focus at the moment and shouldn’t be confused with ‘tutoring’. International students from Africa and the South Pacific studying at ANU volunteer to come into the high schools and share their stories to the Canberra students about the disadvantage they faced growing up in their home countries.
“It gives these kids a different perspective on their own opportunity,” Duggan says.
These storytellers spend time with students teaching them confidence that will give them a boost and some perspective about the situations in their own lives.
“I tell volunteers that their job is to make them feel awesome.”
Set-backs and future
As a full-time student who also works part-time to fund his studies, Duggan says the number one hindrance in growing his company is time.
“If I were able to work on it full-time we would possibly have many programs up and running last year,” he says.
Duggan refers to Raising Hope as a mixture of traditional views of charity and the structure of a social enterprise business model.
“It’s a blend of the two. We’re primarily volunteer based and we rely on grants to operate. We would be considered more of an ‘old-school’ charity.”
“In the future we are looking at moving to more of a social enterprise business model,” Duggan explains.
“We would still like to provide things for free (such as mentoring) but we’re looking at different people to pay for other things we could offer.”
Duggan is a graduate from the School for Social Entrepreneurs where he developed his initial idea of Raising Hope and learned practical business skills such as insurance and project management.
Raising Hope has recently been granted charity status, meaning it is no longer required to pay GST as well as other benefits. However it is not a registered Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) organisation.
“Everyone works as a volunteer,” he says.
We’re running for charitable purpose.”
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