Changemaker- Melissa Abu-Gazaleh
22 July 2013 at 11:09 am
Melissa Abu-Gazaleh is CEO and founder of the Top Blokes Foundation, a youth-led organisation that empowers young men aged 14-24 to ignite their inner-top bloke and reach their full potential via mentoring, training and civic engagement programs. ?
This week we feature Melissa in Changemakers, a weekly column which examines inspiring people and their careers in the Not for Profit sector. ?
What are you currently working on in the organisation? ?
2013 has been a tremendous year for us. Our newest program which has been recently funded Suicide Intervention training for young men.
Our research with young men shows that young men feel they don’t have the skills or knowledge on how to help a mate at risk of suicide.
We look forward to working with young men on this project. ?We’ve recently launched the news that we have two celebrities on board as our official ambassadors.
We give thanks to Akmal Saleh and Arj Barker for their endorsement and support of the work we do at the Top Blokes Foundation! ?And we’re hiring more staff.
Our other mentoring and volunteer programs are growing, so we’re about to employ new workers who are passionate about empowering young men to reach their full potential.
?Favourite saying …
?At times when I need a reminder that all things worthy are not easy, I remind myself of the following quote “Two roads diverged in the woods, I took the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference” – Robert Frost. ?
I’m always being asked …
?“But you’re a female, why do you want to help young men?” And my response is always talking about how as a young female, I was invested in by our community with opportunities to participate in female only personal development and leadership opportunities including speaking competitions and mentoring programs.
But when we look at statistics, young men are highly represented in crime, alcohol-fuelled violence, anti-social and risk-taking behaviours.
And at age 19, I began asking what can I do to help young men have the same opportunities as me to reach their personal best.
At that time, I had searched for volunteering opportunities with an organisation that tackled these issues and found none, so I said what I’m sure other frustrated 19 year olds would say ‘fine, I’ll start a project myself’ and that’s how the Top Blokes Foundation began.
And today, I love meeting inspirational young men who have overcome hardship and showcase them as positive male role models, giving them a platform to share their passions and experiences to inspire other young men. ?
My greatest challenge is …
?Achieving this thing they call work/life balance (it’s the story of our lives!).
I have to keep reminding myself to take time out for my family, friends and myself. ?I know it sounds bad and I swear I can switch off, but my favourite thing to think about is Top Blokes, it excites me, gets me thinking outside the square, opens up opportunities and even enters my dreams.
?School taught me … ?
You need to be in charge of your own education, build your own future and earn your successes. You may have others who support you, but at the end of the day, you need to build your own work ethic, values and motivation to create the impact you want to create. ?
What does a typical day for you involve? ?
Every day is so different. I currently manage a team of 14 staff members and volunteers. With the organisation growing quite quickly, I focus solely on the strategic and operational growth of the organisation. ?I take care of all funding applications, corporate governance, partnership building, all things finance and mentoring of our staff members. ?
My team know that this ‘business stuff’ does not come natural to me, and it’s rarely fun, but I’ve surrounded myself with many amazing mentors who have guided and taught me what I need to know.
To balance this up, the team keep the office so fun, yup, nurf guns, play-dough, frizby and lego. Plus each week we vote on which new lolly is chosen for our office lolly jar.