Fearless Girls: dignity, respect and justice for all

WARNING – SOME READERS MAY FIND THIS CONTENT DISTURBING

At the Effective Altruism conference in Sydney last year I had a conversation with a new friend about our ‘favourite effective charities’. Her favourite was the Fistula Foundation. Her reason was because for a set amount of money you could be 100 per cent confident you could restore quality of life to a woman who would otherwise suffer enormously and endlessly.

Honestly, I have to admit that although I’d vaguely heard of the Fistula Foundation, I didn’t really know what they did. I nodded along politely as my new friend talked about the great work they do and went home and googled them.

Turns out the Fistula Foundation provides treatment for ‘obstetric fistula’ – a childbirth injury that can destroy a woman’s life. An obstetric fistula occurs when a mother has a prolonged obstructed labour, but doesn’t have access to emergency medical care, such as a c-section. She often labours in excruciating pain for days.

Tragically her baby usually dies.

But it gets worse…

During the prolonged labour, the mother’s contractions continually push the baby’s head against her pelvis. Soft tissues caught between the baby’s head and her pelvic bone become compressed, restricting the normal flow of blood.

Without adequate blood supply, sections of tissue soon die, leaving holes – known as ‘fistulae’ – between the mother’s vagina and her bladder or rectum. It’s these holes that cause incontinence.

If untreated, the woman will uncontrollably leak urine, stool, or sometimes both, for the rest of her life.

Obstetric fistula leaves women incontinent, humiliated and often shunned by their community.

Surgery is the only cure.

And that’s where the Fistula Foundation come in. In their own words – they do one thing, and they do it well – they treat obstetric fistula. Few investments in human health have been proven to yield such a dramatic impact on a woman, her family and her community.

Today, right now, at least one million women in Africa and Asia are needlessly suffering from untreated fistula. They are generally voiceless – young, female, poor, rural and ostracised.

Especially as a woman, especially as a mother, it is enough to make you cry.

So when we were looking for an effective charity to donate our March to May Write the World notebook sales to – especially our new Fearless Girls notebook, designed to coincide with International Women’s Day on 8 March – we couldn’t think of a better effective charity to support.

Fearless Girls: dignity, respect and justice for all – silence is not an option

Purchase online in our Write the World notebook store now – every $10 notebook purchase = $10 to Fistula Foundation from March to May 2020.

January 2020: Re-committing our five per cent

With the launch of Write the World notebooks in September last year, all our family’s monthly donations since then have been directed towards the production of notebooks. Our vision is to ensure that our customers know that every single dollar they spend on notebooks is donated to effective charities tackling global poverty, as recommended by The Life You Can Save. Not just the profit, the full purchase price.

But you know what? I really miss our own family conversations around where our monthly donation will go. For me, it is a massively rewarding part of the process and I think it’s a really important step in keeping us on track as a family in remembering just how incredibly lucky we are and how grateful we should be for the life we lead.

So, in 2020 we will be continuing to run Write the World notebooks as well as re-committing to our five per cent monthly donations on top of that.

Having said that, in January we are donating more than five per cent, and not to a necessarily ‘effective charity’.

As everyone is all too aware, Australia has been faced with a terrible bushfire season and back at the start of January we pledged as a family to donate an extra $10 for every Write the World notebook sold to the bushfire appeals.

We sold 89 notebooks in January. So that’s $890 to effective charities tackling global poverty (the full purchase price of the notebooks), plus a bonus $890 to the bushfire appeals from our family. Happily my employer is also matching employee donations to the bushfire appeals, meaning we will be donating $1,780 to the bushfire appeals.

Making a total of $2,670 to charity for the month. We are not quite in Celeste Barber’s league, but every little bit helps.

Do you love the sound of Stephen Fry’s voice?

In 2015 our family embarked on a ‘big red road trip’ from Darwin in the north of Australia, down to Alice Springs in the centre of Australia. It was 1,500 kilometres with just me, my husband, our two kids… and Stephen Fry.

And when I say Stephen Fry, I mean we listened to a Harry Potter audio book narrated by Stephen Fry. Sadly, he wasn’t in the car with us. Though even if he wanted to come there wouldn’t have been room, what with the tents and the eskies and the lilos and the sleeping bags and every other essential you need on a getting back to nature road trip.

Hour after hour, kilometre after kilometre, Stephen talked us through the Australian outback. Often as we pulled up at majestic landmarks – Kakadu, the Olgas, Uluru, Karlu Karlu – we would all look at each other and taciturnly agree to stay in the car until Stephen finished the particular chapter we were on. I don’t know if we were sadder when the trip ended or the audio book finished.

So, you can imagine how excited I was when I heard that Stephen Fry was one of the narrators on the new audio version of the tenth anniversary edition, The Life You Can Save. If you haven’t heard of it, The Life You Can Save is Peter Singer’s landmark book about how we can all be doing our part to end world poverty. Don’t take my word for it though. Check out what Bill Gates says about it – “A persuasive and inspiring work that will change the way you think about philanthropy… and shows us we can make a profound difference in the lives of the world’s poorest.”

Having different celebrities narrate different chapters of the book is such a great idea. As well as my favourite voice ever, Stephen Fry, there is also a chapter narrated by Kristen Bell. For those of you who haven’t watched The Good Place yet, get to it – super funny. Kristen plays the role of Eleanor Shellstrop – a morally challenged character and an absolutely inspired choice to narrate a book on ethics.

And guess what? You can download a copy of the audio book – or the ebook if for some reason you want to read it yourself rather than have Stephen Fry read it to you – for free.

And just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get any better? For every time the book is downloaded before the 31 December, US$1 is donated to The Life You Can Save.

Download your copy of either the audio book or the ebook of The Life You Can Save from here. You’re welcome.

October 2019: Four lessons learnt in the first four weeks of start-up

Around four weeks ago we launched Write the World notebooks. In that time we’ve raised more than $3,000 for The Life You Can Save to donate to effective charities. In that time I’ve also learnt a heap of things I didn’t expect to. It could almost become a book, but for the moment, here’s just four of them…

Social media is ok: it’s a sign of my age I know, and the fact that I mostly approach social media through a very wary parental lens, but up until the last few months I was pretty negative towards online networking. I knew I would have to embrace it for this project, but I was skeptical. Would I get sucked into a social media vortex never to be seen with (what) sanity (I have) intact again?

Yet, to the contrary, social media has been ace. It has allowed me to connect with people I never would have been able to otherwise, to spread the word, and reach out to people who may be interested in the project. Overwhelmingly, every single interaction I’ve had on social media has been positive and a force for good.

You get it and you’re in: I have been a little overwhelmed by the people – some I knew before the project, most I didn’t – who have said ‘yep, great idea, I’ll support that’. It seems like it’s a project that if you ‘get it’, you’re happy to help. From website development to notebook design, from social media tips to spreading the word, from artist collaboration to photography – the project is benefiting from an extremely generous, virtual village upbringing.

Strings of hope: having said that, there are many people I’ve approached about Write the World – many of them complete long shots – who I haven’t heard back from. And that’s ok. My coach [get one! so good! email me for the contact details of mine!] introduced me to the ‘strings of hope’ theory. I’m pretty sure she had a more official name for it, but ‘strings of hope’ is the way I now think of it…

This may not be the original description of the theory but the way it works for me is this: if you want to get from A (where you are now) to B (your goal for the future), and you only have one way or hope for getting there, well, if that doesn’t pay off, you’re… let’s say… not going to make it.

But if you have many ways of getting to B – many strings of hope that will help you work towards getting you there – if some of them pay off, and some of them don’t, you’re still ok. You’re still on your way.

The power of (more than) one: there is something liberating about running your own project – make a decision and implement it, woohoo, how great is that? But it can also be lonely. And for someone prone to insecurity and decision-making-paralysis, having a cheer squad and sounding board is essential. You know who you are, and thank you.

We have exciting things ahead for Write the World, with further notebook designs and collaborations on the way. Our focus for the moment is on spreading the word and selling as many notebooks as possible over the coming months.

Think of them as the perfect Christmas gift, meaningful, environmentally friendly and – with each $10 notebook providing $10 for charity – making the world just that little bit better.

If you haven’t already checked out the range, you can do so at www.writetheworldnotebooks.org. And here’s to the next four weeks!

July 2019: Launching our love project – Write the World

Earlier this year I had an idea. In the shower. Which is often where the best ideas happen, I reckon.

It was a little niggly idea at first. But it grew and grew, until before I knew it the idea was a project. Which is now happening. The idea in a nutshell: Write the World notebooks, unique notebooks designed to make the world a better place. Our point of difference: 100% of the $10 purchase price of every single Write the World notebook sold goes to The Life You Can Save to direct towards effective charities. That’s right, 100%.

I jokingly call it the love project. It’s such an apt name for it. I love so much about it…

Selfishly, I love that it allows me to use my skills – working with specialists like designers and printers, creating, writing, implementing, organising. Oh yes, I’m an organiser!

I love that it’s increasing my horizons, allowing me to talk to and meet interesting people I wouldn’t have otherwise come across. It’s broadening my own world.

I love that the whole family is engaged in the project, offering ideas and suggestions and ever so patiently listening to my constant updates and latest Write the World thoughts.

I love that the idea has been so positively embraced by every single person I’ve told about it. It’s a project that seems to bring out the best in people.

And I love that The Life You Can Save has agreed to be our project’s donor charity. It means the project is totally aligned to where our family has been putting our effective altruism efforts for the past 24 months.

Our family will be directing our monthly effective altruism donations to Write the World for the next few months. We are funding the design and printing of the first six hundred notebooks ourselves. For an initial outlay of $3,500 – which we would have donated to effective charities anyway over the course of the coming months – we will eventually be able to direct $6,000 in notebook sales to The Life You Can Save. Almost twice what we would have otherwise being able to donate.

Because that is another thing I love about the love project. It has this magical multiplier thing going on. The more we print, the less the notebooks cost. The more we sell, the more we donate. Say, for example, we increase our print quantities in the future – with economies of scale, the notebook production price goes down and for a $5,000 initial investment, we’d see $30,000 donated to The Life You Can Save in notebook sales.

How magic is that?

We will be looking for generous effective altruists to sponsor future design and print runs. We’d love to hear from you if you’re interested in having your donation magically multiplied through the Write the World notebook love project – drop us a line at savinglives@writetheworldnotebooks.org to start a conversation about how we can work together.

The Write the World website will be launching in September 2019. In the meantime, you can follow our journey to launch on Facebook (http://fb.me/writetheworldnotebooks) or Instagram (@write_the_world_notebooks)

June 2019: Support your tribe – SurfAid

Nothing like a bit of an incident when you’re travelling in a remote area to provide a sharp reminder of how lucky we are to have the health care we do in Australia. And how many people in other places are going without that level of medical support and resources.

We recently got back from a ten-day family holiday in Indonesia. Highlights included meeting lovely people, relaxing overlooking gorgeous tropical views, and escaping Melbourne’s freezing winter for a while. As with any travel to less developed countries there was also a healthy dose of guilt involved: environmental damage via our flights, inequality of lifestyles, the ability to pay for activities geared exclusively to tourists.

The one activity our kids had their hearts set on was surfing. We’ve all surfed before, but by no means are anywhere near proficient… as evidenced by our collection of surfing injury stories. The fact that we have surfing injury stories should have been warning in itself, but off we went surfing again nevertheless. Because it’s so much fun!

And as a result of our hedonistic pursuits we have a new surfing injury tale to add to our set. Whoever saw that coming?!

Being injured on a remote third-world island, a good hour or two by boat and road from the nearest hospital, brought home rapidly how lucky we are to have the healthcare we do in Melbourne.

So of course it was top of mind when thinking about where to make this month’s charity donation – it had to go to some sort of effective health care charity, preferably in Indonesia.

It completely tickled my fancy when we found SurfAid. What could be more perfect for this month’s donation, than a tribe of surfers who have banded together to push a wave of support to the health, well being and self reliance of people in isolated regions, including Indonesia?

SurfAid aim to provide very practical support – think materials to build water tanks, water taps and toilets for clean water and sanitation, mosquito nets to avoid malaria, materials for community health posts to support pregnant women, mothers and children, and materials for evacuation roads to help communities escape to safety if another tsunami hits. They are aiming to build the capacity of community members, schoolchildren, community health volunteers and relevant government staff to increase the independence and health status of communities and reduce the risk from natural disasters.

It’s a big thank you to the SurfAid tribe from us for their work in these remote communities. And for now, maybe we’ll just be sticking to dry land for a while.

May 2019: There’s an app for that

I had an idea for an app last week. I needed potatoes for dinner and rather than walk around the shop I was definitely in the market for an app that would let me press a few buttons and potatoes would magically appear out of my iPhone. I’m going to call it ‘Spudmeister’. My other idea for an app is ‘RipenMyAvocadoRightNow’ where you wave your iPhone and the app over the rock hard avocado you have earmarked for lunch and it magically turns ripe and soft. You heard it here first.

One app that is a little closer to reality comes from The Life You Can Save, and is now in beta testing. We trialled it out Sunday night and it’s ace.

We divided our May donation of $891 four ways and all took a turn at the app.

With my share I cured three people of blindness through 15 minute cataract surgery. Talk about seeing the light.

My daughter was next up and she chose to help 600 children avoid malnutrition, the leading cause of intellectual disability and blindness, through provision of micronutrients. She just turned 13 so in the same tech session was allowed to download Instagram. While she was chuffed to assist 600 children, finally getting Insta won out as the highlight of her evening.

My husband was next. He loved the micronutrients option too and was able to help an additional 560 children. The fact that he did it from the comfort of his couch with a glass of red in hand probably helped his feeling of good will.

Our son got home a bit later and took his turn. Having just finished a school assignment on third-world countries’ most pressing health issues, he opted for protecting 150 people from malaria for three to four years through the purchase of 75 bed nets.

So all in all, 1,313 people helped through The Life You Can Save app. It’s a thumbs up on the beta testing from us.

Now to the shops to buy a ripe avocado for dinner…