It’s the extra they give that makes them extraordinary

Have you noticed how some people squeeze unbelievable amounts into their day? James and Maiysha are two of those people. They’re high school students who are flat out with the end of year rush and their demanding sporting commitments. Yet somehow they’ve found the time to become One Girl Ambassadors as well.

You don’t have to chat with them long to realise they both have that incredible can-do attitude that so many passionate people share. It’s almost as if they just have to step up and take action – no matter how busy they are.

Group of young women sitting around a table in school dresses watching a video on a large screen
Ambassador training day in Melbourne

Here’s what they said about becoming One Girl Ambassadors:

Maiysha: At the start of this year, a new girl came into my year level and we connected immediately. On the bus one day, she mentioned that the year before she had fundraised for One Girl. I was completely hooked on! I’m a strong believer that actions speak louder than words, and I was super keen to do something similar.

James: Maiysha called one day and couldn’t stop talking about this amazing opportunity to become a One Girl Ambassador and help young women and girls to get an education. The opportunity sounded incredible; so I did some research. I was stunned not only by the severity of the education issue but the remarkable work of One Girl. Creating a team with Maiysha became a no-brainer!

As passionate students, James and Maiysha are incredibly grateful for their own education and struggle with the idea that so many girls are missing out on those opportunities because of their gender.

James: Being a high school student I’ve experienced how much people develop going to school – both academically and in general. So to find out that so many girls in Sierra Leone and Uganda don’t have that opportunity – simply because of their sex – was a mammoth ethical wrong for me.

Maiysha: Attending an all-girls’ school, I am constantly empowered by my teachers to take control of my life through my education. I am overwhelmed by how INCREDIBLE we humans are, being able to produce this thing called ‘knowledge’! It’s this feeling that I receive from my schooling that fuels my passion to support these girls and this cause.

And Maiysha has another very special reason why she feels so passionate about education:

Bangladeshi mum standing behind seated daughter in restaurant

Maiysha: My mum is my greatest inspiration. She was a young university student, studying physics and dreaming of doing aeronautical engineering (rocket science) when my dad came along and swept her off her feet. Living in Bangladesh she was expected, by her mother-in-law, to be a full-time wife.

Bangladeshi mother holding baby daughter outside in Melbourne CBD at night

When my parents moved to Australia, mum was ready to resume her studies, but I came along and she put her dreams on hold again to work and look after our family. She didn’t have the chance to reach her potential and felt people saw and treated her as if she was inferior.

Eventually, mum got to study Applied Science and now she’s a practicing radiographer. She has always encouraged me to dream big and make the most of every opportunity my education offers me. She serves as an example of the kind of strength women have and how education can bring about a new life.

Close up of printed brochure and iPhone on a desk

While they were at Ambassador training, James and Maiysha heard the story of last year’s incredible Sydney to Sierra Leone team – who exercised an equivalent of the 16,000km from Sydney to Sierra Leone. As competitive rowers, they realised this was a perfect fundraising model for them.

Teenage male rower beside boat holding oar at Yarra River with Melbourne CBD in background

They train several times a week – sometimes on the river and sometimes on rowing machines known as ergos. In the process, they clock up a LOT of kilometres! If they could somehow tally the training distances of a whole bunch of rowers, they’d have a great fundraising challenge.

Turns out there was a way!

Image of a rowing machine against white background

Ergos aren’t known for their fun factor, so the company that manufactures them has a calendar of competitions to spice up the otherwise fairly relentless ‘dry land’ training that rowers do to build skill and fitness.

Maiysha and James: We are participating in a month-long ergometer challenge from mid-September to mid-October, where teams try to ‘erg’ as far as possible. We’ll be rowing under our team name: ‘One Girl: Life Changers’. We’re inviting rowing clubs and schools to be part of our team with the aim to erg the 16,000km distance from Melbourne to Sierra Leone.

The friends are also both doing their own individual fundraising events.

Teenage boy running in community run wearing a school dress

James: On 30 July I put on my Do It In A Dress dress and ran Run Melbourne’s half marathon. Embracing such a welcoming community of runners was liberating. I even met others running in dresses.

I also held a free dress day at school to fundraise for One Girl and raise awareness by wearing a dress, putting up posters and writing an article for the school newsletter. And I asked all the clubs and committees at school to raise awareness in their own unique way.

Maiysha: I’m planning a fundraiser at my school. I’ll be holding a ‘Dress Up In A Dress’ day where students can come to school in a casual dress and donate a gold coin. And I’ll be holding some lunchtime activities to spread awareness:

• Selling gingerbread girls that have facts about girls’ education on stickers on the packaging and on the back of small recipe cards.

• Filtering unclean water. This is a science experiment with sand and flocculant to see how we can clean water without fancy equipment.

• Artwork of a girl. An outline of a girl that can be decorated with art and/or signatures representing my school’s support for girls’ education.

We finished up our interview with James and Maiysha by asking if they had any tips for people planning their Do It In A Dress challenge.

Maiysha: Remember that it’s a ‘challenge’! It’s meant to be hard, there will be ups and downs, but always focus on why you’re signed up to be involved. Be prepared to change your plans to something simple if you have to.

James: Don’t hold back! Do something wild and spread the word through as many people as possible. Having a schedule or timeline of events can greatly help. And have fun!

Maiysha and James have ticked so many boxes on our Tips for Fundraisers list: they’ve teamed up, they’ve tapped into their own communities and they’ve picked a challenge that fits into their lives. That’s not to say it will be easy – if you’ve ever been on rowing machines at the gym you’ll know how big their challenge is. But they’re off to a brilliant start and we wish them an oar-some (sorry – had to slip that in) time!