When we were in our twenties, Jane Tewson walked into my office and asked us to fund all of the overheads of a new charity she had recently set up called Charity Projects. I could tell right away she had a special quality, and agreed to help, so she could ensure 100 per cent of profits went directly to good causes.
After that meeting, Jane went on to create Red Nose Day and Comic Relief, which has now raised well over £1 billion to change millions of lives for the better. Now Jane runs Igniting Change, an Australia-based charity that has an enormous impact upon the world and individuals’ lives. They take on unpopular causes, from employing ex-offenders to overcoming drug addiction, and they work with and for the communities they support.
It has been a delight spending time with a remarkable group of people Igniting Change have brought together for a Virgin Unite Gathering. As Jane says: “We create a bridge connecting people who would not normally meet, and when we do, sparks fly. We work really hard to break the stigma, to see the person not the label, to create a platform for people to share their stories.” I’ll share some of the ideas that have come out of the event soon.
It’s also been wonderful seeing how Igniting Change is walking the walk by involving people with lived experience centrally in all of their work. Jayde, who works closely with Jane at Igniting Change, shared these inspiring words: “When I was a little girl I dreamt of becoming a ballerina. I did not dream of becoming a drug addict. On paper I was unemployable; I had a record, I had an addiction.” Igniting Change saw her potential and gave her a chance. “Courage starts from the top down. There are a lot of people who need a bit of belief and can help.”
It’s a lesson the world needs to learn and re-learn. Igniting Change connects people who live at opposite ends of the divide. We all need to work hard to close that divide, see the people not the label, and have the courage to do the right thing, not the easy thing.