JOUR 101, Media

Why you need to know this One Girl

Born into a privileged Melbourne family, Chantelle Baxter’s life was filled with parties, overseas holidays and private schools – she had everything. Not quite. By the time Chantelle left high school her life had been affected by “domestic violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual abuse and suicide attempts”.

Chantelle Baxter - one girl in one dress with one idea

Chantelle Baxter, 28 – one girl in one dress with one idea

After a short stint at university – studying web design – Chantelle was not happy as she “realised that money was not the key to my happiness. I was miserable. I needed a change.” On the advice of her mentor, Chantelle embarked on a leadership program to Sierra Leone, West Africa. And that is where her “life really began”.

Without the luxuries of home, Chantelle believed she, “would not last the first week. I’d barely even been camping before, and now I was being asked to do manual labour in 35 degree heat. I hated it. And I cried, a lot.” But after a few wise words from her mentor, Chantelle’s mindset changed – dramatically.

Returning home by the end the month, Chantelle realised, “I didn’t fit in anymore. I couldn’t go back. I was different, and it was time my life reflected that.” In early 2009, Chantelle hit the reset button, gave up her old habits, her boyfriend, her apartment, her old life and from this, One Girl was born.

Chantelle later met co-founder David Dixon and set off on a 12 month mission to establish an organisation that would help educate young girls in Sierra Leone who are more likely to be sexually assaulted than attend high school. One Girl’s belief is that:

“Every girl on the planet has the right to an education. No matter where she is born, how much her family earns, what her culture says, every girl deserves the opportunity to learn, grow and be the best she can be. There is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls and women.”

And the statistics are phenomenal. An educated girl’s income rises by 10% every year she stays in school and will have a smaller, healthier family later in life which prevents her contracting and spreading HIV.

But to raise this money was a challenge. “It started as a dare between friends”. Chantelle’s friend was soon to be competing in the Melbourne Marathon and was dared to do it in a school girl’s dress, “at first he said no way – but after a couple of beers he thought it was a great idea.” People began “throwing money at him” and the idea of Do it in a Dress was born.

This October was set to be a huge month with the Do it in a Dress campaign flourishing. People have sky-dived in dresses, surfed at iconic Bondi Beach, completed the Great Wall of China walk – just to name a few. This year alone, they have raised a staggering $314, 785 which has sent 1,049 girls to school in Sierra Leone.

The future for One Girl sees a Christmas campaign to help build schools called ‘I Don’t Want a Present’ as we waste over $700 million dollars every year and Chantelle hopes “to capture just $50,000 of that”.

But the real, dream goal “would be to have 1,000,000 girls back in school”. And to think, this can be reality with one girl  in one dress.

JOUR 101, Media

Are gap years the new way to better grades?

Gap years have become a popular phenomenon with a 15% increase in 10 years

Gap years have become a popular phenomenon with a 15% increase in 10 years

As this year’s HSC draws to a close, 25% of the graduating students will go on gap years. According to new studies, students who have a gap year will do better than their counterparts who came straight from high school.

Against the conventional theories of students losing the momentum of learning, Professor Andrew Martin from the University of Sydney believes that gap years are “part of the momentum”. He states that this gap between high school and university allows for clarity in “students’ plans for what they study and where” as well as giving them an ‘edge’ over other students who may be lacking in the autonomous skills needed to meet the broader demands of tertiary education.

Professor Martin is co-author of a paper in the Journal of Higher Education which follows the progress of 904 undergraduate students at the University of Sydney. He explores how students meet the demands of university life. Through this, he has concluded that those who embarked on gap years, were more successful as their experiences enabled them to cope with the high expectations,”develop and maintain self-direction and independent thinking skills” Professor Martin explained.

“I want to experience the world before I get too old” says 17-year-old student Ellie who has finished her HSC studies and will depart for London mid-November for six months travelling around Europe. Her sister Claire set out for a gap year in 2010 but instead stayed for 2 years, “I just loved being immersed in a different culture and that it only took a train trip to be in an entirely different country”. Claire originally wanted to study exercise science but quickly changed after returning to Australia, “I wanted to do a job that would take me all over the world and actually be paid for it!”

Whilst gap years are not for everyone as they can be financially tolling, they are advised by many – such as Claire – who have embarked on one as they allow for students to “be naive, adventurous but independent without the pressures of studying or other grown-up responsibilities.”

JOUR 101, Media

Carer Stephanie finally gets recognised

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Stephanie Pinilla was finally recognised for her role as full-time carer for her disabled mother at Old Sydney Parliament House on Monday. This was part of the National Carers Week which begins this week.

Stephanie’s mother – Jackie Hamilton – was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was pregnant with Stephanie. With an intense maturity that transcends her tender age, Stephanie simply sees her role as “just doing what I do” and that it has “never been a chore for me”.

The New South Wales Carer Awards recognised 71 carers who are among the 850,000 unpaid family carers in NSW. Stephanie was the youngest recipient on the day, received a Highly Commended Award which means that she is in the running for the Carer of the Year Award. Stephanie says that was “nice to be recognised and for people to see the work I do everyday” and “of course I could hear Mum cheering for me!”.

Applying for the award was not something she had ever thought about, “at the time I thought, do I really deserve this?” as her caring role was never something that she questioned doing as she has “lived it from day one”. Stephanie’s daily routine includes “getting mum up and ready, preparing Jared’s lunch, money and notes for the day and then I get ready” which is a huge responsibility but “if someone was in your shoes, they’d do the same”.

Stephanie is only allowed 25 hours away from her mother which she uses during school hours and says that she has not had the “stereotypical rebellious stage” but believes “it’s better for me in the long run”. As she commences her Year 12 studies at Lake Illawarra High School, Stephanie is “definitely going to university” with the hopes of studying either “medicine, teaching or radio”. Whichever road she may take, there is a bright and happy future ahead of this phenomenal young woman.

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JOUR 101

The alluring new age addiction

Mobile devices such as smartphones are now so addictive that we cannot complete simple tasks without one in hand

Smartphone users equate to 1.08 billion of the world’s population. As they are ever-increasingly becoming part of our daily routine, it is hard not to become addicted. But are they as detrimental as we all think?

Psychologists and the public alike are yet to come up with a concrete answer as to whether or not they believe smartphones are addictive, “they have become a huge part of our lives it’s like saying a toaster is addictive!” says 23-year-old Sydney University Psychology student Sarah Watson.

The Wall Street Journal suggests that if you use your smartphone more than 7 hours a day then it is classified as an addiction. Users each day spend 24 minutes web browsing and 17 minutes on social media “your entire life is on one small device that is constantly at arm’s length” said Ms Watson. They have become such an integrated part of our daily routine that “it’s hard to switch off”.

Evidence has shown that 84% of people could not go a single day without their phones. This poll also showed that the withdrawal symptoms – such as insomnia and anxiety – are comparative to those of substance abuse or other forms of addictions.

It is not just adult addiction that has people worried, it is the skills that children are not developing as a result of being ‘hooked’ on mobile devices. A professor at Tokyo Seitoku University said that children who are not interacting “normally”, “don’t learn how to read non-verbal language” which is one of the milestones in a child’s development.

This revelation has lead a prestigious Perth girls’ school to ban the use of mobile phones in school playgrounds to encourage face-to-face conversations and to prevent addiction. Kiama local and father of two, Peter O’Neil says that this is a brilliant idea and should be “enforced in schools everywhere, even primary school. It might finally help children experience their world and just be children again.”