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When Rachel Brathen unveiled 109 World, I knew I wanted to get involved. Rachel is a phenomenal role model and I was moved by her commitment to use the influence she has amassed through social media to create a positive impact in the world. So, for the last two years I have manifested my desire to contribute in my own way to 109. Finally, in 2017 a trip was announced: its focus was Women Empowerment. This topic resonated with me so strongly and I felt it was important for me to be on this trip. I just had one hurdle – the cost!

In 2016 I felt my power stripped away from me by men. I lost my self-worth and felt objectified daily in my place of work. Fortunately I had an incredible network of family and friends that were able to support me. They reminded me that I offer incredible value and that the attitudes of the men around me had no place in 2017. They helped me gather my strength and move on and today I can sit here and say confidently that I have found my self-worth again and I am stronger than ever. This is not the case for all women! That realisation lit a fire in the pit of my stomach. I was angry at men (and women that didn’t stand up for what was right). From there on in I determined to support other women less fortunate than myself. This passion emerged at work and I was asked to kick off a project around diversity and I was given the title ‘Diversity Champion’. This was a step in the right direction and I felt I could make a huge difference – but remaining in that company wasn’t helpful for me and I decided to move on. I felt deflated because the hunger to make a difference was still burning inside me and I no longer had an avenue to channel it. However, if you lean in to the Universe, it’ll always send you down the right path. Just after I quit, 109 World announced their next humanitarian trip would focus on Women Empowerment, and more specifically, Sexual Violence.

Once again there was an avenue in front of me. I would, once again, be able to channel this desire to help other women find their inner strength. I knew I couldn’t let this opportunity pass. During this trip I would meet my role model, the incredibly strong and inspiring Rachel. It would also broaden my understanding of sexual violence, arming me with the tools I needed to be a useful resource for the women and girls around me. Finally, the trip was mobilizing powerful women to support an amazing grassroots organisation in The Congo: The Panzi Hospital. This hospital is rehabilitating women who have experienced horrific acts of terror on their bodies, and as a consequence have been shamed from their communities. I desperately wanted to join this trip. Every ounce of its mission resonated with me and I truly believed it would make me a better activist for women on my return home.

However, the cost of the trip felt out of my reach. As I didn’t have the money upfront, I knew the only way I would get to Sweden (where the trip was held) would be to fundraise; but I had never done anything like that before so didn’t know where to start! After an initial panic, I consulted the 109 website and instantly my fears were calmed: they had taken care of everything. Setting up a fundraising page was so easy. I simply followed the step-by-step instructions and in under 10 minutes I had my very own, personalised fundraising page that I could start sharing with friends. Sitting there staring at my new page I had my second pang of fear: ‘why would people donate?’ The cause resonated with me but I was afraid it wouldn’t with others. Ok, so if the cause didn’t inspire others, what would convince them to donate? Once again I headed back to the 109 website for inspiration, and sure enough I wasn’t disappointed. Olivia and Leticia (109’s founders) had provided plenty of ideas: from bake sales to yoga classes, and everything in between. It was up to me to choose what was possible within my circumstances.

I set up my page on Tuesday night. Wednesday morning I was rudely awoken by my mum at 6.30am inviting me out for a cycle. This had become an unfortunate routine since I moved back home a few months before. Every Wednesday mum would drag me out for an early ride with her “girl club”Secretly I really enjoyed it and I loved being part of the squad! This particular Wednesday there was a spring in my step. I was reflecting on the night before, running through different ways I could fundraise for the upcoming trip, when it hit me – I should do a cycling challenge: something so ridiculous that people would have to dig deep into their pockets to support me. So it was decided. I would complete 320 miles on a push bike over three separate rides: The first of which I would ride 100 miles; the second another 100 miles; then the third and final stretch, 120. I went home, updated my page and started pushing it out on social media.

Since creating my fundraising page, completing the first two rides and flying off to Sweden to participate in the trip I have kept my social media channels up to date, recording my experiences as they come. In doing so I have been able to take my sponsors on the journey with me and encourage others to read about the cause and donate where possible. I have used the 109 fundraising platform to write longer blog posts which have been surprisingly affective in helping me process my experiences and simultaneously allowing me to go deeper with my readers. Despite my initial fear of starting a fundraising campaign, I have found great satisfaction in doing one. I feel there is purpose to my training rides, the cycle events are meaningful and I’m grateful that others are able to learn about the cause and why it’s so important to me.

At the time of writing this I have completed my first two rides totalling 213 miles (the extra 13 miles were an unfortunate mistake, which my body seriously paid for the next day) and I still have the mammoth 120 miler left. I have raised a total of $1,670 in two short months, which is 33% of my $5,000 target. To reach my goal I have some ideas in the pipeline including a betting scheme against my final ride; a ticketed event to hear some fascinating adventurers speak; and a speed dating evening. The trip may be over but I am more fired up than ever to hit my target. Every penny I raise changes lives and the more awareness we bring to the issues of sexual violence in the West and the developing world the better!

Fundraising for 109 has pushed me out of my comfort zone but I’m left feeling empowered. If you’re on the fence, I urge you to leap over and try. I’ve come to realize that it isn’t hard to make a difference in our World, we all have the ability within us.

Billie Quinlan

About Billie Quinlan

Passionate about Women, Well being and Technology. Conscious of the world beyond me and committed to driving positive change. Founder of Zinc - The Institute of Integrative Nutrition.