The Road to Project Karma
A story of belonging. Fashion designer and social well-being advocate Lucy Laurita set off on an adventure; unknowingly, it was an opportunity to consider social identity and connection through people's stories.
Funny how life unfolds. Recently, I found myself on a trip of a lifetime filming the television series Adventure All Stars, produced by Charity TV Global, airing to 25 countries. All thanks to philanthropist Lucia Hou, known to influence positive outcomes for change and empowerment. She initiated the television show casting process for ambassadors of Project Karma, a charity dedicated to educating children and rescuing them from sexual exploitation.
Project Karma consisted of 12 cast members, and we joined other charities, including Friends of Mithra, Myeloma Australia, and Diabetes Australia. With five film crew, two support volunteers, and our bus driver, we were quite a team.
For our seemingly motley crew of individuals, we soon learned that we all play our own part to create something truly special in terms of human connection.
Troy Gray, the Charity TV Global CEO, provided some insights into his perspective on community connection drawing on his experiences as an Australian Football League professional footballer:
Elite sport is its own community. Ultimately, you enter the community on your own. As a young player, I knew I had to fit in somewhere, to assimilate, so I looked at what the others were doing around me. I learned to find what suited me, where people could help me, and how I could help others.
Troy felt a sense of disconnect realizing footballers can be selfish through competition - even though football is about working together toward the final result. During his football career, he learned a lot about himself, which then sparked interest in learning about the greater community: "I realized that the links football had to charities and my own football profile could be drawn on to help the community."
Yahya Forrest, a young medical scientist, shared his views:
My mum was curious about all faiths and she chose the Muslim faith for us. I grew up in a bubble attending Islamic school; it wasn't till university that culture shock hit. I stuck with students who were similar, to fit in. As a clinician I have the first 30 seconds to gain the patient's trust. My young life experiences have taught me how to communicate with all cultures.
Rikki Manning, the producer, spoke about her experiences:
I grew up feeling like a minority, felt like an outsider as a young girl in the Northern Territory, Australia. My parents are British, and I was an only child living in the Aboriginal community Mataranka. At 8 years old, we moved to South Australia. Here I was an outsider, despite appearances. I didn't behave like others. Unknowingly, I had taken on Aboriginal cultures.
Being singled out, and even being bullied as a young person who is different, resonates with Danyelle Haigh, who now lives on a farming station in the Northern Territory: "I believe I have used my past experiences to make me the strong woman I am today. My children are still shaping who I want my future self to be." Danyelle harnesses her community profile to improve the rural education system.
Iris Du recalled arriving in Australia from Hong Kong at the age of 15 without any support or guidance from family. Confronted with a different culture and new language, she learned to connect and found a sense of core identity through experiences. Iris now a successful leadership coach and bestselling author: "The more I work in the community the more I learn about myself."
Adventurer Yulia Hadi, the eldest of seven daughters, migrated to Australia from Indonesia for fear of being married off at a young age. Suffering severe homesickness, Yulia gained her strength and sense of belonging by contributing to community groups too.
I learned that belonging is obviously not about identifying and connecting with one group - identity is flexible and as complex as people themselves, and as simple as kindness itself. The Adventure all Stars experience has taught me to put less emphasis on "I" and more on "we" as a collective community, moving toward kinder interactions.
Thanks to all the individual donors and sponsors Nixora Group Pty Ltd, Tullamarine Swimming School, and Momento Dezigns, my campaign raised $10,030 toward Project Karma.
To date, Charity TV Global has raised over $9 million for charities.
The featured group shot was taken at The Stockmans Camp. Pictured left to right: Front row: Oliver Davis (cameraman) Yulia Hadi, Christie Tran, Iris Du, Lucia Hou, Alex Dawson, Manny Ashman (cameraman). Middle row: Rikki Manning (producer) Danyelle Haigh, Arzum Caglayancay, Devash Naidoo, Nancy Abdou, Lucy Laurita. Back row: Cathy Williams (The Stockmans Camp) Danielle Sellick, Yahya Forrest, Troy Gray ( CEO Charity TV Global), Darren Williams (The Stockmans Camp), Ben Day (Cameraman).