22 Sep 2016
5 minutes with Anita Russell, General Manager Flight Centre Foundation
What does giving mean to you?
It simply means sharing. Sharing fabulous gifts, things, resources and money, but also sharing you - your time, your ear, a smile, your heart. Cliched? Probably. True? Absolutely.
What is the best present you have ever received and why?
For a big birthday, I was surprised with a photo book put together by a group of friends and family who went to great lengths, and told a few white lies, to capture memories of every part of my life. The amount of thought and effort behind it was astonishing. Even with reminders of some truly tragic hairstyles over the years, it's a treasure that travels the world with me to this day.
The Flight Centre Foundation is a wonderful initiative. Could you please tell us a bit about the partners you are working with?
We love our charity partners for allowing us to become part of their team. Together we identify how we can best help in every way we can - manpower, expertise, advocacy - as well as financial support.
Our partners were chosen with input from the Flight Centre Travel Group's people because they are the Foundation's major donors via payroll giving. The buck starts with them, matched by the company to maximise the impact, which includes:
- Long life milk supplied by Foodbank to help Australia's hungry across the country. Click here to watch the video
- Support packs provided by Redkite to 16-24 year olds diagnosed with cancer
- Assisting young people and their carers to navigate the maze of the disability sector via Youngcare Connect
- Preserving our country for the generations ahead with Bush Heritage
- Helping KTF train teachers so the kids of PNG have access to schooling
- Access to medical care by vulnerable children supported by Cambodian Children's Trust (photo credited to CCT)
Why did Flight Centre start the Foundation and how do you measure it’s success?
Giving is in the DNA at FCTG, but it was quite adhoc to start. The Foundation was our way of bringing our philosophy Brightness of Future to life in the community, harnessing the collective goodness of our people, our travel partners and the company to build brighter futures in the communities where we work, live and travel.
We have a number of KPIs we track to measure our progress - $ donated, number of people donating, hours volunteered. But the true measure of our success is the impact we have in individuals lives through our partners' incredible work.
We recently received a heartfelt letter from the parents of a resident at Youngcare's new share house in Brisbane. At a loss to know where to turn to help their son with high care needs, they called Youngcare Connect. The result - their son now lives with other young people and the care he needs in his new purpose-built home. Success is the privilege of playing a small part in that story.
Help often comes in the smallest way. Can you please share an example of how the Flight Centre Foundation is making a difference?
Did you know that there is almost $832m in foreign coins languishing in drawers across Aussie households? And as little as $2 can provide a child and their family with clean drinking water for an entire week. Through the new small change, big difference program, a combined initiative of FCTG's Travel Money Oz, the Foundation and UNICEF, that small change will make a huge difference.
If you could spend 5 minutes with anyone today, who would it be and why?
It would take a miracle, but it has to be the ultimate giver, Nelson Mandela. Living in South Africa, I saw the legacy and impact that a single man could have on individuals, a nation and the planet. To spend 5 minutes in the presence of his wisdom, determination, courage, conviction, compassion, dignity and heart would be a defining experience.