A young girl’s social enterprise in Melbourne lockdown

By Indira Laisram
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Anika Herath // The Photo Studio Fitzroy

Anika Herath-Redmond has created her own social enterprise to help raise funds for the education of girls in Sierra Leone

At just 12 years of age, Anika is already an entrepreneur. The decision to become one seems to have been informed by an epiphany she had during the lockdown sitting in the confines of her home. The epiphany was that she led a privileged life, and thus she could use that privilege to help other girls who were in a not so privileged situation themselves.

“We had home school this year for the first time and I feel lucky to have a very good education because of the resources, while girls elsewhere struggle to get access to even basic education,” says Anika, a Year 7 student at Methodist Ladies College (MLC) in Melbourne.

Life under lockdown also made Anika realise that the biggest need right now in society is the need to feel connected.  “We all have our laptops and phones and the means to reach out, but we still feel isolated and disconnected from the world.”

 

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Anika thought about projects she could take up to make that difference. Finally, with the help of her parents, she is setting up Kids Like Me, a not for profit business aimed at supporting local charities to support young people less fortunate. “Kids Like Me aims to support girls who are just like us except they don’t have the same opportunities,” she says.

Kids Like Me will be launched on October 11, International Day of The Girl.

For its first project, Kids Like Me has chosen to support One Girl, an organisation that works to drive change for girls and their communities by breaking down the barriers they face to accessing quality education through programs.

Anika will donate profits from her project to One Girl that will go towards educating girls in Sierra Leone, where “a girl is more likely to be married before the age of 18 than she is to finish school and, where only 16 per cent of girls ever complete high school”.

The Photo Studio Fitzroy; Fashion; Mireia M; Anika Herath-Rerdmond

To begin with, Anika has designed a T-Shirt valued at $24.95 which features her own design with the Japanese saying, “Fall Down Seven Times Stand Up Eight”, which speaks to the importance of resilience in kids.

Her goal is to raise $2,500 and will include all kinds of products including T-shirts.

“I have worked on the first product, but I am hoping other kids will join in and work with me in this project,” says Anika. She believes the project will serve a dual purpose: of helping connect kids while engaging creatively, which, in turn, will help other children with their education through the funds raised.

Her mother Iresha adds, “What will be lovely is if other kids want to use that as a platform to raise money for charities. That will be a fabulous outcome for us.”

The Photo Studio Fitzroy; Fashion; Mireia M; Anika Herath-Rerdmond

Anika believes the sense of direction towards setting up Kids Like Me came from her parents. Her lawyer mother helped her in ‘getting people into it and making it actually happen’, while her businessman father Greg gave her a good business model based on a past experience where the family did something similar. Iresha donated profits from the sale of her children’s book Brave Adventure Little Girl to the charity One Girl.

The young teenager is succinct about her small steps in philanthropy. “The rewarding part is knowing you are doing something good and that someone out there is definitely thankful. It is a good feeling,” she says.

She further qualifies her statement saying that feeling good does not necessarily have to come from doing only big things but also from small gestures such as, say, picking up something someone has dropped and being thanked for it.

The quality of being both one thing and another is what makes this young girl an achiever. Anika’s love for acting and the arts has also seen her get a toehold in the entertainment industry. She has done one commercial play, a documentary and two TV and online commercials, including for the ABC, AFL and Toyota.

The Photo Studio Fitzroy; Fashion; Mireia M; Anika Herath-Rerdmond

In quieter moments, Anika also thinks about issues such as the fundamental right for girls to have access to sanitary items. “Homeless people don’t have them,” she rues.

Given her background, her mother is Sri Lankan and father a White Australian, she has amalgamated both cultures well. She visits Sri Lanka quite often and finds the transition “fun because sometimes Australia can get boring”.

At the same time, Anika also understands what afflicts some south Asian cultures such as the emphasis on getting married young. “In some cases, girls marry off at a very young age. Personally, I don’t think that is OK, because sometimes they don’t agree to it but they do it due to societal and family pressure. Marriage shouldn’t be forced, it should happen when you feel right in the situation and you should actually marry someone you love, not because of money, politics, etc..”

For the next few months, Anika will be busy working on her new project and meeting her target. Asked what she envisages herself doing in the foreseeable future, she demurs for a moment and then offers a comprehensive reply.

The Photo Studio Fitzroy; Fashion; Mireia M; Anika Herath-Rerdmond

“I am not sure about my long-term goals. I want to just keep going with the humility that we have what others don’t have. I want the world to become a more fairer place than it already is, because at this point I don’t think kids my age understand what justice means,” she says, adding,  “Our definition of heroes need to change, it is someone who is hands on working to make little changes in someone else’s life – small things that make a difference.”

But more definitively, she wants to do something that has a creative side to it.

Anika does not hesitate to admit that as a student she is talkative and says, with a laugh, “I am not sure if that is a good thing.” But an extrovert, who has had a few leadership positions at school, she is full of positive energy, something Iresha seconds. “She is a very warm person and we are very proud of that. It’s nice to have titles, but It is actually nice to be kind to other people.”

It has been a challenging year and Anika is looking forward to school when it finally opens after two weeks. Rest assured, she will take along her brightness and zest for life!


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