Group of children smiling at the camera

Starting a charity to make a difference – one life at a time

Kindness has the power to change lives. Just ask Jaime Thurston. Growing up in Orange, New South Wales, Jaime studied communication at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst. When she graduated, she started her career as a cadet journalist with the local newspaper before moving to London 15 years ago. That’s where she had an experience that would change her life – and career – and result in her starting a charity.

The power of caring

The idea for her charity, 52 Lives, took shape when Jamie reached out to a woman in need.

“It began when I was helping a woman who was fleeing domestic violence. She was starting again with nothing. I collected things from my family and friends to help her start over. It had such a profound effect on me. I realised that it wasn’t the things we gave her that were helping the most, it was the fact that people cared about her.”

52 Lives aims to change someone’s life every week of the year. It’s based on the simple premise that people are good. People from all over the world can nominate someone who’s in need of kindness and this charity will choose who to help and then share their story.

Day-to-day, it’s Jaime’s role to read nominations and work with her assistant to create a shortlist of those in need.  

“I also write our social media posts, respond to emails, liaise with companies who are considering working with us, and occasionally make videos for our supporters. I update our website and sometimes do interviews, write articles, or give talks, and on the more (slightly more) boring side of things, I do our accounts and HR stuff! My journalism background helps when it comes to conveying people’s stories in an engaging way, and in asking the right questions.

“The people we support have often been through difficult times so I want to do their stories justice. But it’s also important to respect and protect them – making sure they’re happy with everything we do is the most important thing to me. I don’t want them to ever feel exposed or vulnerable by having their stories shared publicly. Their wellbeing is more important than any story.”

Choosing kindness

A couple of years ago, Jaime appeared on UK TV show Surprise Surprise. The show’s audience was filled with people 52 Lives had helped. The morning after the show aired, the 52 Lives Facebook page had more than 70,000 followers, and Jaime’s phone had 100,000 notifications! Shortly afterwards, Jaime’s work was recognised by a number of awards, including the British Prime Minister’s Point of Light Award. The money from those awards went back into the charity, and helped Jaime realise another initiative, the School of Kindness project.

“The aim of this project is to empower kids and help them realise that the little choices they make every single day have the power to change people’s lives. People think you have to make grand gestures or do something big to make a difference, but you don’t. Doing something – doing anything – to help another human being is what changes the world.

“My advice to Charles Sturt graduates is don’t plan too much. I’ve changed jobs many times since finishing university and have ended up starting a charity – somewhere I never expected to be. It’s better than anything I could have planned. Sometimes having less rigid plans leaves you more open to opportunities that arise.”

Jaime believes that kindness is key in a world where so many decisions are made based on fear.

“I’m motivated by the emails, phone calls and social media messages I get from people who have read my book, Kindness: The Little Thing That Matters Most, or who come across stories of people we’ve helped. I love hearing that what we do has inspired people to be kinder. I firmly believe that kindness is one of the most powerful and life-changing tools we have. It has the power to improve our own wellbeing, change the lives of those around us, and strengthen our communities.

“Every day we all have so many little opportunities to choose kindness. If we all chose to be kinder – even to the people we don’t think deserve it – it would change our world.”

What do you want to change?

Be the change you want to see – with a degree from Charles Sturt. Whether it’s starting a charity like Jaime, working with individuals and communities, protecting the environment, telling compelling stories – or any other way to make a difference, we’ve got a course for you to help you make it happen.