Australian Charity of the Year 2018, Friends With Dignity, have launched the sixth round of its Little Friends Scholarship program.
The program, which is an Australian-first, awards bi-annual monetary scholarships to children throughout Australia who have faced, or are facing, domestic or family violence.
The educational and extra-curricular scholarships help to cover a variety of expenses from helping kids attend camp and after-school activities with their peers, to providing uniforms.
The first five rounds of the program have seen a total of 187 scholarships awarded, with a minimum of 40 scholarships on offer in round six.
“Two scholarships are guaranteed to be awarded per State or Territory, with the remaining balance being awarded on an as needs basis,” said Friends With Dignity Director and Chief Financial Officer, Julia McKenna.
"We established the Little Friends Scholarship program to ensure all children who are facing or have faced domestic violence have the ability to normalise their lives.
“The scholarships are designed to help young domestic violence survivors re-build their confidence by finding something they are good at, and ensuring their education continues.
The not-for-profit organisation responded to requests from the community to contribute to their Little Friends Scholarship program by launching the Little Friends Scholarship Community Fund in round three, allowing the general public to also help children in need.
"Donations to the Little Friends Scholarship Community Fund can be large or small. All funds received will be pooled together in $500 amounts (the size of a scholarship), and all donations over $2 are tax deductible."
Normally, all Friends With Dignity programs are on a referral basis from organisations and refuges, however, the Friends With Dignity Little Friends Scholarship program affords parents the opportunity to submit an application personally.
“The Little Friends Scholarship program gives parents the opportunity to tell their children's stories, and how the scholarship will improve their lives,” said Ms McKenna.
“The application still needs to be co-signed by a support worker, GP, school principal, school counsellor, or the like.”
According to the Childhood Domestic Violence Association, it is statistically proven that exposure to domestic violence has a huge impact on children. Experts say that exposure can lead to short- and long-term negative mental, behavioural, and social effects.
Further, children who witness physical, emotional or verbal domestic violence growing up are twice as likely to abuse drugs, and six times more likely to die by suicide.
“Many of the children that have historically applied for a scholarship are suffering from significant trauma. Some even with PTSD, which we would equate to that suffered by our servicemen and women returning from a war zone,” said Ms McKenna.
Friends with Dignity is appealing to the corporate sector, charity groups, philanthropists and the community at large to throw their support behind its Little Friends Scholarship Program.
The national not-for-profit organisation is interested in more corporates coming on board to help these young victims, to ensure every child has the ability to further their education and/or build their confidence through sport or the arts.
“We have had a fabulous response from the corporate sector, with our long-standing scholarship partner Jeunesse Kids supporting the initiative, and more than $16,000 was raised specifically for the Little Friends Scholarship program during our High Tea With Friends events held around the country during the month of May,” said Ms McKenna.
“In round four, we had a large private donation from Toowoomba-based philanthropists Lyndon and Rebekah Biernoff, and donations from St Aidan's Anglican Girls' School and the Miami State School Student Council.
“We are especially hoping to attract corporate support in other States now that we can demonstrate that each State will be awarded a minimum of two scholarships, so children in their own backyard will benefit."
“The need within our communities is so large - the more assistance we can receive in raising funds, the more children can be assisted and know an entire community is behind them and wanting only the best for them,” said Ms McKenna.
Anyone interested to apply for the Little Friends Scholarship Program can visit: http://www.friendswithdignity.org.au/little-friends-scholarship to download an application form. Round six applications open on the 27th January, 2020, and close on the 21st of February, 2020. The Little Friends Scholarship Community Fund website can be found at MyCause: https://www.mycause.com.au/page/179288/little-friends-scholarship-community-fund.