“Don’t let age stop you,” says 22-year-old university student Tani Stubbs, who has been involved in charity work since she was 12. “You can do anything you want to: you just have to set your mind to it.”
It was this sky’s-the-limit attitude that propelled her forward when, at the age of 16, she discovered that many schools in Tonga had no desks or chairs for their students. “When I heard this, I realised I really wanted to help,” Tani says.
Tani knew that her own school, All Saints Anglican School in the Gold Coast hinterland, was in the process of refurbishing some of its classrooms. “I asked my school where they were putting the old desks and chairs and they said they were just chucking them out,” she recalls. “I came up with the idea of speaking to schools and universities that were getting rid of their old supplies, taking [those supplies] and putting them into a developing country.”
“You can do anything you want to,” says 22-year-old university student Tani Stubbs. “You just have to set your mind to it.” Tani is proof positive that young people can accomplish great things: she delivered thousands of donated desks, chairs, computers and electric wheelchairs to needy schools in Tonga, all before she herself graduated high school. “In Year 2, we were asked what we want to do when we grow up, and I remember telling them, ‘I want to change the world,’” Tani says. When she graduates with a double degree in business and law from Bond University, she plans to do just that. Her advice for others? “Get out there and help – even if it’s helping just one person. It’s a domino effect.”
In order to realise her goal, Tani needed more than just desks and chairs: she also needed to fund the collection of the school equipment and its transportation to Tonga. Teaming up with the Tongan expat community in Brisbane, she raised money through door-knocking, raffles and community events. Within a year, Tani had seen off three 40-foot shipping containers containing enough desks and chairs to equip three schools of 1000 students each. She flew to Tonga in time to witness some of the supplies arriving.
“The kids were literally speechless and in tears. They didn’t know what to say, they were so grateful. It was something so simple to us – just a chair – but to them it was more: it was giving them a future.”
In the months that followed, Tani and her newly formed organisation, Everyone Deserves Global Education (EDGE), continued to work with the community in Tonga. She arranged for computers to be delivered to every school in the country and sent six electric wheelchairs to disabled students. She remains in contact with Tongan school principals, ready to undertake more fundraising if required.
Today, Tani is nearing completion of a double degree in business and law at Bond University on the Gold Coast. She’s received Gold Coast Young Citizen of the Year Award and a News Corp Pride of Australia medal, among others, for her work in Tonga. When she graduates, she says she wants to use her legal skills to help even more people.
“In Year 2, we were asked what we want to do when we grow up, and I remember telling the teachers, ‘I want to change the world.’ And they said, ‘You’ve got to pick a more realistic job’. And it was like, ‘No, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.’ I’m the sort of person who, if someone tells me I can’t do something, I’ll go out and make sure I can definitely do it, just to show them that I can.”
Her advice for others with similar aspirations? “Get out there and help – even if it’s helping just one person. It may not seem like much, but it really does make a difference. It’s a domino effect.”