Paddle Australia’s up and coming sprint kayaker and 2019 U23 double world champion Tom Green was meant to compete at his first Olympic Games last month after dominating the canoe sprint selection trials in February and March and securing selection on his first Australian Olympic Team.
But following the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Games, the Gold Coaster has put his energy into helping others. Recognising his privileged position in the current pandemic, Green established a charity, called Gifted Org Gold Coast, which provides pre-loved technology to children in foster care.
“As an athlete I’m in a privileged position of having good health and I have taken the opportunity during Queensland’s lock down to start a charity. The lockdown period highlighted the issues that children living in foster care have in regard to educational opportunities and in partnership with the Walk with Us Youth Academy, I have established a charity called Gifted Org.
“Gifted Org provides pre-loved technology such as iPads, tablets and laptops to children in foster care to enable online learning and social connectedness,” the 21-year old, who is a current Sport Australia Hall of Fame scholarship holder, explained the aim of the new charity.
Green aligned with the ‘Walk With Us Youth Academy’ as an ambassador a couple of months ago after he learnt about the organisation’s activities on social media and with their aim to “support our next generation and encourage them to take time to be a good human” resonating with him.
“I saw a post on social media that was encouraging people to be good humans and it just resonated with me. The world is crazy right now and I feel that if people focused on being a good human, it would be a much better place. I am passionate about having something good come out of this COVID pandemic and I hope Gifted.Org will make a difference,” Green said about his motivation to support those in need.
The actual idea for Gifted.Org came about in conversations with his family during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“Mum was talking to me about the frustration she felt that kids in foster care didn’t have the same opportunities as kids who weren’t and she was telling me how during the COVID lockdown this year most of these kids weren’t able to participate in online learning because they didn’t have access to technology, like for example iPads, tablets or laptops.
“This just happened to be around the same time I had seen the post from Walk With Us Youth Academy and I did some research on this and found out that kids in care are at high risk of falling behind at school and not reaching their full academic potential which again limits their life options as they get older and become adults. It’s really a snowball effect because I then realised that if they couldn’t access education, they also couldn’t maintain their friendships with their peers.
“It made me think about how they would have been able to communicate with their school friends and I know how much I rely on technology to stay in touch with the important people in my life. I’ve been in a long-distance relationship with my girlfriend who lives in Germany and I can’t imagine not being able to talk to her or see her on facetime. Not to mention my ability to pick up my iPAD and facetime Kenny (Wallace, triple Olympian and Green’s paddling mentor) or Jean (van der Westhuyzen, K2 partner) just to touch base.
“It made me angry to think that kids who have been through such a tough time already could end up being so isolated not just by COVID-19 but also from staying connected to their social environments. So, over the next couple of days mum and I brainstormed a few ideas and we came up with the idea of reusing peoples preloved devices, knowing we had a few different devices gathering dust packed away in a cupboard ourselves. We figured if we did, then other people were likely to have also.”
“In using preloved devices, we aren’t just helping to connect kids to education and their social environments, we are also providing an environmental benefit as these devices usually end up in landfill. It really is a win win,” Green explained his motivation and how the whole idea came about.
Green’s “Gifted Org” is still new set-up and has been a real team effort. With the support of the Walk With Us Youth Academy and his mother Meredith, Green has made some great progress over the last couple of months to get the organisation up and running.
“The Gifted.Org concept is still very new. We only started this a couple months ago and we (my mum and I) are still in the process of getting it up and running.
“I guess it’s still at start up stages because there are so many legal things that we are learning about as we go along and that takes time. But we have been very fortunate to have the Walk With Us Youth Academy mentoring us and providing advice as to what we need to do and how we need to do it,” Green explained.
“Mum and I decided to do this together as a team. I know that I couldn’t do this without her and she knows she couldn’t do it without me. Mum works a full-time job and she does many more hours on top, so her time is very limited. I have the time, the interest and the passion to make a difference in these kid’s lives, so it made sense to work with our strengths and work together,” Green said about his family support.
Fellow Olympic team paddler and Rio Olympian Alyce Wood is also supporting the project and is currently in the process of setting up a website for the organisation.
“Alyce has offered her assistance to set up a website for us to help get off the ground. We are currently awaiting paperwork from QLD Fair Trading for our registration numbers. Once we have this our website will be live with updated contact details,” Green said.
Even though they have only been able to donate a couple of devices so far, the demand is high and the motivation to keep on going.
“Given that we are just starting up, most of the time so far has been establishing a solid foundation so that we can provide a seamless service to our donors and also the kids receiving the devices. We have provided a handful at this stage but hope that we can continue to meet the demand. We have more children requiring assistance than we have devices,” Green said about the current demand.
And if that was not reason to continue working on this, the children’s reactions, when the get their Gifted.Org gift certainly are and make it all worthwhile.
“Kids in care don’t have many possessions. So when they receive their devices with the big red bow and a bag full of goodies, including new accessories, chargers, headphones, iTunes vouchers to download educational apps etc, their eyes light up like nothing I’ve seen before.”
Want to be a good human and make a child smile as well and have a spare or retired device to donate? Anyone who would like to donate ipads, tablets and laptops to this gifted cause, can do so by dropping them off at three community locations at the Gold Coast with the team also exploring various methods of devices getting to them from around Australia.
Current Drop Offs are:
Burleigh Heads State School
during office hours 8.30am – 3.30pm
Lower Gold Coast Hwy
Burleigh Heads QLD
RE/MAX Real Estate Agency Robina
Att: Charl Lowe
86 Robina Town Centre Dr, Robina
Surf Life Physio Miami
17-19 Oak Ave, Miami
See Tom Green’s AUS Paddle Team Athlete profile here: https://paddle.org.au/2016/03/27/tom-green/
See Tom Green’s Australian Olympic Team profile here: https://www.olympics.com.au/olympians/thomas-green/