Elite AgentFeature Interviews

Socially minded meets social media at Digital Live 2018

When 200 agents take part in Digital Live 2018 later this year, many will walk away with invaluable skills to improve their standing in a brave new digital age. But far beyond social media, websites and digital literacy, their participation in the program will also make an invaluable difference to real children’s lives.

This year proceeds from Digital Live will go to Hands Across the Water – a charity created to assist underprivileged children in Thailand in the wake of the 2004 tsunami. The initiative was founded by former police forensic specialist Peter Baines, who will share his unique insight into business and community-minded partnerships at the Digital Live event.

Mr Baines explains how he travelled to Thailand in 2004 as part of the tsunami victim identification team and, like many, he was deeply touched by the number of children affected by the disaster.

Soon after, he and a team of committed individuals formed Hands Across The Water, and the charity opened its first home for orphaned children in 2006.

“But we soon realised there was a lot more to do,” Mr Baines says. “Twelve years on we now have seven homes in Thailand, caring for several hundred kids.”

The charity features a long-term focus and ‘nimble’ approach. The program now cares for 350 children and boasts alumni including 47 young adults studying at uni, with many more who have graduated to work in Thailand and internationally.

Hands Across the Water has raised over $200 million since it started, with 100c in the dollar going to children and their communities.

“When we took this on children were dying,” Mr Baines reflects. “Over 1,000 were buried. Since then no kids have died. We have managed to bring about change.”

Rather than relying on donations, an arm of the Hands Group operates as a business, raising capital via its own community activities and experiences to directly fund fixed costs like staff.

“It takes $2.4 million each year to meet our ongoing costs,” Mr Baines says, “and that’s without factoring in any growth.”

Experiences include social venture programs for corporations, bike rides through Thailand and income generation through clothing creation.

Digital Live creator Steve Carroll notes it was this innovative approach to fundraising that prompted him to embrace Hands Across the Water as the charitable beneficiary of this year’s program.

At the Digital Live events Mr Baines will be using his expertise to provide an insight into the benefits of incorporating charitable endeavours into business.

“I’ll be discussing how engaging with community partners can be a profitable channel that feeds back into business,” he says.

Digital Live 2018 is a comprehensive six-month program where agents will be given the skills, mentoring, feedback and tools to stand out in the crowded digital arena. It includes live events in Sydney and Brisbane.

You can learn more about Digital Live 2018 here.

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