Interview with Larissa Ocampo by Freya Bennett
Hey Larissa, how are you?
Where do you call home?
I’m lucky enough to call Melbourne home.
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I’m the Chief Wordsmith for the non profit One Girl, which is just a fancy-pants way of saying Communications Manager. I’m a lover or words, storytelling, and crazy passionate about making a difference in the world. All of which relate to my work at One Girl. Some other loves that are unrelated to my work include: Beyonce, soy lattes, and sleeping in.
Now tell us a little bit about One Girl:
One Girl is a non profit committed to changing the world by educating girls. We believe that every girl on the planet has the right to an education. No matter where she’s born, how much her parents earn, what her culture says, or what religion she adheres to. We believe every girl has the right to learn, grow, and be the best that she can be – and we’re committed to giving some of the most vulnerable girls in the world access to education. We currently work in Sierra Leone and Uganda, and so far have reached over 14,000 women and girls through our girl-focused projects.
Why are charities like One Girl important in this day and age?
Despite the progress we’ve made when it comes to gender equality and fighting poverty, there are still 60 million girls around the world who are denied an education. In the countries where we work, Sierra Leone and Uganda, issues of child marriage, teen pregnancy, and extreme poverty put girls at a disadvantage to receiving the education they deserve. In Sierra Leone, a girl is more likely to be sexually assaulted than she is to attend high school. Which is a shocking, and harsh, reality.
But when a girl is educated, everything changes. For every year of education she receives she’ll earn 10-20% more income, and she’ll invest 90% of that back into her family. She’ll have a smaller and healthier family, and she’s more likely to educate her children too. Educating girls and empowering women is one of the best ways to create sustainable change. At One Girl, we want to see a world where women and girls are creating change, and making better futures for themselves, their families, and their communities.
What is it like working for an organization like One Girl?
It’s incredible, and heartbreaking, and stressful, and the best thing I’ve ever done! I think I have one of the best jobs at One Girl, because I get to share the inspiring stories of the work we’re doing in-country, and communicate that impact with our supporters, donors, and fundraisers. It’s also incredibly challenging because we’re such a small team, so we all have to wear multiple hats – I don’t have a whole Comms department to do the work, I am (alongside some incredible volunteers) the Comms department – so I have to be able to juggle lots of tasks in different areas all at once. But it’s also super fun, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
How can our readers get involved?
We’d love people to get involved! Raising funds and awareness for the work we do is critical for us to keep reaching the girls and funding our programs in Sierra Leone and Uganda. We’ve got lots of fun campaigns you can be part of, right now we’re running our annual Do It In A Dress campaign – where we ask people to put on a school dress and do a challenge wearing it, while raising funds for our projects. We’ve had people skydiving, running marathons, and even just rocking up to work or Uni in a school dress.
What has been the most rewarding part?
Earlier this year I was able to go over to Sierra Leone to see our work first hand. After years of sharing stories and the impact education was having on girls’ lives, I got to go over there and actually meet some of the girls! It was an experience that totally blew me away, and was certainly life changing. Working in the non profit space I’ve spent a lot of time reading and writing about poverty, and having parents who grew up in a developing country themselves, I thought I had understood what it was. But going there and seeing extreme poverty for myself was completely confronting. I heard horrific stories of the realities girls face in Sierra Leone, which was heartbreaking – but I also saw the flipside which was the huge difference education was making. It was incredible to hear from the girls themselves how it had changed their lives – and it’s an experience I’ll always carry with me. Even now it pushes me to work harder, tell better stories, and share more powerfully the importance of educating girls. I believe in it more than ever.
What did you study at university to have a career like this?
I did an Arts degree, majoring in Media and Communications. But most of my ‘learning’ happened outside of Uni – I did lots of internships and volunteer work, which is crucial for getting practical experience. I was lucky enough that One Girl was my very first paid gig after I graduated – not many people land their dream job straight after Uni! But I’m still learning to this day – my role challenges and stretches me every single day, so I’m always looking for ways to upskill, and get better at what I do.
What are your tips for teen girls who want to work in this area?
Take action on the causes that you’re passionate about now – getting experience in advocacy, fundraising, or campaigning is super important if you want to work in the non-profit space. And chances are if you want to work in the charity space, you’re pretty passionate about things – so encourage those passions. Get informed, connect with others who feel the same, and seek out opportunities to make a difference at whatever stage you’re at. One thing I’ve learned is that you’re never too young to start making a difference, and change starts with small actions. So start today.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
Don’t get too trapped into your idea of your dream job, or even life. When I was 15, I thought I wanted to be a scientist and work in a lab. Then I did work experience in one and realised I would be terrible at it – so I focused on what I was actually good at (and loved), which was writing. I never could have imagined where I’d be now, almost 10 years later, so I’m glad I didn’t try to pursue something just because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. Discover what you’re passionate about, and be open to your “dream” job changing over time – you never know where that journey might take you!
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Oh so many things! There’s a lot of messed up stuff in this world, but some of it could change if people took action. So I guess I’d want to see more action being taken – for people to stop waiting for someone else to fix the problems, and actually start fixing them ourselves.