WHEN Queanbeyan girl Vanessa Picker caught up with local Ben Duggan last week on a rare visit home from Adelaide University, she knew they'd have plenty to talk about.
The two young entrepreneurs hadn't met before, but both had been putting their creative energy and strong social compass to work, developing two separate not-for-profit organisations aimed at giving disadvantaged Australian kids a leg-up in life.
Ben Duggan, 22, had been studying a Bachelor of Arts at ANU and working for local member Mike Kelly as a media staffer. Although he enjoyed the fast-paced, policy-driven world of federal politics, his ambitions lay more towards the education sector.
"The real change moment for me was when I was in Jindabyne with Mike [Kelly] talking to some school kids, and I asked them what did they want to do when they're older. Some of them said 'I want to be a lawyer' or 'I want to be a doctor,' but then they said 'but everyone tells me I can't do it," Mr Duggan said.
"If there's any injustice around in our society today, I'd say that's one of the worst forms, where a kid can grow up in Australia and think that they can't achieve things. Because all the tools are at their disposal, it's just about someone encouraging them."
After graduating from ANU last year, he decided to move on from Dr Kelly's office and attempt to empower local kids through the Raising Hope Education Foundation, a not-for-profit company that officially launched last week.
Canberra Raider Terry Campese is already on board as a patron, as is Mike Kelly, and Ben said the organisation is aimed at providing mentoring and tuition for local school kids in need of a push.
"It's going to be a perpetual endowment fund. So it's something that the community all buys into and fundraisers for, but then it perpetually has this endowment fund where the interest goes back into projects like mentoring, homework clubs, tutoring, and so on," he said.
"So my main aim is to set up this endowment fund, but what I'm really passionate about is mentoring.
"There's a lot of people in Queanbeyan and Canberra who are at uni and really want the experience of doing something with the community. So what I want to do is use that volunteer capital and get them trained as mentors and into local high schools like Karabar and Queanbeyan High.
"Everybody knows somebody who just needed that person to come along and say 'you're actually really awesome' and just to give them that push," he said.
Ms Picker's burgeoning not-for-profit, Smiles for Kids, is also about empowering young people, and she's using the medium of sport to cut through to kids in need.
"It's basically about using sport as a tool to empower disadvantaged kids, starting with indigenous groups," she said.
"It's doing things like collecting and distributing pre-loved sporting equipment, but in the process exposing them to positive role models and mentors, because that's where I think I've identifies a bit of a gap, in that a lot of kids just don't have anybody to empower them. And a lot of schools don't have the resources to get mentors in unless it's through something like this."
The 21-year-old entrepreneur said she'd been inspired to pursue her not-for-profit after attending several international leadership courses over the last year, brainstorming with like-minded young people from across the world.
"Being able to meet with so many people with diverse backgrounds is just a fantastic experience.
"And when it comes to actually getting something off the ground, I've found that I've actually got connections with people in different countries that I can tap into," she said.
Both young entrepreneurs said they were inspired by each other's work in the field, and hoped they would see more innovative start-ups coming out of Queanbeyan in the future.
"That's one of the really cool things about this, to find two people from Queanbeyan who have both seen the same issue and are dealing with it in two completely different ways that are both really effective," Mr Duggan said.
*To find out more about Raising Hope, visit www.raisinghope.org.au or contact email@example.com. To find out more about Smiles for Kids, contact Vanessa Picker via firstname.lastname@example.org