Ever had a light bulb moment when you decided you wanted to change something about the world? Social change can come about in different ways, but never from procrastination. Many of us dream of making a difference, but what would we actually need to do to make it happen?
Rebecca Scott worked for years as a scientist, but a trip to Vietnam caused her to completely re-evaluate her life. The STREAT founder and Deakin alumnus realised her calling at a restaurant tucked away in the bustling, humid streets of Hanoi. She witnessed the power of the social enterprise to make a difference in the lives of young Vietnamese – and started wondering how she could build something similar.
‘I discovered a hospitality social enterprise for young people in Vietnam and it changed my life. I realised you could solve a wicked problem like homelessness by using a business, and using a hospitality business in particular,’ Rebecca recalls.
‘I changed careers out of science. I decided literally on that meal, this was what I wanted to do.’
On returning home to Canberra, Rebecca wasted no time moving forward. ‘I handed in my resignation and launched headlong into social enterprise.’
She soon realised if she was to be successful at making her vision into a reality, she’d need to go back to study. ‘To make a career change into a completely different field, I needed more knowledge.’
Finding the right course was essential. Rebecca chose Deakin because its international and community development courses were renowned for their global perspective and excellence in online learning.
Studying via Deakin’s Cloud Campus allowed Rebecca to continue living her life in Canberra while she completed her master’s degree online.
At first, Rebecca saw her mission overseas, but soon realised that Australia had more than enough of its own problems. So, in 2010, she founded STREAT, an organisation that uses hospitality and a holistic approach to teach life skills to at-risk youth in Melbourne.
Before getting started, Rebecca needed to learn everything there was to learn about starting both a hospitality business and a charity – neither of which her science background had prepared her for.
Scientists must be methodical, and it was this same methodical approach that gave Rebecca’s social enterprise the best chance of success. This meant getting across food-handling certificates, permits, locations, insurance, costings, a business plan, working with children checks, accounting, design, marketing, research, and a host of other details that cannot be ignored if you want an endeavour to succeed.
With the administrative tasks taken care of, Rebecca was free to focus on STREAT’s main objective: making a difference in the lives of young people.
'To make a career change into a completely different field, I needed more knowledge'
Alumnus, Deakin University
Rebecca showed real tenacity as she worked hard to build STREAT from the ground up. She was helped by the fact that the idea behind the social enterprise tackled the problem of youth homelessness and disadvantage in a refreshing new way.
STREAT provides ‘a supported pathway’ to disadvantaged youth via hospitality training and employment selling coffee and food to the general public. ‘We make sure these young people have a place that they belong, but also give them the skills that they need to start on the next phase of their life,’ Rebecca explains.
STREAT is not a soup kitchen. Rebecca knew any approach seeking to be more than a Band-Aid solution must come from a holistic perspective.
‘One of the big problems with how we’ve thought about the issue of homelessness is we’ve thought about it as “houselessness”. What you’ve also got to consider is their mental health, whether there are drug and alcohol issues, family issues, relationships, criminal justice stuff, economic exclusion – their training and employment history – there’s a whole heap of things that could be done prior [to them becoming homeless].’
Being able to pay rent and keep a job are key to avoiding homelessness, she says. So STREAT provides a range of opportunities for young people to learn what they’re good at and what they want to do in future.
From a food cart pushed into Federation Square in 2010, STREAT now boasts four permanent locations in Melbourne, has served nearly 2 million customers, and has provided 50,000 hours of training to over 500 young people.
With her strong vision, fearlessness, and unflinching dedication, Rebecca started small, dreamt big, and has taken a step towards making a lasting improvement in the lives of disadvantaged youth.
Rebecca was able to balance her existing life while upskilling herself to achieve her dream. The flexibility of the Cloud Campus means there’s plenty of time to think, to do the work in your own time, and no need to travel across huge distances to get a high quality of education.
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