Grassroots philanthropy with a big impact

Kim Earp wasn’t a typical first-year university student. She was a 46-year-old mother-of-two holding down a full-time job when she first walked through the gates of the University of Wollongong.



Story By

Julie-Ann Jeffrey

Kim Earp wasn’t a typical first-year university student. She was a 46-year-old mother-of-two holding down a full-time job when she first walked through the gates of the University of Wollongong.

“I was the first in my family to come to uni, I was older, I was a busy mum,” Kim says.

Kim completed a Bachelor of Arts (with a major in History and a minor in Politics) in 2009 and is now the Learning and Teaching Coordinator at UOW’s Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health. As a former student and a current employee, she’s a passionate advocate of the UOW Cares program.

“Philanthropy often gets a bad rap but lots of small things can make a really big difference,” she says. “I didn’t receive financial support but I did benefit from a generous employer who gave me time off to attend lectures and classes. I know what it’s like to receive support.

“It’s easy to want to give back to others when you’ve received help,” Kim muses over a coffee as students bustle past on campus. True to her beliefs, Kim gives a percentage of her pay to support other students via the UOW Cares program.

Established in 2007, UOW Cares is the University’s staff giving program. It allows academic and professional staff to make regular donations through their pay to 14 charitable causes and organisations.

“Most of our causes are very local, very community-based, and go directly to the organisation or cause,” says Clare Rhodes, Community Engagement Coordinator.

“We support many local organisations on the South Coast as part of our commitment to community engagement, as well as a number of organisations both nationally and internationally.”

UOW Cares is grassroots philanthropy with a big impact.

“It’s about our collective contributions,” Clare says. “If all UOW staff gave less than a coffee bi-weekly that’s $140,000 – the impact of that is really, really significant.”

In the past decade, donations to UOW Cares have funded five $9,000 student scholarships ($3,000 per year over three-years).

“It’s about helping to share the love,” says Kim Earp who is committed to supporting minorities. “It’s just about people, whether that’s refugees or students, men or women, people who may not get a chance to come here, people who may not get a chance to study.”

Kim speaks from experience, having received an opportunity to have a voice on matters she would have been denied without her degree.

“You can’t be heard if you don’t get a chance to sit at the table. A staff giving program like this gives people less fortunate a real chance.”

For Kim, a big upside of giving to UOW Cares® is that her donations go directly to minorities in our community, such as children with autism, indigenous youth and refugees. One hundred per cent of all money donated through UOW Cares® funds each cause or organisation, with no management or administration fees deducted.

“If we could increase the pool of those who give a nominal amount it would have a huge impact,” says Kim when asked about her passion to raise awareness amongst colleagues.

Once a year the University holds an event called ‘Coffee for a Cause’ to raise a little more money for UOW Cares causes. For three whole weeks, 20 cents from each coffee sold at participating cafes on campus is donated to UOW Cares. $6,000 was raised in 2019 alone. That brings the total raised by Coffee for a Cause since its inception in 2008 to $46,868. That’s a lot of coffee and a lot of good will.

Recently UOW Cares expanded to include eight external community organisations or causes and six dedicated UOW scholarships and programs. Donations from staff to UOW Cares provide a regular funding stream to:

  • Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME)
  • Autism Spectrum (Aspect)
  • Headspace Wollongong
  • Indigo Foundation
  • Landcare Illawarra
  • Strategic Community Assistance to Refugee Families (SCARF)
  • The Fred Hollows Foundation
  • The Smith Family

Within the university the UOW Cares program goes directly towards supporting:

  • UOW Transforming Futures Scholarship
  • Motor Neuron Disease (MND) research
  • MIND the GaP (an initiative to improve the mental health and wellbeing of all residents of the Shoalhaven region)
  • Tanzanian Teacher Training program
  • UOW Library and Archives
  • UOW Art Collection

UOW Cares helps students when they really need it, helps researchers solve pressing issues and helps sustain our community and region.

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