Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Eighteen-year-old mother Amina`s identical twin girls are just nine months old, but they’re not doing well. “They are not developing, they are malnourished,” says the first-time mum of Radia and Fatia, who are undergoing acute malnutrition therapy at a ChildFund-supported health centre in the Fentale district of Ethiopia“ a country in the grip of its worst drought in decades.

“There`s no water and there`s a shortage of foods,” says Amina, who gave birth at seven months pregnant. Her twins have never seen rain: “Now they`re nine months old and they`re not growing because of the problems they have.”

In addition to providing support to the health centre, ChildFund also provides Famix“ a fortified soya flour, rich in much-needed protein“ to help mothers like Amina, whose children are admitted to the Severe Acute Malnutrition inpatient therapy ward, in their ability to breastfeed. f100, a nutrient-rich therapeutic formula, is also given to children in the ward four times a day.

Sada is one of the clinical nurses caring for the twins at the centre, which identifies five or six new cases of malnutrition each day. “Their weight was below normal for their age, they cried all night, they had no appetite. They had lesions on their skin,” says Sada, who feeds and provides medicine to patients, as well as advice to parents on how to care for them.

She spoke no English when she migrated at age 15 from Syria to Australia with her family in 1974. Yet through strong self-belief, tenacity and pure grit, Nad’s creator and ChildFund ambassador Sue Ismiel has transformed herself into a multimillionaire entrepreneur and avid philanthropist.

“From a very young age, back in Syria, I always wanted to become someone. There was this drive in me that I can`t explain,” shares the Sue Ismiel & Daughters company founder, who is one of 10 Australian business leaders auctioning off their time and expertise in ChildFund Australia`s inaugural MentorMe Auction.

Unable to find a suitable product which was gentle, natural and effective for her daughter`s sensitive skin, the mother-of-three created her own hair removal product from ingredients found in her kitchen. From there Nad`s was born in 1992, with Nad`s Natural Hair Removal Gel becoming the most successful product launch of its kind when it entered the United States market in 1998.

With no formal business training, Sue looked inwards for inspiration and adopted a trial-and-error approach to establishing her business empire. It was through her savvy decision to harness the power of direct TV sales that she went from selling Nad`s at a market stall in Sydney`s west, to seeing the hair removal gel €“ and a second product, NitWits head lice treatment €“ stocked in major retail chains across Australia, the USA, the UK and New Zealand.

“Everything I`ve done to build a business from the ground up was not by learning from a textbook,” says Sue, who overcame schoolyard bullying and the challenges of building a new life, in a new country, to become a role model for others. “I throw myself in the deep end and find out what is the best way to solve a core problem.”

The dedicated entrepreneur admits the mistakes she made along the way often became her biggest lessons. “I`ve had to learn the hard way and I think it`s the best way to learn,” she says, noting persistence pays off: “It`s those mistakes that helped me become stronger and better in everything that I have been able to do.”

As she prepares to impart her business wisdom to the winning bidder of her MentorMe Auction, Sue emphasises the importance of having “the courage to get started”, and credits her strong self-determination to her own mentor, her late grandmother, whom she never met.

“She was a Middle Eastern woman, we`re talking about 70 or 80 years ago, who had a disabled husband and had to provide for her family,” reveals Sue. “Her story was empowering, the struggles she had to overcome were always ringing in the back of my mind. I always thought, if she could do it back then, in that day, in that age, then why can`t I?”

Her top tip for those wanting to carve their own path? “Find out what moves you, what drives you, what interests you in life. Then go with it,” says the avid philanthropist, whose life motto is to give back. “You have to have the right attitude; you have to believe in yourself.”