Cheeky charity addresses a serious issue

Charity can be such a drag, which is just the way Greg Beazley likes it.

The 28-year marketing consultant recently went surfing at Bondi with 45 of his closest mates, all of whom traded their wetsuits and board shorts for school dresses.

"We got some strange looks," he says. "One lady asked me if I'd lost a bet. And a surfer out in the water said to me: 'Is this a gay party or somethin'?'"

The frocked-up paddle-out was all part of the 2012 Do It In a Dress campaign, where participants collect donations for undergoing certain challenges while wearing a school dress.

The initiative, which is in its second year, is organised by One Girl, a Melbourne-based not-for-profit organisation that raises money for women and girls in Sierra Leone.

"Some people bungee jump or run marathons or just go about their normal day," One Girl co-founder Chantelle Baxter said. "It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you do it in a dress."

A former web designer, Baxter, 27, started the charity with a friend, David Dixon, in 2010.

"My previous life consisted of drinking, shopping, taking drugs and getting wasted as often as possible. Wasn't exactly a meaningful life."

Then one day, while hung over in bed, she saw a YouTube clip about the brutalisation of women in Darfur, Sudan.

Shaken into action, she travelled with Dixon to Africa to get ideas for a community project. One of the countries they visited was Sierra Leone, which Baxter now describes as "one of the worst places on earth to be born a girl".

Leaving her job, Baxter devoted herself full time to the charity, which has so far provided 150 education scholarships, built a block of toilets at a primary school, and started a business that trains women to sell biodegradable sanitary pads.

So far this year, One Girl has raised $100,000 - enough to send 390 girls to school for a year.

Beazley's surf session brought in $3000 alone.

"This is the second year I did it," he said. "Last year I held a barbecue for all my workmates where I cooked for everyone wearing a skimpy school dress."

Getting a crowd was easier than he expected. "I just started a Facebook site, and before long it all went a bit crazy.

"The more people that do it, the more fun it is," he said. "All I can say is, thankfully everyone was wearing underwear otherwise we would have been copping some nasty views when you paddled up behind someone."

The story Cheeky charity addresses a serious issue first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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