School holidays are usually a time for students to relax or catch up on studies.
But for Ali Kitinas she also has a business to run.
“It can be a little bit of a challenge at times to find the right balance, but I think that, really, happens with anything. My work hours are kind of in the evening, and so, often, I get really excited about something and I want to keep working but I know that I have to wake up for school the next day. And I also want to make sure I have some quality of life as well, and that I do get to be a teenager.”
The 16-year-old Sydney girl makes and sells body-scrub powder with the help of two humanitarian groups.
One raises money to rehabilitate women in Rwanda and child soldiers, while the other funds medical services for a group of children in India.
Ms Kitinas says she decided to start her business after visiting the Indian city of Kolkata.
“A lot of these girls were my age that needed the services of the hospital. I had already been making coffee scrubs and body scrubs as gifts for people, and I saw that as a great collaboration, where I could be making body scrubs that are sustainable and using recycled coffee grinds and then have a bigger purpose.”
Ms Kitinas’s entrepreneurial skills recently led to her participating in an international mentoring program alongside the founder of the Virgin empire, Richard Branson.
Upon returning home, she became the youngest person to ever participate in the annual CEO Sleepout.
Under the initiative by the charity group Saint Vincent de Paul, some of the country’s most successful business leaders sleep on the streets to raise awareness about homelessness.
It is an issue close to Ali Kitinas’s heart — particularly after discovering her mother Lynne lived on the streets when she was a teenager.
“Sleeping in a cardboard box, staying over at friends, sleeping in church halls … It was cold. It was scary. There was a lot of violence. There were a lot of incidents where kids were taken advantage of. They are human beings, they have an identity, and, the longer that you’re in the despair situation, the harder it is to get out of that.”
Saint Vincent de Paul’s New South Wales chief executive, Jack de Groot, says more than 105,000 Australians sleep in such situations every night.
He says more than 2-and-a-half million are living below the poverty line.
A major factor, he says, is a lack of action by state governments to address Australia’s ongoing housing-affordability crisis.
“People still can spend in excess of five, and sometimes 10, years on the public-housing waitlists. So, we have a real crisis. The Commonwealth can put funding arrangements forward to the states, but we know, in different states, there is not enough public, social or affordable housing being made available.”
So far, Ali Kitinas and her fellow chief executives have raised more than $5 million for Saint Vincent de Paul this year, giving some short-term relief to those less fortunate.