It was outrage that started it, this passion Hayley Rodgers has for helping others. Upset over injustice, incredulity at the lack of equity in the world – but mostly, it was outrage.

“I have always felt lucky,” the 21-year-old filmmaker, entrepreneur and international charity boss says. “I grew up on a farm outside Inverell in New South Wales and am grateful I had a childhood on the land and in touch with nature.

“Then my parents moved us to the Sunshine Coast, and I had opportunities I never imagined: a job, travel, the ability to go to university and study my passion.

“But I am sharply aware that others are not so lucky,  so I do whatever I can to help and to try to make their  lives better.”

This might be a broad, sometimes overdone statement, but Hayley – a final-year University of the Sunshine Coast student from Nirimba – puts action where her words are and has already helped make countless people’s lives not only better but utterly transformed.

Hayley and her friend Rosemary Breen run Living Water Myanmar, a charity that has so far built 458 water tanks for people who live in the parched, dry zone of the troubled nation.

Now, instead of people in a community or school having to travel great distances to access a dirty watering hole shared with animals, they have their own precious source, provided by the generosity of strangers.

The sheer scale of the Living Water Myanmar water tank project is stunning. Hayley, who is in her final semester of study in a Bachelor of Creative Industries degree with focuses on screen media, theatre and photography, says Living Water Myanmar hopes to have 500 tanks built by this year’s end.

Rosemary, 85, of Inverell, began the charity in 2011 after years of regular trips to the country to teach English. It started with facilitating the building of one tank after a student told her about their lack of access to clean water, but quickly mushroomed when it became obvious the student was not the only one in need.

Rosemary says she is glad to have Hayley as her partner in the charity. Hayley’s mother grew up next door to Rosemary, and Rosemary has known Hayley all her life.

“She is truly a remarkable person,” Rosemary says. “She is brave, visiting Myanmar on her own last year and working very hard in so many ways to help get these tanks built. I am fortunate to know her, first as a little girl, then as a friend and now also as a partner.”

Hayley says taking on the charity work that Rosemary began is a privilege.

“Rosemary is my guiding light in everything I do,” Hayley says. “She is my friend, my mentor, my everything. If I could vote anyone on Earth to be a saint, it would be that woman.”

Hayley and Rosemary

Hayley and Rosemary fundraise, with proceeds handled by the non-profit Brisbane-based organisation Global Development Group, so that donations are tax-deductible.

The funds then go to the Myanmar coordinator, a volunteer who handles supplies, construction crews and logistics on the ground.

“To ensure the communities or schools are ready, we have an agreement that they must supply the rocks and provide a solid foundation for the tank and that they need to plant 10 trees near the tank – Rosemary’s way of rewilding a little bit of Myanmar as well,” Hayley says.

Hayley, who currently works as a photographer at Sea Life, shot a short film about the water tank project during her visit last year. It has had a screening at Kawana Event Cinemas, with others planned.

After graduating from university this year, Hayley plans to continue to use her filmmaking skills to amplify conditions and situations in the world that may not be in plain sight.

“When I went to Myanmar, I saw for myself, and my own understanding deepened,” Hayley says. “But through film, I can come back and share that, and even if two other people see, that is three times as much understanding. Through filmmaking, everything I do can be shared.

“I want to share stories and to capture the parts of real life that people don’t often see.”

Hayley’s first overseas trip was in Year 11 with a Caloundra State High School trip to work on a Raw Impact project in Cambodia. The student contingent built structures, including toilets as part of the organisation’s mission to offer villagers a hand up out of poverty.

“It had a massive impact on me,” Hayley says. “To have a woman cry in my arms with gratitude because she now has a toilet and I come back home, and we have three – that kind of thing really distilled the need for gratitude, to actively appreciate what I have and to keep doing all I can for other people.”

Hayley will return to Myanmar in September and has further travel and charity work planned, with an eye on possible involvement in a project in Tanzania.

“When we have problems in Australia, people discuss them, they are informed about them. The world knows what happens here,” she says.

“In contrast, I need to go to places that people are scared to go to because of injustices, the places that people are scared to live in. The people in places like Myanmar need me and people who are like me.

“They have shut down all of the media there, and I really think you have to see some things to believe them. The people there need my film, my photos and my voice.

“I can come home and drink from the tap and go to school or university and travel and be safe. They can’t. That is why I need to do this work.”

To donate, visit and search for Living Water Myanmar (J812N).