Thank You Thursday: A pop-up solution for homelessness

Homelessness is close to Norm McGillivray’s heart. The challenges faced by his own father back in the early 1970s, Norm witnessed how it can really affect someone’s life.

Fast-forward some forty-something years, and one evening, when parking his car at the local shopping centre Norm realised just how empty the place was.  That was when a simple idea came to him… to utilise the space by putting a couple of beds within the parking lot, and provide a couple of services such as access to doctors, dentists and even hairdressers.   Not only would this give those experiencing homelessness a good night’s sleep, but essential services would be on hand too.

This is when the idea for Beddown began.

Thank You Thursday: A new education of hope

In My Blood It Runs is a powerful ‘observational feature documentary’ about 10-yr-old Arrernte Aboriginal boy, Dujuan, growing up in Alice Springs in Central Australia. I watched it recently and was moved by its candour and insightful look into the shortfalls of education for Aboriginal children. 

Directed and produced by Maya Newell, In My Blood It Runs highlights the need for a First Nations led education system in Australia, with advisors to the film wanting two key messages to shine through;

  1. Aboriginal people love and care for their children, and;
  2. Aboriginal people have agency to find their own solutions

Interestingly, advisors to the film are the directors, educators and grandmothers who lead Children’s Ground, a non-profit organisation with objective of allowing children to grow into adults, in control of their social, cultural, political and economic life.

Thank You Thursday: More than just a haircut

When hairdresser Selina Tomasich was holidaying in the Philippines back in 2010, she had a conversation with Sisters working with abandoned children on the streets of Manila whose parents were too poor to feed them.  The Sisters took the children to a secure location to help in their physical, spiritual and medical needs, hoping to return them to their parents who were usually living in slums or on the streets themselves. What the parents really needed, said the Sisters, was a new skill that they could turn into a job.  When Selina asked, what skill they taught the Sisters said, “Oh, we’re no good at that part, but our dream is to start a sewing centre.

Thank You Thursday: Connecting through Education

School life is challenging enough for some students, and with today’s changing family circumstances, cultural differences, socio-economic disadvantages and social media, many more students are struggling. Literacy and numeracy are must-have basic skills to help us get through everyday life.

Beginning in Western Australia in 1996, The School Volunteer Program started up and operated for over 20 years. It expanded across the states to Victoria and New South Wales under different names. However, in 2015 it had a rebrand and is now known as EdConnect.

Thank You Thursday: Kind Keeley

About half a million Australians have an intellectual disability and many are children. There are obvious challenges faced by these children and regrettably, not all children with an intellectual disability or Autism are able to obtain Government funding or NDIS assistance.

This month an amazing young woman named Keeley is turning sixteen. Keeley has an intellectual disability and Autism herself and is making an incredible difference in the lives of other children and young people facing similar challenges.

In her early teens, Keeley had depression and anxiety as a result of her Autism and the recent diagnosis of an intellectual disability. She was unable to comprehend information at school using the current teaching models available and struggled to do basic math. Keeley experienced first-hand the isolation this disadvantage caused her.

If I’m given work on paper, I get overwhelmed. Put that same test on an iPad I get them all right. Go figure!

A simple iPad can make a big difference for such kids. An iPad can help to provide an individual learning plan and creates a voice for the non-verbal who cannot communicate. It can lessen the effects of anxiety and depression by allowing them to be educated and interact with technology they truly understand.  An iPad has the power to change the lives of these children by improving their self-esteem and self-worth.

Keeley believed that “despite our disabilities we all have a right to education and dreams”.

In 2017 Keeley created a charity – Keeley’s Cause – to ensure other children like her could get access to the iPads they needed.

If iPads are what we need to help us learn, then iPads are what we are going to get.  No one should have to go through what I am going through, or feel how I am feeling now.

Keeley’s Cause helps low income families and parents on disability/carers payment to obtain an iPad through fundraising, sausage sizzles, merchandise, iPad sponsorships and donations.  They assist as many children as they possibly can and, so far, Keeley has presented more than 76 iPads within Victoria, Sydney and Queensland.  She has also personally raised close to $50,000.

Keeley named her charity herself and even designed the logo.  As a Cub of her local Lions Club she approached them for help and they have taken Keeley’s Cause on as their project.

Keeley is now attending a Specialist School and kicking lots of goals, including some recent achievements. Last year she won the Moorabool Youth Award for contributing to ‘Improving Outcomes for young people with A Disability’. She was also a semi-finalist in two categories for the Victorian Young Achievers for the following both the Community Service and Social Impact Award and the Regional and Rural Health Achievers Award.

Keeley is an exceptional young woman and this Thank You Thursday we not only wish her a wonderful 16th birthday but we say thank you to her for her kindness, generosity and incredible work to support other children and young people.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.

Thank You Thursday: The world of difference for wildlife

Looking back towards the end of last year, and the beginning of this year we still cannot forget those devastating fires that swept through parts of Australia. Last month we featured a story about one organisation working in the Gippsland region of Victoria, but because this has had such a huge impact on so many Australians we wanted to share another story of hope.

One of the more tragic of the fires was the blaze that burnt 210,000 hectares – or almost half of Kangaroo Island, and also sadly killed two people. Of 60,000 koalas all in good health living on the island, it is estimated that 30,000 perished. This remaining group of koalas are important to the endurance of the species as the Chlamydia disease is not present amongst them, unlike all populations on the mainland. Grave fears are held for the survival of some of the island’s vulnerable species such as the Dunnart, Black Glossy Cockatoo and the Ligurian Honey Bees.

After the fire had passed through, animal welfare groups were given permission to enter the blackened area. Those volunteers were absolutely taken aback at the traumatised wildlife that sat around in groups together. The survivors had no energy and seemed to have shut down. That was when South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management (SAVEM) stepped in to help.

SAVEM, an organisation of 100% volunteers from all walks of life, has an undertaking to assess, triage, shelter, treat and re-unite owners with their animals; while also trying to rehabilitate wildlife to be returned to their natural habitats. Veterinarians and veterinary nurses volunteer their specialised skills to help heal these sick animals back to health.

The SAVEM Plan has allowed vets to respond to any emergency in South Australia involving companion animals, wildlife and livestock. Even though Primary Industries and Regions SA has the lead response for livestock including horses, SAVEM is a multispecies organisation that will assist if requested for large animal incidents.

The origins of this organisation date back to February 2009 in Victoria’s Black Saturday fire. South Australia’s support to Victoria at that time, and the absence of a Plan for veterinary emergency management in SA, SAVEM was formed to make sure that when the next emergency occurred, the veterinary community in South Australia would be prepared.

An important part of the work of SAVEM extends past the initial crisis when fires are burning. Even into early February, the team have checked several sites that have required a revisit, and found wallabies, kangaroos, koalas and birds in need of assistance.

Their work now is about helping in the transition to recovery, where processes are handed back to locals. The organisation will maintain a presence on the Island until they are no longer actively needed and are committed to assisting the Island during the tough recovery years ahead.

This Thank You Thursday we say thanks to the volunteers of SAVEM for their dedication to supporting Kangaroo Island communities and animals affected by the bushfires.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick.