Thank You Thursday: A Fearless Advocate

This month we acknowledge and celebrate the birthday of a very brave young lady. Malala Yousafzai. I’m sure you remember the publicity that surrounded her when she was shot for attending school.

In Pakistan, the birth of a baby girl isn’t always applauded, but Malala’s father being a teacher was determined to give his daughter every opportunity to learn as if she were a boy. However, in 2008 the Taliban took full control of the village where they lived and it was ruled that no girl was to attend school.

Malala spoke out on behalf of girls and their rights to be educated. On her way home from school in October 2012 a masked gunman boarded her bus and shot her three times on the left side of her head. The gallant driver put his foot to the pedal and the gunman escaped.

Malala was in a very bad way and woke up 10 days later in a hospital in England. Here, with specialist surgery and rehab, she began to recover. And when she did, she became a fearless advocate.

With the help of her father, Ziauddin, Malala established the Malala Fund in 2013 – a charity dedicated giving girls an opportunity to achieve what she chooses for herself.

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: 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: Relief on the Road to Recovery

Since Christmas or even just before, parts of Australia have been, and in some parts still is being ravaged by horrific bushfires. As Australians we are used to living alongside these dangers, however this year has proved to be particularly shattering and injurious both to human life and wildlife.

Victoria has recently witnessed a most overwhelming, vast and engulfing fire in the Gippsland area. Gippsland is an exquisite agricultural region located along the South Eastern coast. With snowfields for those of us who prefer it cooler, to pristine forests, unspoilt beaches, and much more for tourists.

Unfortunately, most of these places have gone up in flames and now the residents who rely on heavily on farming or tourism are in despair and wondering, ‘Where do we go from here?’.

Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund (GERF) is a small, unique community organisation that has been around for over 40 years and is one organisation in a sea of many supporting bushfire affected families.

Established in 1978, it is funded by donations from businesses, community groups and even individuals. All of those donations are returned to the community and no costs are deducted as the charity is run by volunteers.

Residents residing in the Gippsland areas of Bass Coast, South and East Gippsland, Latrobe, Baw Baw and Wellington who suffer loss or hardship as a result of bushfire, floods and any other acts of nature that affect their principal place of residence are given assistance.

Funding focuses on personal losses such as food, shelter, clothing, bedding and children’s educational needs, as distinct from capital items more often covered by government grants or insurances.

When an emergency event happens a field assessment team gathers data and then relays it to the Council Operations Centre, which works closely with GERF. The Committee of Management has the responsibility and final decision on distribution of funds. Any surplus is held by the fund for future relief in the above regions.

Since the dramatic and highly publicised bushfires began in Mallacoota on New Years Eve, the Fund has raised over $3.8m and have approved more than 900 referrals from community members who’ve either lost their homes or experienced severe property damage.

So this Thank You Thursday, we say thank you to the volunteer team behind GERF and all those in the community that have supported this fund. Wishing the communities of Gippsland strength and positivity as they recover and rebuild.

See you in the pond,

The Fish Chick

* Images sourced from Gippsland Times *