I spent last week in Tasmania doing the Three Capes Track with a bunch of my friends. It was a great break – amazing scenery, thought provoking stories from the rangers, good friendship, lots of laughs and the reward of good sleeps after strenuous days and a swim in the ‘refreshing’ 16 degree Fortescue Bay.
This week is a ‘blog takeover’ – I have included some of the stories you sent in. Before getting into those though I wanted to touch on the work many of you have been doing with the bushfires and drought.
As volunteers and staff supported communities facing fires in Queensland and Victoria, I came across a story about Barb and her twin granddaughters at the Miriam Vale evacuation centre in Queensland. After the family fled their home in Deepwater, Barb’s granddaughters were wondering what on earth they were going to wear to their year 10 formal. Barb reached out to Red Cross volunteer Joy and by the end of the day, they had pulled together outfits the girls were happy with.
“I’m pretty overwhelmed because there’s people out there who really care. It’s times like these that communities pull together but Red Cross helped that community pull together even more in that support,” said Barb.
More than 70 Red Cross people have been providing support across the worst-hit areas of Central Queensland after more than 110 bushfires raged in catastrophic conditions. They’ve been in community hubs, evacuation centres and helping people register their whereabouts so their loved ones can find them.
This is all on top of the work by our volunteers and distribution partners on the drought appeal. More than 4,500 grants worth over $6.2 million have been paid to farming families, with more grants going out the door each day. Your actions have helped the farming families who have been doing it tough.
Now for the other stories you have sent in.
Blog Takeover - Be Mused - Poetry and Humanity
By Anthony Benedyka
Every month, a Migration Support Programs volunteer Cheung-Ling Wong co-ordinates a story-telling and poetry evening and Red Cross fundraising night known as ‘Be Mused – Poetry and Humanity’ as part of the Community Conversations Program in Victoria.
It is a platform of expression for those who have migrated to Australia and participants are encouraged to share their migration journey through poetry or spoken word.
Cheung-Ling was inspired by the courage of migrants living in Melbourne and wanted to provide a forum for them to share their experiences. Around 25 people attend the evening every month with stories from China, Syria and as far away as Hungary. Those who feel inspired to share their stories have the opportunity to go on stage in a supportive community environment that Cheung-Ling has created.
The monthly forum informs and empowers the community to be more welcoming and story-telling humanises their experience. Cheung-Ling encouraged a couple from Syria to express themselves through poetry, after escaping the civil war in Aleppo. They say the event has given them a sense of belonging.
“Some of their English is not so good but I see my event as an opportunity for migrants and refugees to improve their English. Also by being at the event and reading to the public, I think it helps their socialisation and integration as well” – Cheung-Ling Wong
Blog Takeover - Bring More Good - Window installation in Hobart
By Lissa Villeneuve
The Tassie Volunteer Mobilisation Team has been trialling ideas for self-mobilisation and encouraging people to take humanitarian action every day. One of the projects was the Bring More Good window installation. The idea was to create an engaging activity to share and inspire acts of kindness in our community through interactive art.
Members of the public were asked to write about first-hand experiences of kindness on the windows of the new Red Cross office in Hobart. Anything from simple acts that brightened a person’s day to grand gestures that changed a person’s life. The kindness of strangers and compassion shown in our community was celebrated and documented as the stories accumulated over the day. To add to the ambience, we had musicians playing music at points during the day and sunny daffodils to give out to all who participated. More than 220 people contributed over the day and the result was spectacular! We left the installation up for more than a month and were heartened by all of the people who stopped to read the messages and the positive influence it has had.
Loneliness and social isolation is a growing issue and one that has a huge impact on people’s physical and mental health. We think that encouraging and celebrating kindness is a way to address this, creating a more connected and compassionate community.
Here’s a video of the installation.
Blog Takeover - Peaceful Pathways
By Xavier Lane-Mullins
Peaceful Pathways is celebrating receiving three years of funding. The project builds social cohesion between refugees and other vulnerable migrants alongside their Tasmanian community volunteers.
The community driven project came about after three years of piloting a process called Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) amongst bicultural workers and two community groups – one in Hobart and the other in Launceston – serviced by Tasmania’s Bicultural Community Health Program. Both communities continue to experience the devastating effects of past persecution and ongoing trauma.
Peaceful Pathways will be funded by the Tasmanian Community Fund. We will also be partnering with Alternatives to Violence Project Australia, Migrant Resource Centre Tasmania and the University of Newcastle as evaluator.
Intended outcomes of the project include:
- Reducing the incidence of domestic and family violence;
- Reducing the crippling effects of trauma; and
- Building lasting social cohesion.
The AVP process will build facilitation skills so that this process is sustainably practised by communities in language after the project ends and with support from the AVP National network, as required.
Blog Takeover - The drive to overcome barriers
By Paula (who was part of the Red Cross Learner Driver Program)
My name’s Paula. That’s me on the right with Jen, my Red Cross mentor. Jen has literally helped me turn my life around.
Before I moved to Wagga Wagga I was lost, I had no goals and no future. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t drive a car. My life had been dark and difficult so a lot of the time I just shut down. I worked two jobs, on opposite sides of the town. There is not much public transport in Wagga and it would take me an hour and half to walk from one job to the other.
Then I heard about Jen and the Red Cross Learner Driver Program. Jen and the other Red Cross mentors help people who are disadvantaged overcome barriers to gaining a licence.
Some of us need a mentor to teach us how to drive, or to navigate the paperwork, or just help us gain some confidence.
A driver’s licence has opened up a new world for me - it’s been life-changing. And to have someone alongside you, supporting you, who believes in you, it’s an amazing feeling. It has given me confidence, courage, hope and a brighter future.
Blog Takeover - Highlights in our Red Cross Shops
By Richard Wood
One of the key highlights for me this year is the growth of our retail stores and the friendships formed with our 5,000 shop volunteers.
FY18 was our fourth consecutive record year for our Red Cross shops. In the last 12 months, we’ve opened 12 new shops, like the one in Randwick in Sydney, featured above. The new stores have made a material contribution to our financial results and provided more opportunities for our shop volunteers.
The overall financial improvements in our existing store network drives us to do better each day. Our biggest store, Kidman Park in Adelaide, grew sales by $100,000 last financial year and is on track for an even better year this year. Here’s a picture of Judy with Mark Groote (Director, SA) at the store when they stopped by to thank the team.
Another memorable event for me this year was when we held our first major pop-up shop and chose Melbourne Town Hall for the occasion. We achieved sales of $90k in a single day. The event was made possible with the support of 200 volunteers. It was also cited by many of our retail team members as being their proudest contribution for 2018.
These are wonderful stories. It's great to hear about the memorable moments, experiences and achievements you've had this year.
Thanks everyone for sharing. Talk to you next week.