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Sunshine, Learning Together As a parent, you want to help your child be their best. Imagine being unable to help your child with reading or writing, or adjusting to the normal routine of school. This is the experience of many newly arrived Australians, particularly those that are from a non-English speaking background. Migrant families face the challenges of learning a new language, finding the right spot in the school system, issues of identity in a very different culture and having to make important choices about education and employment while going through enormous change. Vinnies volunteers, like Maurie Taylor, found that migrant parents and children had difficulty with schooling. Their experiences resulted in the formation of the Sunshine Learning Together program. The program was initiated by the Society in partnership with other welfare organisations. It seeks to engage parents

LIFE is looking bright for Tresore, who is being helped by one of the Sunshine Learning Together child care workers, Azza.

who are not accessing English classes as they are concerned about being separated from their children. “Child crèche is an unfamiliar concept to many newly settled families in our community, yet accessing child care is fundamental in pursuing

training or employment,” said Maurie Taylor. The classes, which are attended by families from Sudan, Ethiopia and Burundi, operate twice a week during the ■ school term.

Image: The Herald and Weekly Times Photographic Collection

Over and above the call of duty

Pneumonia doesn’t stop Geraldine Grimmett, as she manages the Mont Albert centre from her hospital bed.

Volunteers are the backbone of the Society’s support network and they do not come much more dedicated than Geraldine Grimmett. Despite a recent bout of pneumonia, requiring a stint in hospital, the long time Vinnies volunteer wasn’t about to let that stop her from doing her vital work of managing the Mont Albert centre. Geraldine simply managed the centre from her hospital bed! Geraldine, who has been managing the centre for seven years, loves her role. With more than 70 volunteers, the Mont Albert centre attracts a diverse range of customers. Many of the customers are regulars. “Sometimes people just come in to talk, they just need someone who

listens” says Geraldine, “it’s all part of the job.” It takes passion, drive and energy to manage a Vinnies centre, according to Geraldine. Volunteer, Pat Nitz, who has been acting as centre manager during Geraldine’s illness said, “Geraldine is inspiring, working full time, without pay. Geraldine doesn’t expect more from you than she expects from herself.” Across Victoria, in all our centres, there are many wonderful volunteers like Geraldine and Pat, with a passion for the work of the Society and enduring commitment, contributing their energy and talents to ensure our centres ■ are successful.

Society President’s Message Dear friends of the Society

Victorian State President Jim Grealish.

Again it is my privilege to write to thank you for your continued support of the Society in so many different ways. Last week a former CEO of the Society visited us from the United States. One comment she made was of particular interest. In the United States it is mandatory for charities to calculate the amount of time volunteers spend on their charitable work, and a monetary value of that service is imputed. Reflecting on the Society’s situation I am sure we could work out a very large sum, but the reality is that the true value of volunteers’ service is priceless, because it is impossible to put a number on selfless service to others. The article in this issue about Geraldine Grimmett attests to this. In this newsletter you will hear of some of the Society’s activities in Social Justice. The Society has an objective of giving people a hand-up rather than just

a hand-out. We hope that all our clients who have the ability to do so will move from a state of dependency to one where they can take full responsibility for their own lives and make their own choices. A good example of people taking control of their own lives is the story in this issue of the Sunshine Learning Together program. We believe one of the major influences in allowing people to control their destinies is education. At the time of writing the Society is working to develop a number of educational support programs. I hope you enjoy all the articles which are in this newsletter. With every good wish

Jim Grealish State President

Community benefits from generous bequest

Nora Ryan (seated) and Nel Wallace (left), welcomed the opportunity to thank SVDP Conference members, Bev McNamara and Walter Johnson, for their new mode of transport.

When Johan Rietveld of Upper Ferntree Gully passed away last year the local community lost someone who cared about people who were doing it tough. During his lifetime Mr Rietveld did what he could to help and his good works are still being felt. Mr Rietveld left a bequest in his Will to the St Vincent de Paul Society, specifying that the money be used, as far as possible, in the Upper Ferntree Gully area. The Ferntree Gully Conference members thoughtfully allocated the bequest to different areas of need. An electric scooter was purchased and donated to the Willowbrooke Nursing Home for residents. Prior to receiving the electric scooter, one resident, Nora, was unable to get out and about. Now, she is unstoppable. Nora has been using the scooter and has been seen out at the shops enjoying her new found freedom.

Acknowledging Mr Rietveld’s bequest

The Upper Ferntree Gully Primary School received funds to assist with the training of parent volunteers in the school reading program. St John the Baptist Primary School also received funds to assist needy families. Mr Rietveld’s legacy will be enjoyed in Upper Ferntree Gully for some years to come. If you would like information on how you could leave a gift to the Society in your Will, contact Sue Pitt, Bequest Co-ordinator, on 03 9895 5821 or ■

Society Xavier College supports Soup Vans Our soup van volunteers in Moe, Collingwood, Footscray and Fitzroy are kept busy handing out more than 176,000 meals each year. Have you ever wondered what a typical night for the Society’s soup van volunteers entails? Each evening, the Collingwood soup van departs the depot stocked with sandwiches, soup, cordial and sweets. The van will then go to the low rise/high rise apartments to visit specific families who are in need, along with visiting boarding houses, women’s refuges and setting up on the street for regulars and passers-by to stop for a meal and a friendly chat. Many groups support the soup vans, including Xavier College, through its Social Justice Network. Last year, a generous donation arranged by the Xavier Social Justice Network (XSJN) enabled the Society to trade in its old Collingwood van, for a new one. The

Xavier College involvement has not stopped there though, with members of the Xavier community volunteering on the soup van twice a week. The XSJN continues to be extremely active in supporting the work of the Society, both financially and practically. Old Xaverians run barbeques at boarding houses twice a month to offer friendship and support. Additionally, the XSJN

Generous support for new aged care home Residents from the Society’s two Geelong aged care homes, Vincentian House and Rosalie House, are eagerly awaiting the completion of their new home, a purpose built aged care facility in Hamlyn Heights, Geelong. The total cost of the building is close to $14 million. The building costs have been funded by St Vincent de Paul Aged Care & Community Services (ACCS). Fundraising for the landscaping, furniture and fittings is currently underway. One of the generous donors, Perpetual Trustees, through contributions from The Percy Baxter Charitable Trust, Isobel Hill Brown Charitable Trust and the John William Fleming Trust, has donated $40,000 towards state-of-the-art electric beds. These comfortable beds will offer independence to the frail elderly, making it easier for them to get out of bed and encouraging them to sit up. The beds will also provide therapeutic relief and reduce heavy lifting by staff through the electronic

runs fundraising activities at the school offering families the opportunity to sponsor the nightly running costs of the soup van. “In our busy lives it is so easy to take for granted the opportunities and good fortune we have”, said Deborah Harrison XSJN member. “We use this opportunity to reach people in need, and spread a little of our good ■ fortune around.”

What a difference your generosity makes Thank you for supporting our recent Winter Appeal and Mass for the Poor Appeal in parishes. This year, the combined appeals have raised more than $930,000, our most generous response yet, and will help us in our endeavour to ■ assist families in need.

Generous support for Hamlyn Heights. (l to r): Doug Kent (ACCS CEO), Claire Schmierer (General Manager Aged Care), Jim Grealish (Society State President), Rosemary Pacquola (Perpetual), Peter Mitchell (Perpetual) and Brian Dalton (Society CEO).

elevation of either the head, body or foot of the bed. Look out for our local fundraising efforts that will take place in Geelong over the remainder of the year. This will ensure that the residents have comfortable furniture, fittings and tranquil gardens for ■ their new home.

Flood & drought affected regions Thank you to the thousands of members and volunteers who continue to reach out to those affected this year by devastating fires, drought and floods. Although these events are no longer on the front pages of the newspapers, our members have been working tirelessly in these communities, offering assistance and material support to ■ those in need.

Society Social Justice and Vinnies

St Vincent de Paul’s Social Justice and Advocacy Manager, Gavin Dufty.

Much of the work undertaken by Vinnies is driven by a desire to rectify, support or encourage a person, household or community to achieve justice. Social justice occurs when all members of a society have equal access to the opportunities offered by that society and when all members of that society share equally the burden of sustaining the society. Conversely, social injustice occurs when some members of a society are denied or limited in access to the

opportunities offered by that society, or some members of that society do not share equally in the burden of sustaining the society. “Charity helps to deal with the symptoms, whilst social justice addresses the cause,” explained Gavin Dufty, Social Justice and Advocacy Manager. St Vincent de Paul members and volunteers, with the grateful assistance of our donors, work to institute programs to assist households and communities in need to help achieve a ■ more just society for all.

Social Justice in action A practical example of social justice is the response of St Vincent de Paul Society volunteers to the devastating effects of the recent drought and frost experienced by many country Victorians. In this case these communities were being denied, due to climatic changes, access to the opportunities that many of us take for granted, such as the ability to earn a wage. This has a devastating effect on the community as a whole, as well as on an individual level. It was noticed that many men in some of these regions were experiencing difficulties coping with issues caused by the drought, lack of work and family problems. Some Vinnies conferences responded to this need by running men’s health nights.

These nights were organised in response to the challenge of getting men, particularly those in farming communities, to seek assistance with problems that they may be facing as a result of the drought. These nights usually had guest speakers talking about men’s health issues such as stress and depression. Other pertinent issues such as financial planning were discussed. Volunteers put on a delicious meal, and a comedian helped lighten the mood. Participants appreciated the evening and the opportunity to talk about their problems, as well as finding out where they could seek help. Innovative and targeted programs, like the men’s health night, allow Vinnies to try and give more than a hand out,

but a hand up. At the same time not only do we facilitate connections within a local community, but we assist the members of the community identify and access resources that they may not have otherwise accessed. In this way we have assisted in achieving social justice for these ■ households and communities

Much of the Society’s work is carried out through its voluntary members who visit people in need in their own homes and provide material assistance, support and friendship. The Society relies on the generosity of the public and the dedication of its volunteers to carry out its good works. St Vincent de Paul Society is the parent company of St Vincent de Paul Aged Care & Community Services and has representation on their board of directors. ■

This arm of the Society was established in 2003 to provide professional services in the complex areas of: aged care, homelessness, outreach services, domestic violence support, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, health services and supported-employment options. The majority of programs receive some government funding, however donations are always needed to provide services over and above the government ■ funded level.

Vinnies centres are the retail arm of the St Vincent de Paul Society and are the major source of income for the Society’s good works. Vinnies centres provide furniture, clothing and household goods to families in need. The remainder of donated goods are sold and the funds from sales are used to help fund the work of the Society. There are currently 94 Vinnies centres ■ in Victoria.

Contact: 43 Prospect St, Box Hill, Victoria, 3128. Phone: (03) 9895 5800 Fax: (03) 9895 5850 E-mail:

For credit card donations visit or call 131812

Society - September 2007  

A newsletter for supporters of the St Vincent de Paul Society in Victoria