What do you do when you travel to a country just to meet up with a friend, but end up meeting families just barely surviving in an environment which is commonly described as a shanty town, perpetually in drought, where their homes are made of whatever they can find locally. A place where family domestic violence is rife, where children with disabilities have very little support and when girls and women are violated there is no-one who wants to listen.
What I did was come home with a dream to help these people.
When in 2014 as the Rotary Club of Essendon President, I met another like-minded person and coincidentally another Rotary Club President, Gerard Mahoney of the Rotary Club of Keilor East - who also knew of these needy families and The Columban Mission priests who are helping them - the dream began to become a reality. We had the same vision and both dreamt big and both had a fabulous team of Rotarians in their clubs who make things happen.
The Columban Mission base in Melbourne is the magnificent historical North Park Mansion in Essendon – a stone’s throw from both Rotary Clubs. The three organisations joined forces to hold the inaugural Moonee Valley Art Show at Nth Park Mansion to raise funds specifically to assist the St. Bernadette’s Children’s Centres.
The first two Art Shows raised over $38,000.00 which has enabled the clubs to start working with Fr. Tony Coney of the St Bernadette’s Children’s Centres in Lima to help the children and families in need.
13 members and family of the Rotary Club of Essendon delegation travelled in October 2017 to Lima to meet with Fr. Tony and see firsthand the conditions and hear the issues facing the families. We presented Father Tony with 14 computers and all associated items to fit out a computer room for the children to learn and advance their prospects of completing school and attaining future employment. We are now in discussion for further projects with the Centres.
Most of the families don’t even have electricity in their homes so the idea of a computer at home is impossible. Many of the children in the Home are there for their own safety, escaping domestic violence. If the children fail a year they are dismissed from school so the requirement to continue and succeed at every level of education is essential.
The St Bernadette’s Children’s Centres have a remedial school to help children to stay in school, a safe home for those escaping domestic violence and a drop in centre complete with everything children need to be safe and supported. The centres also provide counselling to families, advocate for the children and provide physical and psychological medical services for the children.
The clubs connected with the Rotary Club of La Molina in Lima, Peru who facilitated the purchase of the computers in Lima, have them installed and provide all training and back up as necessary. The members of Rotary Club of La Molina hosted the delegation every day of the trip in Lima and we are all keen to continue this relationship in to the future.
The delegation also met with the Australian Deputy Head of Mission to Peru, James Yeoman, at the Australian Embassy in Lima, who made an excellent presentation to the delegation detailing the developing relationship between our countries and informing us of ways the Embassy and the clubs can work together in the future.
The next Moonee Valley Art Show will be 23-25 March 2018. Check out the website at mooneevalleyartshow.com.au