A number of the organisations that received grants from Catholic Emergency Relief Australia have shared stories about the impact of the funding. Read their stories below.
To all the wonderful people involved with CERA I am sending a huge thank you on behalf of the children, families and staff at Bermagui Preschool. The funding you provided us has helped our community in so many ways, during what has been and continues to be an extremely challenging time.
Between the bushfires and COVID-19 restrictions we were able to run a series of family workshops and a support group that helped families and staff cope with the traumatic events at the start of 2020, develop their natural resilience and strengthen their social support networks. These workshops strategically targeted those families who lack the capacity (confidence, lack of childcare, transport) to access external counselling and support. The families that attended were able to find information and connections with professionals as well as each other. The free child minding and take-home meals that we provided were gratefully appreciated by the parents attending. During the COVID-19 restrictions Preschool staff were able to check in on the families on a weekly basis via video chats to make sure families were OK. The program has been so successful that Bermagui Preschool is now seeking funds to develop a designated therapy/meeting room and is seeking professional partnerships so the support can be ongoing and embedded in our program.
We were able to run a series of therapy sessions targeting our vulnerable children with a focus on Art, Gardening and Cooking. The highlight of this was the production of our Kids in the Kitchen Cookbook, which saw the children connecting with nature and focusing on regrowth and regeneration by growing and harvesting food in our Moodji Garden. The children then used the produce to cook a variety of food and compile the recipes in a cookbook which was presented to families at the end of the year. One child loved their cookbook so much she has been sleeping with it!!!
Our staff were able to development and implement an online Preschool Program to support children and families that choose to stay at home in isolation during the Covid 19 Pandemic. The children engaged in 30 minute lessons which gave their parents a much needed break and also enabled the children to stay connected with their Preschool friends and teachers. We encouraged children and families to also talk to each other, telling each other about what they are doing at home, reading them a book, singing a song, playing a game. We created take home activity packs for families to use at home. These activity packs were created following hygiene practices and left at the front of Preschool for families to collect while maintaining social distancing. Each pack contained instructions, a message from Preschool and a few simple resources. Online study to further consolidate and strengthen our educators'/teachers' Pedagogical knowledge and skills in regards to delivering wellbeing programs and support for children and families was also implemented.
Finally, we were able to purchase resources to aid in trauma recovery, including comfortable chairs to create a space for staff and parents to talk privately when needed, play resources to support trauma and recovery and resilience, including books, weighted blankets, sensory resources, teepees.
Early Childhood Teacher/Director
Finance and Administration
Our organistaion was fortunate to receive a $2500 grant from CERA and we have had made some progress in being able to put those funds to productive use.
Our project was to purchase iPads to use for remote counselling sessions with clients who are isolated, vulnerable or simply unable to get to our office for various reasons. COVID certainly had a big impact on us being able to fully realise this project. However, we have been able to use them in other creative and purposeful ways to assist clients.
Most recently we held an afternoon tea and gaming session for older persons in our community. With the assistance of a Digital Mentor, the afternoon was about teaching older people how to download and install online games, such as solitaire, scrabble and jigsaw puzzles, and demonstrate how to play these games - both as an individual or with a friend. Whilst chatting with participants, we enquired what they hoped to get out of the afternoon. Most replied it was about making social connections, which in these unusual times, is more needed than ever. We would like to see this type of get together on a regular basis in our centre and will be working toward achieving this goal as part of fulfilling our grant obligations and our project aim.
We hope to be able to loan out the iPads this year as we continue to navigate COVID implications as well. As a drop-in centre we have been able to allow our clients to use the iPads in our centre for various activities. The interactions that occur during this time are often vital to establishing if the client is in need of any other supports, which we can then offer or refer on to other agencies, if necessary.
Community Outreach Worker
In Summer-Autumn 2019/20, the NSW South Coast region endured two catastrophic events: a devastating bushfire, followed by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 submission to the Senate by the Grattan Institute on the health effects of the 2019/20 bushfires includes findings that after previous bushfires of this magnitude in regional Australia, 26% of the population showed signs of mental health problems including depression and PTSD. These communities also saw a 38% increase in alcohol consumption, which in turn increases a person’s likelihood of suicide, family and domestic violence, and the onset of mental illness.
As a response, Hello Sunday Morning sought, through this project funded by CERA, to address alcohol-related psychological and health challenges affecting the long-term recovery of these communities. The purpose of this project was to ensure that residents of the Eurobodalla and Bega Valley local government areas on the NSW South Coast were aware of, and could access, the evidence-based alcohol change support offered through the Daybreak alcohol behaviour change app.
The HSM Daybreak Alcohol Change Campaign ran from 28 Sep - 30 Nov 2020, and aimed at raising awareness about Daybreak through targeted Facebook ads. During the campaign period we saw a four-fold increase in people in the area registering to use Daybreak. And the campaign resulted in 56 new Daybreak member registrations from our target audience. With a total project budget of $5000, the cost came to $100 per new Daybreak member registered.
Research by the National Drug Research Institute indicates that over three months of using Daybreak, members can expect to reduce their alcohol consumption by half, decrease their productivity loss (‘days out of role’) from 3.5 days to 0.5 days and significantly reduce psychological distress.
Based on the evidence and our project results, we can be confident that those residents who have used Daybreak over a sustained period will be likely to improve their quality of life and psychological outcomes significantly with the help of Daybreak. This is also of potential benefit to the people close to Daybreak members, as well as their employers, local health services and others.
We believe this project will help Daybreak users in the South Coast region to recover better from the recent challenges and will no doubt have a positive impact on the broader community -- improving quality of life for people who change their relationship with alcohol, and contributing to a healthier population.
Grant Writer & Contract Coordinator
The grant money has allowed for Good Grief (a MacKillop Family Services ministry) to run a “Seasons for Growth” training workshop (and some follow through) with a number of Disaster Recovery Chaplains from the DRCN living in fire-affected areas of the South Coast of NSW. The plan is for these people to run “Seasons for Growth” grief recovery workshops in their community with people who are still in grief as a result of their experience or losses from the fires.
One of the most exciting aspects of this training is that it brought together some churches which, otherwise, might have done their own thing (or nothing at all). This includes some ministers of the Bega Valley, and the leaders of the Catholic and Uniting Churches of the Milton/Ulladulla area who are working together. Please pass on my thanks to the grants committee which approved the use of these funds. This has been a very helpful project, made particularly special in its ecumenical character, and an end result which will continue to bless people in the communities of the fire-affected SouthCoast of NSW.
This is some feedback from the training sessions:
"Understanding that grief involves multiple reasons not just bereavement & the emotions & stages"
"It helped in confirming that grief comes in many ways and the level of it varies in all of us"
"The application of the four seasons was extremely helpful"
Rev. Dr. Stephen Robinson
Coordinator, NSW Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network
We are submitting this report as our funding from CERA has been spent and finalised on the project: ‘Somebody Cares’ – Counselling provision and rent assistance of premises for local residents affected by Black Summer Fires in NSW Mogo area, and surrounds.
The Counselling Service was initially set up by Rotary who needed assistance to extend the service of professional counselling due to the mental health issues of many residents who had faced total loss of home and property and/or were traumatised by the events they witnessed and/or were impacted by, during the Black Summer fires. Rotary initially had gone door to door speaking to residents in Mogo, listening to their stories whilst completing an assessment [with resident permission] of their situation. This assessment information was stored in their system for further reference as people came to the Mogo Hub for further assistance. Initially it was for conversation, for help with food and basics, clothing, furniture, personal/baby health items, temporary housing and networking. For example, Rotary provided caravans to house some individuals and families where there was total loss. Rotary worked with other agencies such as St Vincent de Paul, Baptist Church, Fire Blaze volunteers etc. Together with Rotary we showed ‘somebody cared’.
CERA provided $9,000 in funding to Sr Marie McAlister rsj, St Joseph’s House, Batehaven, NSW and the Trustees of the Sisters of Saint Joseph’s. This allowed the Mogo Hub Counselling Service to be extended and gave time for Rotary to secure other funding so that they were able to increase a Counselling and Drop in Service from two days to five days a week. A survey and evaluation process conducted by Baptist Bush Fire Relief Services has seen this service further extended. CERA Funding allowed this vital service to be maintained and Mogo Hub Services have now been consolidated and extended.
The Mogo Hub is a welcoming Centre, opened Monday-Friday and offers those who visit the following:
• Hospitality, a listening ear and conversation. There is always a cuppa available.
• Counselling – informal and/or formal on a 1:1. The latter includes access to professional counsellors, assessment, ongoing counselling including a referral system. The residents have faced layers of trauma since the fires, the slowness of clearing properties; loss of businesses, unemployment, floods and COVID-19.
• Food and Household service to those struggling to make ends meet.
• Recovery Information about where clients can receive help and often advocacy on their behalf.
• Referral and Advocacy service to other Agencies.
• Information about happenings in the area: Community get-togethers often around food, connecting with their neighbours, exchanging information and the like. Gatherings that have given input on Strengthening Health and Wellbeing at St Bernard’s Church.
‘Somebody Cares’ has been a fruitful project that has led to a service being consolidated and extended. CERA funding came at a crucial time and gave hope and relief when most needed. When the emotional and basic human needs of people are addressed it is amazing to see people dare to be hopeful of the future and this builds community and resilience. Mogo residents are in good hands.
Sr Marie McAlister rsj
on behalf of the Trustees of the Sisters of Saint Joseph.
PPC St Bernard’s, Bateman’s Bay.