Before my husband returns home from another overseas work trip, I’d just like him to know that I’ve pledged and spent some money. In his name.
June 20 is World Refugee Day. Every minute eight people flee their homes and leave everything to escape war, persecution and terror. Every day in 2014, an average 42,500 people became refugees, asylum seekers or were displaced within their own country. There are 59.5 million people who have been forced to leave their home. That is one person for every 122 people in the world. Half of them are children.
Now usually it’s here that I would voice my disappointment in Australia. But I have found an Australia with heart. It has nothing to do with politics. It’s about people. It may be small. It may not be the majority. It may be the voice that isn’t yet heard and that isn’t represented in government. But I’ve found a part of Australia to love.
I went to the first TFN event in Brisbane this week. The Funding Network Australia, set up in 2012 by Lisa Cotton and the late Steve Lawrence, is based on a UK model and helps social entrepreneurs raise money. At a time when governments are slashing funds to nonprofit organizations, TFN is coming up with ways to provide grass-roots nonprofits with opportunities. They look for groups who want to make a difference, who want to address inequality and disadvantage and change the way people think and behave. From what I understand, they want to make society more inclusive.
I had no idea what to expect from the event. First we were given a glass of wine, which is always a good start to the evening. Then we were led into a theatre and the proceedings were explained to us. We would watch a six-minute presentation by each of the four selected nonprofits and then we had six minutes to ask them questions. After that, the presenters left the room and the bidding started. All we, the audience, had to do was donate a little money.
We listened to presentations from Human Ventures, which uses creativity to empower the marginalized, particularly Indigenous Australians, and from 4MBS Silver Memories on its plans to improve the lives of the elderly with dementia through music therapy. Vulcana Women’s Circus wanted to open their playful program to more kids at risk and Friends of HEAL uses creative arts therapy to help young refugees.
As FHEAL Chair, Adele Rice, said in her presentation, ”the traumatized mind cannot learn’’. FHEAL uses creativity to remove barriers to learning and to help young people come to terms with their experiences. Friends of HEAL grew out of the art therapy program which CEO Jane Griffin set up in 2004 at Milpera. When I met Jane last year I was inspired to start a creative writing program at Milpera for refugee and migrant kids.
In the space of an hour, TFN raised $161,200 for the four nonprofits. Every dollar donated by the 160 or so individuals was matched by two corporate sponsors to a maximum $10,000 for each nonprofit. Sure people got tax breaks from donating and TFN deducts 10 percent of the total for running costs, but it was the open generosity and spirit of the evening that moved me. It was the over-riding belief that if you give people an opportunity, they will make something of it. People were interested and generous. And given a chance, they wanted to help make a difference.
I donated to three groups. And then when calls for the last group, Friends of HEAL, came up, I didn’t want my husband to miss the fun. So I raised my hand and pledged 500 dollars for my husband, who is currently out of the country.
I figure he got off easy. Once I bought a house when he was in New York.