On The Ground will feature blog posts from Brotherhood staff and volunteers from all parts of the organisation, so you get a real insight into the work we do to alleviate poverty and help disadvantaged and vulnerable people across Australia. We hope our entries will interest, engage and inspire you, sometimes make you laugh and always make you think!
Time for introductions! Hi, I’m Peta, and I generate media coverage for the Brotherhood of St Laurence. I’ve been at the Brotherhood for five months, and I’ve discovered there is much to like about this place. I guess what impresses me most is the very close link between the research the Brotherhood conducts, and the programs which are then implemented. I also think it’s kind of cool that we ‘pilot’ so many programs and services that are then adopted by other community organisations. As not-for-profit organisations go, we are quite the brave pioneers, always venturing intrepidly into unchartered territory!
Of course, an organisation like this is manna-from-heaven for a PR person. I mean, there are so many wonderful human interest stories to be told – and great programs and services to chase coverage for.
Since I’ve been here, one of my favourite Brotherhood stories to have run was one which appeared in the Herald Sun. It was all about the Brotherhood’s Homework Centre at Fitzroy Library. This is where secondary school students go to get help with their school work, from tutors who specialise in all sorts of subjects. The Centre also offers a quiet study place. A lot of the kids who attend the Homework Centre live in the housing estates of Fitzroy, and share the family’s flat with several siblings – can you imagine trying to study with so much noise and activity going on? In late 2010, the Herald Sun ran a story on 17 year-old Sudanese student, Awien Deng, who heads to the Homework Centre after school every day. Awien lives at home with two brothers and five sisters –hmmm, it’s little wonder she finds the Homework Centre such a peaceful haven!
It’s getting to meet the people we help that makes this job so satisfying. Every work day, I kiss my two-year-old goodbye before travelling by train all the way from Berwick in Melbourne's south eastern suburbs. Once I get to Fitzroy, I buy my large coffee on Gertrude Street, and wander down the back lane into the Brotherhood while happily sipping away. On my way to the Communications department, I pass the Coolibah Centre, the Brotherhood's day club for senior citizens, and have a quick chat to the regulars. Quite often, George will inform me I'm "late for work – you’ll get the sack! I’ll be sitting in your seat by the end of the day”, or tell me the coffee at the Coolibah is “just as good as what you’ll get down the street”. When I ask Bernie how he's going, he'll give me a wave and a nod and tell me he’s doing alright. I look through the window to see Duc sitting at a table, reading the Chinese newspaper and enjoying the company of his Coolibah friends.
For some of these people, their Coolibah Centre mates are more than just friends - they're family. And it’s kind of nice to think that the Brotherhood has been providing this warm and inviting place to go for a good 65 years now - a place where people can feel right at home and truly belong.