Seeing is Believing … a tour of Ballarat with a difference
United Way Ballarat run regular Seeing is Believing tours of Ballarat. The tours give participants an insight into the agencies and people working with those in our community who are in need of a hand.
Our most recent tour was a day of opened eyes and hearts to the situations that are in our community that most people are not aware of. The day was also one of immense hope, seeing the work being done to improve the lives of the people of Ballarat.
One participant wrote of her experiences on the day:
As I walked along Lydiard Street on my way to our meeting point I was apprehensive about what the day would bring. Will what I see today impact my way of thinking? Will it change the way I see Ballarat and the community where I have made my home?
After finishing our coffee and a discussion with the group about what brought us on this tour we walked across the road chatting, unaware of how inspiring and moving our day would be.
First stop was to meet Geoff from Anglicare and the Breakfast Program where they not only provide food to the less fortunate and homeless 5 mornings a week but also, much needed companionship from other ‘guests’ and the amazing volunteers who cook and serve them breakfast. We met Norma who volunteers every morning and keeps the kitchen running as efficiently as any top notch restaurant in Ballarat. She serves the ‘guests’ with a welcoming non-judgemental smile always ready to listen if they feel like a chat or gives them space to eat in peace if that’s what they need. “How can we help?” I asked and the answer, “More volunteers and money to expand the program to 7 days a week” did not surprise me.
As we hopped in the bus to go to our next stop Norma’s words echoed in my mind “How many days do you choose not to have breakfast?” The group chatted about how amazing the program is and how important it is to keep it going as we pulled up to UnitingCare.
As we walked into UnitingCare I noticed baskets of bread with the sign ‘please take.’ It made me feel heartened to know how generous many in our community can be and willing to help out those in need. Wendy explained how Uniting Care is the entry point for all the homeless, “they come here when there is nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to, they are desperate.” The staff’s greatest challenge is finding everyone a place to stay and there is always a waiting list. We then heard about Breezeway, a café set up to provide a free 2 course lunch to around 55 people every day funded entirely by the community.
Our eyes were then opened to Barnagnen. a residential mental health youth program. Here the residents are encouraged and taught lessons to lead an independent life while still having the support they need before embarking on a ‘normal’ life outside Barnagnen.
Lastly we were introduced to Karrung, another housing program run for disadvantaged young people where they can stay for up to 2 years. The only proviso is they need to be in school, other educational programs or paid work. It aims to provide support to transition into adulthood and all the responsibilities that brings.
Back on the bus I noticed how quiet the group was. We all seemed deep in our thoughts, processing all the things we had seen and heard. The chatting between us all seemed to have dissipated. Off we went to Centacare. I was moved to tears when David spoke about their program Cradle to Kinder, looking after the needs of young mums from antenatal onwards. I was especially impressed by the fact that early intervention can provide a better future for these little ones. I couldn’t believe not all children had access to books and something as important as a hug!
Next stop, Yuille Park P-8 Community College where they are passionate about making a generational change. The relationships that the teachers have built with each individual student is truly inspirational. The kids are encouraged to perform at their best with a learning system that works for them, no pigeon hole teaching. No matter what their circumstances none of the students are overlooked. We were treated to a special lunch prepared by some of the students and using produce from the much loved school vegie garden. It was delicious.
Our final stop was CAFS where we met Michael who has the difficult job of speaking with domestic violence victims and perpetrators. It was alarming to hear the high number of domestic violence cases in Ballarat alone. With more money and a bigger team these numbers could be lowered. However Michael is making a difference to a huge issue, one family at a time and that is important.
The people we met during the tour all have hope and belief that they can make a difference and that’s what keeps them going. The Ballarat community can help, we just have to work together and let every person know they do have a purpose and they are important to us. “Give love and support, not judgement”.
You can register your interest in attending a future tour here