Aspleycare, a welfare group in the Brisbane northside parish of Aspley, has taken on the ministry of Walking With Love to support expectant and nursing mothers. SELINA VENIER reports on the impact of the outreach
THE phenomenal virtue of the Church is that, due to the fact that in a myriad of unknown times and places someone is doing something life-giving for someone else, the hands and feet of Jesus Christ are indeed active.
It’s a reality of which we can simply not be aware. And yet, such outreach continues, day in and day out.
In Brisbane archdiocese, Centacare meets the needs of the broken-hearted, the abandoned, the outcast and the poor.
It does so through professional carers and counsellors but also in the daily life and giving of people in parishes and Care and Concern groups everywhere – people who respond to those in crisis, often helping complete strangers.
Aspleycare, run from Aspley parish since 1979, is a beacon of hope and help for Brisbane northsiders.
President Tom Borger said they did not discriminate, even assisting those from much further afield than the parish.
“We try and help every person who walks through our door,” Tom said, speaking glowingly of the dozens of volunteers actively involved with emergency relief, home help, transportation, organising social outings and fundraising.
On average the outreach has on its books 1500 clients a year and Tom’s quick to point out that while a family or couple may come in for assistance, they are registered as a single entity.
One of the highlights on the monthly Aspleycare calendar is its “Thursday outings” – where up to 80 people gather in the parish hall for morning tea and entertainment.
Aspleycare volunteers pick up the guests from residential homes and nursing homes.
One volunteer is quick to remember their former parish priest and Aspleycare advocate Fr Peter Luton saying, “They arrive a little sullen and leave with a smile on their face.”
Tom said the Friends of Aspleycare, who readily fundraise, adding to government funding of about $30,000 a year and almost the same in financial help from parishioners, made a significant contribution.
He has been president since 2007 and Aspleycare’s current premises, prominent from busy Robinson Road, beside St Dympna’s church and school, were opened in 2008, following a significant government grant.
That same year, Walking With Love, a Centacare-initiated and co-ordinated outreach prompted by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to help expectant and nursing mothers, became one of Aspleycare’s ministries.
Aspley parishioner Colleen Borgeaud and lifelong friend and former neighbour Nancy Blight have volunteered since Walking With Love’s inception.
Aged 71 and 83 respectively the duo “haven’t retired” from their nursing careers, where they met.
“Caring is in your system when you’re a nurse,” Colleen said.
“I think that helps … to want to continue to reach out.”
They’ve helped almost 100 new mothers referred from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.
And those in the broader parish have also assisted.
“We advertise for baby clothes and furniture in the parish and school newsletters … (and) people have been very generous,” they said.
“We even take things down the coast – to wherever it’s needed.”
Colleen is grateful the prams, cots and baby gear that once occupied her garage can now be stored in a room in Aspleycare, much of that supply sent out after calls from distressed mothers following the January floods.
Colleen and Nancy also commented on the number of migrant women in need of assistance.
“There have been a significant amount of women from the Asian countries … and from Sudan … many of them have been refugees,” Colleen said.
“(And) they wouldn’t go back to their country for all the world,” Nancy said.
Another recent call for help was heard from a mother who had adopted out her fifth child.
“One lady we went to had her fifth child under four,” Nancy said.
“She had a breakdown after the adoption and got the baby back.
“When we went around they had their furniture on the driveway to sell for food.”
“We get those emergency cases where you have to go and do something straight away,” Colleen, who has 24 grandchildren, said.
Still driving a vehicle and helping wherever and whomever she can, her nursing comrade said she “enjoys doing things for other people”.
“I enjoy helping older people and babies,” Nancy said.
“I couldn’t stand to sit at home all day.”
Nancy’s husband died eight years ago and the support she received from Fr Luton and Aspleycare gave her the impetus to “give back”.
While she and Colleen don’t admit to having a “favourite” of the 100 it is a joy to witness the camaraderie between them and Ethiopian-born Yodit.
“I met Nancy and Colleen through the social worker at the Royal Brisbane Hospital,” Yodit said over tea and cake in leafy Aspley.
“I had a hard time when I had Isaiah (her son) … I don’t have any family here.”
Now almost four years old, Isaiah was born seven weeks early and Yodit, a non-Catholic, had separated from her husband.
She was finding it difficult to “express every three hours” to feed her son and visit him daily.
With Yodit having “no social contacts”, Colleen and Nancy stepped in and began helping with anything from completing paperwork to minding Isaiah to providing toys and necessities.
“I needed a rack for drying (clothes),” Yodit said.
“Colleen brought me one back and I said I wanted to pay her.
“She said, ‘That’s a gift from the Church’.
“I really am grateful for all their help.
“I get stressed and ring them and they give me advice and say to be strong.
“They are willing to do so much for us.”
Hoping one day to repay such kindness through acts of good will to others in need, an emotional Yodit said, “It’s lovely to know help is there.”
“I went through a very hard time and to find people to say, ‘Don’t worry, we’re here to help’ … well, God bless them.”
Aspleycare is open Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays) from 10am to 2pm.
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