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Helping those around us through charity is the very essence of Masonic belief, and Masonicare is the primary way for individuals to demonstrate Freemasons in action!

A story from the heart - A Start in Life

This speech, with names changed for privacy reasons, was given at the recent A Start in Life awards presentation day.

Hello, my name is Denise, mother of children Jake, Dick, Barry and Larné who have been fortunate to be lucky recipients of support from A Start in Life (ASIL).

I’d like to open my speech with a couple of quotes from Dr Craig Challen, who with Dr Richard Harris were honoured as 2019 Australians of the Year for their heroic efforts to help save the lives of 12 young soccer players in Thailand last year.

Dr Challen said ‘We’ve raised a generation of children who have too little sleep, poor nutrition, poor physical activity, poor coping skills and because of digital devices are more disconnected with physical relationships with people.
We have to turn this around!

‘Kids need to find their “inner explorer” by taking a few risks, challenging themselves, getting grazed knees and stubbed toes ...making them robust and confident and helping them find their boundaries and test their own limits.’ He asked for parents to give their children enough rope to do that.

These words make perfect sense and inspire so much hope!

Hope... when all seemed too hard, is what A Start in Life has offered my family. Benevolence! The kind willingness to help families like ours has helped turn an insurmountable struggle into a much more manageable challenge throughout many of the children’s academic years. This support has helped me steer the children in the right direction, while reducing the financial burden and stress.

In 2004, I had to leave my job after 20 years. I found it hugely challenging to provide for my young family without any other family support, while caring for the children’s grandfather and paying a mortgage. After reading an article about the ASIL program I decided to apply to give my children greater opportunities than I could provide.

Jake 20, Dick 17 and twins Barry and Larné, 14, were all at Primary school when our relationship with ASIL began.

JakeJake, enjoying his favourite hobbyWe were living a simple, modest life in our little cottage. It was a home full of love and sunshine. We took much joy in furnishing our home from ‘salvaged treasures’, mostly found on council clean-ups, from op shops and at garage sales interesting , resourceful way of living that we still enjoy today.

The children share a love for sport, the outdoors and music. All four played competitive rugby league throughout their school years, including Larné who currently plays with an under-16 girls team. Larné was team captain and was awarded Player of the Year in both boys’ and girls’ competitions. Dick made it through to the junior development squad and also captained his teams. All the children have represented the district in state Oztag; Jake and Dick represented NSW and Dick played for Australia in the Pacific Island Cup.

Little athletics filled many summers... Jake representing the state in sprints, cross-country and field events. Other sports included soccer, trampoline, touch football and basketball. Support from ASIL made it possible to be part of many of these teams.

Being involved in club sports has helped increase their motivation and improve their self-confidence. (A strong body encourages a strong mind.) The friendships formed have been invaluable, helping the family remain strong and connected.

As a parent, having a hands-on role in the sporting clubs has been a positive experience.

The many representative sports involved many trips over the years, travelling on ‘the smell of an oily rag’ as far as Gympie in the north and the Mornington Peninsula in the south, taking in many small towns in pursuit of sporting amenities. These car trips involved lengthy family discussions, debates and ‘music all the way.’ This was quality family time!

The children have enjoyed school life ...all excelling in their particular interests. Keeping up with school fees, technology costs, excursions, camps, music tuition, sport fees, uniforms etc. can be overwhelming when multiplied by four. My role as a full-time parent, carer and sports taxi driver placed limits on my capacity to work. With assistance from ASIL, the children have been able to feel comfortable in their learning environment, with access to computers, new uniforms and shoes. It meant they could fit in and feel confident. Learning became easier.

Barry, in particular is very serious about his school work; achieving high marks in all of his subjects, coming first in music, art and home economics and representing the school in the Zone Spelling Bee. He is always conscientious. Last year Barry suffered a terrible 3rd degree burn in a kitchen accident but has now fully recovered. Despite losing a lot of study time, he stayed on top of his grades.

In addition to the financial support, the emotional support provided by the ASIL team has been fabulous! The team have taken time to assist the children to overcome difficulties and meet their objectives. Great job Jason and Georgina! Thank you very much.

The children have enjoyed the pen friendships from some of their kind sponsors. Dick’s pen pals shared the adventures of their two dogs, Rory and Gyp and Dick responded with details of his adventures.

Eight years after first applying for assistance from ASIL the children have matured into resilient, independent young people. The family trips are now few and far between, particularly now that the older boys can drive and have their own cars. Barry, Dick and Larné play football, whereas Jake skateboards any chance he can get.

Barry and Larné are in Year 9 at high school, working towards what ‘they’d like to be one day’. Barry, a keen fisherman and ocean lover (as is Larné), has dreams of becoming a marine biologist. Larné feels there are too many options and she needs to narrow the field. Dick decided to leave school after completing year 10 last year. He placed an ad ‘looking for an apprenticeship...’ stating he would be a decent, hardworking young man seeking a future and was offered an apprenticeship as an Aircon/refrigeration mechanic; enrolling in TAFE.

Jake graduated from Year 12 in 2017. He is in his second year at Wollongong University studying a Bachelor of Creative Arts in Music with hopes of a career in the music industry.

Life has been positive in our home and I am proud of the progress the children have made... nobody has been stagnant... we have kept moving, with the support from A Start in Life.

Last year I was re-employed as a full time casual which is a step towards greater independence for us. I hope, by this time next year to be working full time again. The future looks fantastic!

My basic goal is to have healthy, happy, well-rounded, responsible children who are productive members of society. When asked, their goals are similar: having children of their own one day, finding a good partner, surrounding themselves with nice people, buying a home, being healthy... simple, realistic goals which I am confident they can achieve as they spread their wings and fly off on their own.

My advice to them is to never give up if you really want to achieve something, put the work in, see it through, give it your best shot! Be kind and keep your social conscience. Look after yourself and your fellow man. If other people do not match these ideals... continue to improve yourself.

My children have been fortunate to have so many positive role models in their lives and they have such a passion for what they do. They play sport not for medals but for joy. The friends they keep and the happiness in their hearts indicate lives well lived.

I believe that without such wonderful role models, the support, love and genuine care shown to my family by the community and the generous, selfless people who work with, and donate to A Start in Life, they would not be the people they are today. My family and I are forever grateful for this. Thank you for your support and generosity.

Article extracted from Freemason magazine, September 2019, pages 14 and 15.


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