Tributes, new resources and ministerial visits keep RAIN members busy, writes SUDHA NATARAJAN
Resourceful Australian Indian Network (RAIN) members have been having a busy time recently with emotional switches between sorrow, and shades of happiness and total enjoyment.
Thank you, Harihar Patel
We lost our past Vice Chairman Mr Harihar Patel and RAIN seniors attended the funeral in full force, paying tribute to this great man who led them even when they did not have the structured form of RAIN supporting their needs.
Our lives run at crossing paths, we meet and part with friends and strangers and along our journey we meet people who make an impact. One such person was Mr Harihar Patel, a quiet, committed, caring community leader who offered valuable advice to RAIN and its committee for several years.
At RAIN have known and experienced his spirit of community, his constant willingness to extend a hand in friendship, his involvement and commitment to the welfare of the community, his eagerness to help those who needed it, and his timely support and encouragement in all our activities. Even when he was unable to attend our get-togethers and functions due to failing health, he was there ringing me and encouraging me about a media presentation or a day trip undertaken. Our group of seniors feel sorrowful to have lost a motivating factor in our ever-challenging lives.
Hari Uncle (as he was fondly known) arrived with selected members of his Gujarati senior satsang group to assess the possibility of joining the newly-started RAIN group way back in 2006. Seniors in his company stated that he was the leading star, always going ahead in advance to visit locations the group planned to visit, locating resources to keep them safe and comfortable, and then leading them on their day out. He was an excellent facilitator with initiative who expected no reward, doing this for several years and using public transport for trips.
On joining the RAIN group, Hari Uncle made sure his senior friends had better travel opportunities this time in community transport, and he was always happy to organise his part of the event. People remember such support and assistance with gratitude. This group of seniors even took trips out of Sydney, staying overnight, with all their needs catered to. Effective planning and management does not come from text books, but with the willingness to explore, experience and involve oneself with commitment and a fair amount of risk included to make it challenging. Hari Uncle took all this in his stride and was always a winner, with a smile that relaxed his group of seniors. We enjoyed bus trips on which Hari Uncle insisted on Rekha Aunty being a singing star, and he looked on with pride as she sang his favourite songs.
People such as Hari Uncle do not simply ‘pass away’, but remain in the memories of those who have enjoyed the privilege of their support, generosity and well wishes. Their lives are to be revered, remembered and celebrated. RAIN committee and members join together in paying our respects to our 2007-2008 Chairman of the north wing and we request the family of Hari Uncle to carry on the torch of community service that this great man has lit, which will enlighten their lives forever.
Ramp construction planning begins
Sadness apart, we are strengthened in our belief that the good work started by our seniors needs to be continued with full vigour and commitment. To this end we have begun making an effort to create safe and secure premises for seniors at 501 Forest Road, Penshurst.
The RAIN community cottage is evolving into a community centre for the Indian subcontinent community, looking into the needs of the frail elderly, their social inclusion and senior empowerment. Language barriers and refusal to our application for grants do not deter our involvement and commitment. With dogged determination, RAIN seniors march on with one goal: to be noticed and to work together for our betterment in society.
Mark Coure, State Member of Parliament for Oatley has come forward to support our cause, and we have secured a $15,000/- grant for the construction of a ramp and disabled toilets for our premises at 501 Forest Road, Penshurst under the community building partnership project of the State Government. Victor Dominello (MP and Minister for Citizenship and Communities and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs), took time to meet up with the RAIN committee and senior members to make the announcement in early April. RAIN seniors were delighted with both Mr Coure and Mr Dominello who made special efforts to listen patiently to the problems of seniors. With the support of Mr Coure, we have also secured a $5000 grant from the Premier and Minister for Ageing, for the ramp construction. We are indeed grateful to the Premier, Ministers and Mr Mark Coure for this timely support.
Our current requirement
While we are well set to proceed with the ramp, we still need at least $30,000 more to work on the disabled toilet facility, and additional work on safety requirements to be undertaken. It is worth mentioning that RAIN is a successful organisation with growing needs, and is run entirely by volunteers who are seniors and as the years go by, we are also growing old. Our efforts to have an effective ‘ageing in place’ system for our seniors can work well only with continued support from the community, and more volunteers who are capable of undertaking physical activities on a regular basis.
In this respect RAIN is planning for volunteering courses and the first of these called the ‘Effective volunteering course’ will run in June, funded by a volunteer grant from the Federal government.
Minister’s visit to the group
Ms Julie Collins (MP, Minister for Community Services, Indigenous Employment and Economic Development and Minister for the Status of Women) visited RAIN recently. Organised by Federal MP for Banks Mr Daryl Melham, Ms Collins and Mr Melham were offered a traditional welcome by seniors. The function was well attended by representatives from community services in the region, along with the RAIN community.
The honourable Minister also launched the RAIN website successfully built by Mr Shankar Vishwanath, Bala Vishwanath and Mrs RS Loga, our Chairperson.
Young Indian classical dancer Arpana Vishwanath entertained the audience with her excellent performance, and guests enjoyed a delicious Indian vegetarian lunch cooked by volunteers at the Hurstville Community Food Services. This is also an achievement our volunteers have managed to continue and maintain for the past six years. The support we receive from our Sabari food project sponsors and the Hurstville community food services for encouraging and supporting us through the years, has made this Indian vegetarian meals-on-wheels program a great success.
What we have achieved so far and what we continue to strive for is not easy, considering our limitations. But our seniors rise above all barriers because of their focus and determination to succeed. Our motivation comes from our leaders and community members who are staunch in their support.
We are planning a fundraising event on September 29 at the Marana Auditorium in Hurstville, at which the well known and talented Mrs Hamsa Venkat has generously agreed to do a dance program with her group, entitled Kaala Chakra, to raise funds for RAIN seniors. We are looking for sponsors, advertisements and support in whatever way possible to help us with our mission to provide a safe and comfortable environment for our frail aged.