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Community seniors forum celebrates tenth anniversary with a string of achievements behind it
When Sudha Natarajan teamed up with Saro and Veda Srinivasan to lay the foundation for the Resourceful Australian Indian Network (RAIN) in March 2006, she paved the way for an ethno-specific, multi-lingual seniors’ movement that would foster dignity, engagement and self-reliance. More importantly, it rekindled a sense of belonging in their adopted homeland.
Sydney seniors, who were hitherto travelling considerable distances just to meet fellow Indians at parks and shopping centres, found new meaning and purpose in their life. Exactly ten years on, RAIN is spearheading new collaborations within the community, through collective lobbying.
Growing considerably in size and stature from its humble beginnings as a social group, RAIN has successfully forayed into an array of recreational and aged care services. Funded through memberships, generous philanthropic contributions and government grants, its aim is to improve quality of life and re-enable elders by fostering self-confidence.
Acknowledging expertise developed through years of experience, their sense of independence, and self-determination, RAIN’s organisational culture is defined by strong core values.
Its twin goals are to be inventive and inspirational – not merely have good intentions, but adapt purposeful systematic analysis of opportunities and create new dimensions in performance as well as catalyse community members to serve and engage with partners to multiply impact.
Since the acquisition of a modest property at Forest Road in Hurstville in 2011, RAIN launched its own centre-based day care services. It is licensed to care for 12 seniors each week in the St George area and 10 from the Sutherland region every fortnight. Funding for this project includes community transport and four full-time staff. Registered with My Aged Care portal as a service provider, it also offers home-based care through Commonwealth Home Support Programme to help frail or elderly people to continue living independently in their own homes. In addition, RAIN has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Hurstville Community Food Services to provide traditional Indian vegetarian meals (non-funded) on days of group activities.
RAIN’s forte has been its strong leadership, strategic planning and consumer-directed content.
Cultural performances, in-house presentations, festival showcases, inspirational talks, specialist demonstrations, thematic events and picnics are just some of the activities in their busy calendar. A lifelong learning activity and training room is to be added to current lounge facilities. Food being a great drawcard, the newest addition is a $40,000 community kitchen initiative that fully complies with OH&S guidelines.
“RAIN has a unique role and obligation to our seniors. From a core group of three, we have built an effective, entrepreneurial and passionate volunteer team, a strong and diverse donor base as well as a foundation of scalable programming. Here at RAIN, we are an extended family. Embracing individuality and diversity, we constantly learn from each other’s experiences,” Sudha told Indian Link.
Finding a huge vacuum in the market, the inspiration for a seniors’ network was born when Sudha relocated to Sydney to care for her father, then afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. A decade on, she is still brimming with ideas to make their lives more meaningful.
“My mother, Radhamani, is my constant source of inspiration. A multitasking skilful person, even at the age of 85, she continues to be actively involved in day-to-day management. I often call her my best marketing manager,” she quipped.
The turning point for RAIN came when Sydney Bhajan Mandali joined forces in August 2006. “Since then there has been no stopping us,” Sudha observed. “Several of my ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ from the RAIN family have showered me with kindness and love for the past ten years. They have helped to maintain equilibrium throughout the difficult patches of my journey and helped me derive a lot of personal satisfaction.”
Sudha is particularly grateful to Saro and Veda who have been a sounding board for her innovative schemes. “They often water down my over-enthusiasm and offer sane, level headed support,” she stated.
A practising psychologist, Saro has built up the mental health profile of its members, while Veda manages the physical wellbeing aspect, though yoga, breathing exercises and meditation. The RAIN team has also learnt to navigate the complex world of funding.
As the core committee now embrace the autumn of their own lives, new initiatives like Seniors-Juniors have been launched to tap into the experience and expertise of the generations. Sustaining the strong momentum gained over the decade, besides extending current achievements and impact with greater clarity, is their continued goal.
Meanwhile, establishing an ethno-specific nursing home, where cultural, religious and dietary needs are catered for, is next on RAIN’s ambitious agenda. RAIN has also been training South Asian women in aged care services, with 16 of them now fully accredited.