I remember getting an opportunity, on my third day working at World Vision, to visit a community group in the north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne.
Here was an amazing group of supporters who had been fundraising for World Vision projects for 40 years. As I sat down to hear the story of one of the original members, Bev Ward, I saw her absolute passion for children and families in need, and was inspired.
I learnt about the creativity she poured into four decades of fundraising events, heard how she reads the letters of the group’s sponsored children to her fellow members each time they meet, and finally, just how much the group’s partnership with World Vision means to them all.
Recently, I had the chance to meet hundreds of Bev Wards.
My team travelled around Australia to host a series of thank you events for long-term supporters (with more to come this year). In Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane, we thanked supporters for their years of support and, in a small way, paid tribute to all that they have done for those in need. The events included a presentation from Tim Costello, and a talk from one of our in-house development experts. Vision Artist Camerson Semmens also shared his poetry.
The best part of these events though – in my opinion – was the stories. The stories of our supporters.
Take the Fyfes, for example.
I met Jill and Ken Fyfe, who attended with their daughter Joanne, in Adelaide. I learnt that Jill and Ken have been sponsoring a girl in Kenya called Lucy for 13 years, and Joanne now also sponsors a child in the same area. Jill and Ken have not only visited Lucy, but have helped fund an upgrade to Lucy’s school, and invested in other projects too. Next year, the entire family – including grandchildren – are planning to visit Lucy, as well as meet Joanne’s sponsored child. They can’t wait!
The events brought together people from community groups – groups, that like Bev’s, have been raising money for World Vision for 20, 30 and even 40 years. Each time I met one of these people, I was inspired not only by their years of commitment, but also their responsiveness to disasters and appeals (some were emailing me the very day after Typhoon Haiyan hit to talk about fundraising), their use of local media and even facebook to raise awareness, and importantly, the amazing community that they have built around simply helping the poor.
But of course, there were many more Jil, Kens and Bevs, and more stories than what would fit on this post. In every state, we met people whose heartfelt response to the poverty and injustice in our world was to give to those in need. And to just keep on giving.
To all our supporters – we say thank you!