20 years of Community Grants and counting - Mary MacKillop Today

20 years of Community Grants and counting

Chrys Fernando is our Australian Programs Coordinator and is responsible for managing Mary MacKillop Today’s Community Grants program.

Chrys, Mary MacKillop Today’s Australian Programs Coordinator

This job really is a gift to me. I am constantly amazed to witness the changes happening in people’s lives.

Saint Mary MacKillop and the Sisters of St Joseph saw something that nobody was able to or willing to deal with. People were falling through the cracks of society, missing out on receiving an education. Especially women and girls.

But something I’ve always appreciated about the Sisters is that they rolled up their sleeves and got beside people. They lived and taught in communities. Like Mary, I believe education is the catalyst to changing people’s circumstances for the better.

Over 20 years old now, Mary MacKillop Today’s Community Grants program is based on the ‘seeds’ planted by the Sisters in those early years. We work in partnership with grassroots initiatives, often with a particular focus on supporting women through education opportunities. It’s such a privilege to be part of that process, walking alongside people in their journey.

Meet Kaylah, a Young Warrior Woman.

Turning 18 is supposed to be a happy milestone to remember. I had to leave foster care just days after my 18th birthday because my foster carer had to make room for another young girl needing a place to stay. I was couch surfing, and although I had people around me, I had no-one to trust. I felt alone. I had no idea how to get a job and didn’t think I could anyway as I didn’t finish school. After exhausting all options, I ended up in a crisis refuge for young women, homeless and desperate. I had little hope for my future.

I was given a case worker who suggested I do the Young Warrior Woman Program. It was an amazing program. I met other young women like me who were in out-of-home care who were going through similar things. The program was exactly what I needed to build the confidence to believe in myself and set goals for the future.

“I had little hope for my future… But now, I’m finally proud of myself.”

I was matched with a really nice mentor who helped me get a part time job and helped me to work out what I wanted to do as a career. Our weekly Zoom catch ups really helped me to keep going towards my goals. All of the talks we went to were inspiring and we also did a six-week money management course which helped a lot. Now I know how to do my tax and how to spend my money wisely. Thanks to the help of my mentor who didn’t give up on me, I’m now enrolled in TAFE to begin the process of becoming an Early Childhood Teacher. I’ve learnt so many skills to be independent and I’m finally proud of myself. I don’t feel alone anymore.

*Name changed to protect privacy