Introducing the 2018 Westfield Local Heroes | HerCanberra

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Introducing the 2018 Westfield Local Heroes

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We all have ideas about how our community could be improved, but it takes a special type of person to turn those ideas into action.

The Westfield Local Heroes who received a $10,000 grant last week are all exactly that kind of person. The grants will be reinvested into the community to help their affiliated organisations continue to grow and thrive, or to help kick-start a brand new initiative. The Belconnen and Woden Westfield centres awarded grants to three Local Heroes each.

For 17 years Karen Keunen has been volunteering for the Make-A-Wish Canberra branch, and during her time has helped make 131 wishes come true. The Make-A-Wish foundation helps bring joy to children with life-threatening illnesses, carefully designing each wish to build anticipation and resilience to help a child in the fight for their health.

“It’s just wonderful to do something nice for them,” Karen said. “The prospect of a wish often helps them get through their treatment and at the end it’s like a reward for all of the hardship.”

Karen dedicates her hours getting to know each child and helping them plan their wish. Her work also involves organising fundraising events and volunteer recruitment.

“It’s really good to see that people are aware of who we are and that they support us.”

The foundation will use its $10,000 Westfield grant to fund 14 wishes for Canberra children.

When YMCA executive James Martin found out that students with an intellectual disability struggle to get work experience, he decided to take action.

“Work experience can make the difference between a person finding a job or facing long-term unemployment,” he said.

To increase the odds of employment for students with intellectual disabilities, James set up a special 10-week work experience program at Canberra’s Black Mountain School, helping the students gain the skills they need to find future employment. While humbled to be voted a Westfield Local Hero, James feels the recognition should go to his team, who embrace and nurture the students.

“This gives me a lot of pride and makes me think we might be able to make a difference.”

The YMCA will use its $10,000 grant to offer two more students with an intellectual disability a school-based apprenticeship.

Thanks to Emma Sckrabei, 175 more people are now employed. As manager of the SPARK Training and Employment initiative, Emma facilitates education, training and jobs opportunities for unemployed people around Canberra.

“The more people that are educated and employed in a community, the better a community is going to be,” she said.

The training and employment initiative involves working with industries such as construction, retail and early childhood education, as well as sourcing extra funds to pay for work-ready necessities, post-training. Emma’s determination to remove hurdles such as insufficient money for transport, and needing help with reading and writing means that not only do people have someone that believes in them, but it also increases their employment opportunities.

Emma’s perseverance benefits a diverse range of people, including teens, women returning to the workforce, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and people with disabilities. She will use the $10,000 for Ginninderry’s SPARK program to help up to 65 people access training free of charge to obtain the tickets and licenses needed to secure a job.

Some of the money will also be used to pay for emergency childcare for people who are at risk of not being able to complete their training due to childcare constraints.

“With this money we are certainly going to be looking to help out where we can with emergency childcare places.” Emma said.

Nathan Costigan became an ambassador for the Tara Costigan Foundation in 2015, after his cousin Tara became a victim of domestic violence.
The foundation is aimed at helping families escape domestic violence and raises funds to enable them to return to a normal life.

Nathan’s mission is to raise awareness of family and domestic violence and to break the cycle of violence. This includes ‘Tara’s Angel Service’, a free of charge, post-crisis service offered to survivors who are ready to rebuild their lives. The Angels are all qualified, experienced and devoted social workers who are provided free of charge for up to two years, and help navigate and complex web of services and overcome personal barriers. The dedicated workers of Tara’s Angels are currently helping 17 families who have escaped violence to move on and start over.

“My motivator is to give families the opportunity that they deserve, particularly the children,” said Nathan. “I am almost speechless to be recognised in Canberra with so many good people out there. The $10,000 grant to the Tara Costigan is invaluable and will help fund another Tara’s Angel.”

At just 15 years of age Malakai Reinhard balances school while caring for his mum, Lenna, and five-year-old sister, Katya, both of whom have significant health issues.

“It’s just something I do for my family,” said Malakai. “We support and love each other unconditionally.”

By receiving support from Carers ACT, Malakai manages the housework, shopping, pays the bills and makes sure Lenna and Kataya get to all of their medical appointments. He does this all whilst still managing to fit in his school commitments, and finding times to hang out with his friends.

The $10,000 Westfield grant will be awarded in Malakai’s honor to Carers ACT, to help fund a drop-in centre. The Centre will teach the carers life skills such as budgeting, cooking and navigating NDIS application and plans.

“It will be a safe place for young carers to get know each other and get support.”

In 2012, Suzanne founded the Stella Bella Little Stars Foundation in memory of her daughter Stella, who battled chronic illness for all of her short life. The foundation aims to brighten the lives of children in the ACT region who are living with serious and long term illnesses.

The small but caring team of volunteers offer support and assistance to these children and their families, regardless of their diagnosis. Support for the families often includes food and petrol vouchers, emergency accommodation and respite care, and helps the parents in taking a much needed break. and also helps to fund a specialist nurse and qualified childcare team.

One of the foundations newest initiatives is the Stella Bella Children’s Centre, which opened in 2017 and has a section for chronically ill children. The foundation helps fund a specialist nurse and a qualified childcare team who work with the children and families in making sure everyone’s needs are met. The foundation will use its $10,000 Westfield grant to fund stress-relieving yoga classes for parents and childcare by a paediatric nurse for their children.

“I have really seen a need for the parents to have some more support and have been trying to get this program off the ground for a while,” said Suzanne.

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