(This is the text of the JoCare Sunday address at masses this weekend)
This the first JoCare Sunday, and its purpose is to tell you, the Parishioners, more about the activities of JoCare in the local community.
Some of you may already be aware of JoCare; certainly, our volunteers and neighbours do! “Neighbours” is the name we give to people who a visited by JoCare volunteers.
Essentially, JoCare is another Parish Outreach program, similar to the Refugee Group or the St Vincent de Paul Chapter.
JoCare’s mission is to help to alleviate isolation and loneliness especially for older and vulnerable people in our neighbourhood. Everyone needs a little kindness, especially in their later years; A lady told me recently, that for many; the last few years of life are a ‘time of grieving’ – I’d never quite realised that …..It could be grieving for a deceased partner, grieving for family that live far away, for companionship, for the loss of good health, for loss of mobility, even for the loss of a driving licence and the end to shopping trips.
There are hundreds of older isolated people living in our neighbourhood; A smile, a friendly face, an offer of help, a short visit ………….. in fact, every act of kindness that we offer to someone, makes a difference to their lives and brings us one step closer to a better society.
I recently spoke to a Rotary Group and we had a discussion about how much the neighbourhood has changed since we were young. Everyone remembered being told to go and play outside; but you’d better be home before dark. Generally, mother was a full-time mother; she knew everyone in the street; and three generational households were still quite common. Compare that today, predominantly mum and dad work full time, it’s not safe to let the children to play outside unsupervised. People are ‘time-poor’ so they don’t have time to get to know their neighbours, maybe just a nod or a wave. They may live interstate or a long way from grand-parents; there’s very little time for a visit. It’s a vastly different world!
JoCare seeks to address the effect that these changes are having on our community. To do this, JoCare recruits and trains volunteers who are matched up with a Stonnington resident to provide them with friendship, support and connection. Over time, they form long-standing friendships with their neighbour and have a lot of fun in doing this great work.
In total, we have about 50 big-hearted volunteers working with JoCare – and we completed over 800 visits and contacts last calendar year (despite COVID restrictions). As a small parish we can be proud that the JoCare initiative has touched the lives of local neighbours 2300 times over the past 5 years. JoCare provides a monthly morning tea and get-together for all our neighbours, an iPad program to connect people to their families, and we hope to restart our inter-generational program with a local school soon. We also have a group of young volunteers who produce a Weekly Bulletin which is distributed to a network of aged care facilities, reaching thousands of readers.
Partly due to COVID, the demand for JoCare’s services in the Stonnington area has grown rapidly and we are busy recruiting and training many more volunteers to link with people who can benefit from a friendly visit. Most of our referrals for visits come from Stonnington Council or local health professionals; but you are welcome to refer anyone to JoCare if you feel that they would benefit from a friendly visit. We’ve had about 25 more referrals so far this year. Sometimes, just having a friend to talk to occasionally makes a big difference to people’s lives. Listening is one of the most precious gifts that we can give to each other.
JoCare receives annual funding of approximately $20,000 from the Commonwealth Community Visitors Scheme as well as $10,000 per year from Cabrini Outreach who have supported our activities since we first started in 2014, the shortfall has been funded by you, the parishioners.
To take the burden off the parish and to keep JoCare growing, JoCare recently became an incorporated Charity and can now offer tax deductability for donations. Donations can be made on the ‘Give Now’ portal on the JoCare website. We are aiming at attracting additional financial support from Government, the local Council, Philanthropic organisations and from people in the local community.
For example, we recently received a $6000 grant from the Felton Bequest to help fund our iPad program. The purpose of today is not to ask you for money; but if you’re interested in volunteering, especially men; please contact Kerri Anne on 0403572440. The time commitment can vary as you wish, an hour a week, or an hour a fortnight; during which time, you may bring a little light into the life of someone who has lost connection with the community through loneliness or isolation.
You might be interested to hear that JoCare was mentioned in the Federal Parliament recently as a first-class example of how Australian are looking after each other in the face of the COVID pandemic.