This article is sponsored by Whites Rural
DISTANCE, isolation and limited lines of communication has created a number of barriers for young children in regional, rural and remote Australia, which are fundamental for their learning and development.
The Whites Rural community grants program started by the Kelly family of Whites Rural, specialist fencing company was first introduced in 2015 as a way to give back to rural communities and help bush kids develop through art, music, sport, sustainability and social well-being.
In its third year now the national program offers $40,000 worth of grants to 10 worthy recipients each year. The program continues to receive ongoing support and a flow of applicants from wide ranging communities and various initiatives.
Here's a snapshot from some well-deserving recipients of 2016 and how their communities have benefited.
Taking care of life’s essentials
Innisfail's Despina Parakas and her husband, Bruce are both dedicated to helping the lives of foster kids, which has been fundamental in the development of their non-profit project, Backpacks 4 Aussie Kids in 2009.
When considering taking on the role of foster carers, Despina and her partner discovered the need for kids coming into foster and kinship care, who are often removed hastily with nothing but the clothes they're wearing.
Backpacks 4 Aussie Kids, involves obtaining clothing and activities for youth from newborn to age 17 to include in backpacks and nappy bags sorted by age and gender that are distributed for emergency foster care.
"The backpacks are filled with essential items, like new clothing, undies, toiletries and things all kids need; a soft toy, a blanket and a torch because sleeping in a new house with people you don't know is scary," Ms Parakas said.
The local charity has expanded its network across Australia from its mere beginnings in 2009, distributing more than 1000 backpacks to date and currently working towards supplying 10,000 backpacks.
"It was amazing when we got the Whites Rural grant, $4000 is a lot for us to get, we were both crying with joy.
“It has allowed us to purchase much needed supplies, like new pyjamas and we're hoping to build an awning to waterproof the shipping container that stores all the donations.
"I've heard some fabulous stories from Backpacks 4 Aussie Kids. A 13 year old boy who'd never had his own teddy or his own clean clothing – the agency worker gave him our backpack and he lay everything out on the bed, wrapped himself in the blanket and grabbed the teddy and cried."
"Being able to buy things new means a lot to the kids – they're receiving something that's specifically for them,” she said.
Ms Parakas explains that whilst it's a short-term physical comfort it makes the kids feel special and gives them some independence.
The joy of playgroup in the outback
The Katherine Isolated Children's Service (KICS) runs a mobile playgroup service that first started in 1998 formed by the Isolated Children and Parent's Association (ICPA), following a need for early childhood education in remote districts.
Each year KICS travel 750,000 square kilometers bringing the joy of playgroup and play-based learning to socially and geographically isolated children aged between zero and five years.
KICS has two field teams travel from Katherine eight times a week with a purpose built trailer with water tanks, solar panels and a fridge delivering four to five playgroups, servicing approximately 25 Indigenous communities and 25 pastoral stations. Last year KICS ran 235 playgroups, and helped 2,549 children.
KICS coordindator, Amanda Tootell said they travel on "some interesting roads" to places like Supplejack Downs, 730km from the nearest town Alice Springs or Bulman, one of their most northerly visited top end towns.
The Whites Rural community grant allowed KICS to invest in sturdy toys for gross motor skills development, fine motor skills, maths and science.
"We now have a water table for children to understand water and buoyancy, a hexagon table to carry out a number of sensory activities like play dough and slime and other scientific related toys like binoculars, microscopes, magnets and insects in resin that are surprisingly expensive," Mrs Tootell said.
The toys must withstand the outback's harsh conditions and rough roads that can sometimes affect their team's access, especially during the wet season.
"Philanthropic grants are really helpful to our service as we're federally funded, but that funding hasn't increased in the last seven years, which is concerning as operational costs have increased.
"Whites Rural funding has helped alleviate that pressure and I'd encourage anyone to apply for their grants – it's really lovely to see companies in the private sector giving back to the community," Mrs Tootell said.
Improving the quality of life with a family orientated approach
Ninety per cent of children with deafness aren't born to deaf parents, making the learning experience a confronting and challenging journey for the entire family.
The Shepherd Centre, a not-for-profit support service established in 1970 works to improve the quality of life for deaf children and their families with a fully-inclusive family orientated approach.
Their specialist outreach program; Little Tassie Talkers created a few years ago, is the first-ever organisation to help support hearing-impaired children and their families in rural and remote areas of Tasmania.
This is delivered through online, tele-intervention or home visits providing parents of deaf children with the tools, strategies and methods they need to teach their children to listen, understand the meaning of sounds and to speak.
Shepherd Centre's grant officer, Andre Brady said the Whites Rural community grant has given them the resources to visit remote areas of Tasmania more often and organise a one day workshop, 'Empower Me', to be held in October for 20 participants.
"The workshop will not only educate but help bring families together who are experiencing the same thing.
“The grant also helps fund home visits, where the family has the opportunity to talk face-to-face with our clinical team in a more relaxed environment."
Mr Brady said according to their feedback, "parents and children value home visits the most and we wouldn't be able to do this without Whites Rural supporting us.”
Providing a hearty breakfast for Booroowa’s kids
The short period before school starts is an ideal opportunity to set the tone for students for the entire day.
The Booroowa Central School in the southern west slopes of NSW has done just that by creating their very own "Breakfast Club".
Booroowa Central School principal, Mrs Paula Hambly said we were noticing a long time between students getting on the bus in the morning and having lunch at 11am and we wanted to provide a safe and warm environment for our students to meet in the morning.
"Breakfast Club has evolved from servicing the long-distance travel journey to becoming more of a meeting place where children get settled in for the day and say hello," Mrs Hambly said.
Staff members take turns to manage the Breakfast Club offering children, (40 to 50 students on average each morning), cups of milo, vegemite on toast and fruit.
"The Whites Rural grant has enabled us to purchase more toasters, mugs, provisions like milk, milo, bread, conserves and lots of vegemite."
Mrs Hambly believes children have generated wider friendships groups with different ages groups, including staff, which is proving to help productivity levels throughout their lessons.
"This has led to more settled behaviour and greater concentration in those first periods.
Mrs Hambly said all rural communities need interaction with more people to touch base – as a check in process.
The Whites Rural Community Grants applications open on the 1st October and close on 30th November for 2017. For those interested in applying or voting for applicants visit here.
This article is sponsored by Whites Rural