In 1907, a young, courageous and partly-blind woman, called Louisa Fawkner, led a group of volunteers to establish the Catholic Braille Writers Association, later called Villa Maria.
From those humble beginnings of transcribing Catholic literature into braille, Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH) this year celebrates 110 years of providing disability services across Victoria.
Louisa Fawkner was one person who made a difference all those years ago, and individuals who share VMCH’s values continue to help the organisation grow. VMCH’s longevity and growth would not have been possible without generous supporters who share a vision to build inclusive, compassionate and sustainable communities.
VMCH’s supporters have backed numerous campaigns that help people with a disability realise dreams and goals they could not achieve alone.
This year VMCH supporters helped raise more than $130,000 for new toys, digital resources and outdoor equipment for children with a disability who use Early Childhood and Intervention Services.
VMCH also recently built an accessible garden for a unique residence for 10 people with an acquired brain injury (ABI), called Austin Street, in Alphington. Supporters helped VMCH raise more than $30,000 to build an accessible and peaceful space.
This edition of Seasons is dedicated to raising money for VMCH’s disability services and help them continue to grow.
The money raised will support all VMCH disability services including Early Childhood Intervention Services, day support programs for adults with a disability, respite services for children and adults, accommodation for people with disability and specialist school, St Paul’s College.
St Paul’s College also celebrated an important milestone this year – 60 years of teaching children with additional needs.
It is a celebration close to the hearts of Peter Walsh and Bill Jolley. They attended the school when it first opened its doors on February 12, 1957. Back then, it educated blind children.
“There were no government grants. It was all the community and we owe so much to that philosophy of the community and self-help,” Bill said.
Peter, who was eight when he started at St Paul’s, recalled the wonderful teachers and the dedicated founding principal, Brother Patrick O’Neill.
Brother O’Neill lost his vision in his 40s and he made it his mission to provide Catholic education for blind children.
“It was amazing what those teachers and Brother O’Neill did. They always aimed for the highest and the best (for us),” Peter said.
While the school’s mission has expanded to include children with various special needs, many things remain the same. Things like wonderful community support, dedicated teachers and innovative programs.
VMCH supported the campaign to introduce a national insurance scheme to replace a disability support system that was underfunded, disjointed, inequitable and burdened with long waiting lists for important services.
Now VMCH is going on the NDIS journey with its clients. VMCH is supporting more than 550 people who are already NDIS participants or in the transition stage throughout Victoria.
Specialist Education and Evolving Disability Services General Manager at VMCH, David Williamson, said the NDIS offered new opportunities for people with a disability.
“We are planning with our clients to support them and to understand and navigate the NDIS. We want everyone to dream big and set life goals that they may not have considered before,” he said.
“We are committed to people who are marginalised and disadvantaged, as everyone should get the opportunity to have an enriching and ordinary life. All people should live a life with the simple joys and opportunities many Australians take for granted.”
If you share our vision to make a difference, please contact our donation team on 9926 2412 or 2296 2413.
(Subtitle) Help make a difference
VMCH is committed to working in partnership with people of all and abilities to help them achieve their goals and dreams, remain connected to their communities and enjoy their independence.
To donate to VMCH and make a difference to the lives of children and adults with disability, their families and carers please call 9926 2412 or 2296 2413.
DONATIONS BIG AND SMALL – THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT
- Melbourne couple, Lisa Buxton and Ariel Lakman, raised more than $29,000 for VMCH when they walked around Manhattan as part of the Lap4Life fundraiser.
- Students at St Columba’s College, in Essendon, raised more than $1,000, for VMCH’s specialist school, St Paul’s College, by organising lunchtime raffles.
- A parent from our specialist school, St Paul’s College, raised more than $10,000 for the upgrade of the school’s warm-water swimming pool. Walter Dodich and friends completed a half-marathon to raise this impressive amount.