It’s the end of an era for a special group of volunteers who’ve supported thousands of children and their families across the globe for almost four decades.
Each Thursday for the past 38 years, the St Paul’s Overseas Aid group could be found in the ‘Stables’ of VMCH’s Kew site, putting together care packs including toiletries, clothing and educational items for children in Papua New Guinea, India, Africa and the Philippines.
The group was founded in 1980 by Sr. Felicia and Beryl Grooby who were volunteers at the former St Paul’s School for the Blind. The ladies heard there were babies in Papua New Guinea who were dying from the common cold and were inspired to help in some way.
Fast forward 38 years and thousands of babies, children and teenagers have been the beneficiaries of practical goods that have helped make their lives a little easier.
Group member Pat Robertson said at one point, the group was distributing boxes – funded by Melbourne Overseas Mission and hundreds of other family trusts and individuals – to more than 90 towns. Around 9,800 boxes of clothing and 1,000 boxes of books have been distributed.
“The feedback from the people we send the packs to is just incredible. They are so grateful. We’ve had many funny stories over the years… one was that some of the babies were being named after labels on the clothing we’d send like Cashmere and Target.”
Pat said the volunteers – usually made up of a core group of seven – had been amazed by people’s generosity over the years; donating funds for postage, goods for the packs, or volunteering to sew, knit or crochet items.
She said finishing up was bittersweet.
“Most of us are in our eighties now and it’s just getting a bit too much (to continue). It’s sad… we’ve been tearing up as we say our goodbyes to people, but we’ve formed some amazing friendships and all good things must come to an end.”
Thanks to current members Pat Robertson, Beryl Grooby, Jean Bonser, Bessie and Alby Farrugia, Val McCormick, Madaline Santamaria, Mimi Tran and Zoe Cao.