Time to Say Goodbye, But What A Fabulous Journey

Caitlin O’Mahony

committee_caitlinI am proud to have been involved in The Water Well Project as Deputy Chair since its inception in 2011. As I embark on my next ‘adventure’ (baby number 2!), I reflect on my involvement and what a fabulous journey it has been.

Linny (The Water Well Project Founder/Chair) asked me to become involved in late 2011 when we facilitated our own ‘pilot project’ with an Ethiopian community group in the western suburbs of  Melbourne. We eagerly arrived at our first session on a Sunday morning after their church service to find only a few women and children still present. However, they keenly participated in our healthy eating session. Word must have got around that the session was enjoyable, as our next session a month later saw almost 200 people stay behind after church to participate in our diabetes session! We stood in the middle of the group with a microphone and flipchart while the community group leader ‘interpreted’ (rather liberally)! We learnt so much from this pilot session and have continued to adapt sessions since, thanks to feedback from both the communities and our volunteers.

There have been many highlights over the years: recruiting and working with the amazingly dedicated Steering Committee and team of volunteers; partnering with so many extraordinary community organisations/groups;achieving not-for-profit status; receiving exemption from interpreter fees;gaining successful grant applications from the City of Melbourne, Ross Trust and AMA Victoria; presenting at numerous seminars/meetings with key stakeholders; gaining recognition through inclusion in the Victorian Department of Health Victorian Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health Action Plan 2014; and the Project being a finalist in the Melbourne Awards 2014 for Community Contribution.

A large part of my role was to further streamline the booking, organisation and evaluation of sessions, which I’m proud to say has developed and grown substantially over the past 3 years. In addition, I was involved in strategic planning, making initial contact with new organisations/groups, and creating a Welcome Pack.

The main inspiration for my continued involvement with The Water Well Projectwas the post-session feedback from community participants and volunteers. Highlights include: Sri Lankan unaccompanied minors who swore they would never drink Red Bull again, and who enjoyed learning the ‘ins and outs’ of male/female interaction in Australia; students at the Western English Language School who now feel more comfortable dealing with changes of puberty; an elderly Macedonian group who sang to their volunteers as thanks for the session; female youth leaders participating in the Lead on Again program being more empowered to make informed choices about their sexual health; mothers at MacKillop Family Services playgroups who feel more confident giving their children healthy eating options; and various participants across Melbourne now more effectively engaged with the Australian healthcare system thanks to our sessions.

I wish The Water Well Project the most successful future and look forward to seeing it expand to Geelong in 2015, as well as facilitate more sessions in Melbourne than ever before – continuing to provide the vital service of health literacy to migrants, refugees an asylum seekers.