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Philanthropy – Protecting our most vulnerable

BY BASIL HANNA

CEO, Parkerville Children and Youth Care

Philanthropy is defined as “promoting the welfare of others”, often backed up by a financial donation. Over the past fifteen years at Parkerville Children and Youth Care, we have observed a shift in society’s conscience towards philanthropy and indeed we believe it’s not all about giving money. Corporate Volunteering and Pro Bono time are two philanthropic gifts that have significantly aided our delivery of services to children and young people who have experienced trauma from abuse, which for many corporate partners is easier to provide.

The acquisition of many of our supporters has been via somewhat traditional channels, such as that of our Annual Charity Lunch which began with its primary purpose to raise funds, and its annual net profit of $750,000 suggests it does well. The event has achieved a 75% guest return rate and over the years, supporters have morphed into other forms of philanthropy because the mission of the organisation resonates with them individually and collectively.

Helping others for whom we have personal compassion does not have to include giving money or giving of your time. A more sustainable long-term approach to dealing with the issue is understanding and acting. One in four girls and one in six boys are abused before the age of 18 years, and the effects are devastating resulting in damage to the developmental pathways of a child’s brain. This affects many aspects of life from childhood to adulthood potentially resulting in mental health and drug and alcohol problems, and difficulty in developing relationships and cognitive impairments which are only improved through clinical intervention. The only way we can reverse this long-term trend is by community action; understanding the problem and influencing action to prevent its repetition.

Firstly, people need to understand the depth of the issue and then how they might play their part in resolving it. Valuing children by paying closer attention to what is happening in their lives is crucial. A child, normally outgoing and gregarious now solemn and uncommunicative; a boy willful and aggressive where he wasn’t previously; a neighbour’s child with repeated bruises or constantly hungry are some examples of environments where child abuse may exist.

Sadly, as a society, we tend to act like ostriches, with our heads in the sand. We don’t like to intervene, to ask the question, we are sometimes apprehensive to lend a hand, or to report to the relevant authority but by those simple, simple actions we can change the world for that child. Our way to respond often is the easiest, to donate money which any Not For Profit worth their salt would not reject – however as a society that cares for its children it’s a temporary remedy to a societal problem that is ever increasing.

We all have the capacity to help others, it should not be reflective of our asset worth. Small actions can often lead to major changes but ignoring what’s in front of us only perpetuates the problem. It is our role and responsibility as a community to be the voice for children who cannot speak for themselves and to intervene and/or report unacceptable behaviour when we witness or suspect a child is in harm’s way. Yes, it is confronting and the response you get may not always be the response you hoped for, but it is philanthropy at its rawest, helping to promote the welfare of another.

Only by understanding the issue, however sad; graphically disturbing; emotionally draining and then giving ourselves to help change the behaviour can we exterminate this plague on our future. Together we can be the catalyst for change.

For more information on the innovative work of Parkerville Children and Youth Care, please visitwww.parkerville.org.au

 

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