October marks the traditional time of the year that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Australia (over 146,000 members) set aside time to work on community projects as one body. As part of this initiative, members of the church were encouraged to seek out opportunities to partner with and help worthy endeavours in the community. On Saturday, 29th October over 120 members from the Sydney Australia Mortdale Stake (Diocese) of the church partnered with Belmore Boys High School Principal, Ms. Hala Ramadan, head teacher Mr. Omar Chahrouk and other teachers who attended on the day. These teachers regularly give of their own time outside of school hours to improve the school’s facilities.
Through Canterbury Bulldogs first grade player, Will Hopoate, a member of Mortdale Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the church group and school were introduced to each other. Bulldogs Community Manager Mr. Saree Boutros facilitated the meeting and came to support the project on the day. Preparation commenced and several projects requiring attention within the school were decided upon. Some materials were donated by retailers and sponsors along with a donation from the Church to purchase supplies.
Mortdale Stake’s group was made up of a cross-section of different members from children as young as two, a team of tradespeople through to members in their eighties. A large contingent of volunteer full-time missionaries from the Church in the area also participated. The group reconstructed sheds, repainted walls and awnings, constructed garden beds and performed other tasks to improve and beautify the environment of Belmore Boys High School.
Ms. Hala Ramadan said that she was overwhelmed by the support given to the School and their students, and was grateful to all those who disregarded cultural and religious barriers to give to kids who deserve a chance and a better school environment. She said “our boys come from all around the world covering all continents, but the minute they walk into Belmore, they are walking into their second home with their larger family”.
Stake President, Philip Barton expressed the strong feeling of family that was felt at the school. “We felt the powerful sense of community as we worked with the leaders in the school and were grateful to be invited in to be part of that for a time. We believe that the family is the most important unit of society and were happy to have our families help other people”.
The Stake presented Ms. Ramadan and Mr. Omar Chahrouk with community service awards recognising the time they give to the school outside of school hours in order to make it better for their students. The church and school both expressed their gratitude in a formal ceremony to conclude where school captain, Sam Van Der Walle, also a member of the Church was there to assist. Both groups look forward to continuing to partner and work together into the future.
The Stake Presidency of Sydney Australia Mortdale Stake hosted a reception for the members of the Stake and the representatives of St George Domestic Violence Action Group, Advance Diversity Services, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, Arncliffe Public School and Community Hands and Feet in conjunction with “The Gift Box Project 2015”, an initiative to assist those who are experiencing trauma in the form of domestic violence and homelessness.
The project involved inviting members of the Stake and their friends to fill boxes with selected items to be donated to hospitals, women’s refuges and other organisations for use by customers and their families needing basic necessities.
At the beginning of the evening, the young men and women were at hand to receive boxes from those who attended and filled more boxes as there were also unboxed donations that were received. The boxes were then sorted according to target recipients.
Over 600 gift boxes were assembled.
The messages of those who spoke at the reception invoked love and concern for those who are in need.
Ms. Antoinette Kesby a Social Worker gave an insight into the work they do as a front line service dealing with trauma caused by domestic violence, crisis experienced by refugees, children affected by violence, homelessness and other acute and emergency cases. In an interview with Ms Joanna IIlipolous, also a Social Worker, she said that they see 75,000 customers presenting or taken to the hospital each year. They provide customers with assistance during crisis and ongoing support in the community.
Ms. Gaya Dharmagesan, who works as a Team Leader in the Settlement Program of the Advance Diversity Services, said that their work is more on the prevention of violence and trauma. The organisation allows refugees and migrants to access legal assistance and available social and economic opportunities. She urged those present at the reception to “continue doing what you do”, help the most vulnerable members of the community.
Community Hands and Feet was represented by its founder Mr. Joe Brown. He provided amazing statistics in relation to the work they do. They provide nearly 500 food packs for the homeless in the city of Sydney area each Friday. Their vision is to see that no one makes their beds on the streets of Sydney in time to come and that every needy and struggling families are supported and helped.
The Federal Member of Parliament Mr David Coleman, who was also in attendance, stated that “it is comforting that we have people who are willing to help the community” and that it was a significant day for the members of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints.
The service project was inspired. The Saviour Jesus Christ taught us to lose ourselves in unselfish service to others and that there are special blessings in giving.
President Barton in his closing remarks quoted “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).
The evening reminded those present of the Saviour’s invitation to love one another and that through their benevolence and generosity they can make the life of those experiencing trauma and hurt a little better.
Sister Angelina Dycueco, Mortdale Ward
Members of the Sydney Mortdale Stake, along with friends and family, gathered to assemble newborn packs for donation to the maternity wards of St. George and Sutherland hospitals.
The service project is the second collaboration between the hospitals and Mortdale Stake, with the first being Relief Society’s making of hand-warmers for the hospital patients. This idea of assembling newborn packs was generated from discussions between Social Workers of the hospitals and members of the Public Affairs team of the Stake. Ironically, it was a roundtable discussion of women, including mothers with firsthand experiences of both the excitement and challenges of caring for a newborn.
Ms Sinead Tierney, Team Leader at the Women’s and Children’s Health sector of St. George Hospital, commented, “Some mothers leave the hospital with nothing.” These heartbreaking words were echoed by other Social Workers who attended the discussion.
82 newborn packs were assembled on the night, each containing a combination of items including nappies, baby wipes, newborn bodysuits, singlets, baby shampoo, face towels and baby powder. Charlie Talivakaola, who attended the event, expressed, “It is not just about giving something to the babies. It is about welcoming and celebrating a new life, and showing support, encouragement and thanks to the mothers.”
As friends and family continued to bring donations throughout the event and as boxes were packed, conversations were heard of many wanting to do another service project of the same nature in the near future.
A huge thank you to all those who attended our RS Conference on Saturday Afternoon. More than 160 sisters and Young Women were in attendance.
There was so much on display to teach and inspire. Thanks to all the stall holders for their time and effort in making the hall a centre of sharing and learning.
Thank you also to Alan, Emily, Margaret and Rebecca for the wonderful classes run throughout the day to strengthen families and individuals. They were enjoyed by all in attendance.
The Cafe was a ‘Wow’ moment as we entered the recreation hall, and our Young Women were tireless as they stood and served the most delicious food.
Sister Ellen Route, who I think could be the most senior sister in our Stake made the day special by sharing her 95th Birthday with us.
Family History Consultants helped members identify Green arrows, and print FOR forms in preparation for the Stake Baptism Day, this coming Saturday.
Even our Choir practice for Stake Conference was the best we have had.
180 hand held heat bags were completed, and both St. George and Sutherland Hospitals will be grateful recipients of these.
Our theme, ‘By Small and Simple Things are Great Things Brought to Pass’ certainly was attested to, by the participation of everyone and the many little things things everyone learned.
We love you all so much,
Joy, Jessie and Denise
(Mortdale Stake Relief Society Presidency)
see more photos below:
By Angelina Dyceuco
President Dieter F Uchdorf of the First Presidency declared: “We honor and respect sincere souls from all religions, no matter where or when they lived, who have loved God… We lift our voices in gratitude for their selflessness and courage. We embrace them as brothers and sisters, children of our Heavenly Father.”
The Sydney Mortdale Stake held a service project aimed to foster interfaith relations between differing religious traditions. Sharing a mutual concern for the needs of the community, the members of the Stake collaborated with representatives from the Muslim, Jewish and Catholic communities.
Those who attended were involved in making tug ropes for animals in a local animal shelter. There was also a great support towards donations of children’s socks and underwear to be sent to an orphanage in Siam Reap. The ‘Stepping Out Program’ not only provides food and clothing to those who have been orphaned but also protection and education for a number of children and youth.
Mr Jihad Dib, the principal of Punchbowl Boys’ High School (with 70% Arabic speaking students) and Commissioner to the NSW Community Relations Commission for a Multicultural NSW, addressed those who attended. His message contributed to the spirit of the evening as he commented, “Always treat people with dignity and respect whoever they are”.
President Philip Barton echoed the message of unity by commenting that our identity as neighbours, and brothers and sisters, outweighs our individual differences.
Photos (below) by Daniela Jackson
A display of photographs of the Cambodian children became a bridge of understanding between the givers and receivers.
President Andrew Campbell, 1st Counsellor in the Mortdale Stake Presidency, and Sarah Greenbaum of the Jewish Board of Deputies making tug ropes for the animals in a local animal shelter.
Derek Godinet (Middle), Vice Captain of Punchbowl Boys’ High School, is photographed with his Young Men’s President, John Pike (Left), and principal, Mr Jihad Dib (Right).
Left to Right: Mr Jihad Dib, Derek Godinet and President Philip Barton of the Mortdale Stake.
Moment of fun interaction between Francisco Cou (Assistant Director of Public Affairs of Mortdale Stake), Principal Jihad Dib and Sarah Greenbaum of the Jewish Board of Deputies.