Category Archives: The First Sunday/Wednesday Club

Join me in donating $10 a month to a specific cause. Let’s see what good we can do with just ten bucks.

First Wednesday Club: Birthing Kit Foundation Australia

I didn’t have a birth plan when I was pregnant with my daughter Ava. Nope. I had a vision.   Within hours of giving birth I pictured myself in a white cotton nightie, serenely nursing my nouveau petite enfant. There’d be dappled sunlight. There’d be a scented candle.  Some Enya-panpipey-rainforest type music would be softly playing in the background. And I’d have awesome hair. Obviously.  (Clearly I thought giving birth was akin to going to a day spa.) In my head I was going to give birth and look ethereal. Madonna and child. Actually, less Madonna and more Angelina Jolie.Continue Reading

First Wednesday Club for April 2011: If you cannot read and write then you are always afraid

It’s time for the First Wednesday Club again. This month we’re lending our support to the Indigenous Literacy Project which is about giving the gift of reading to Indigenous children in remote communities. Read about it here http://www.mamamia.com.au/weblog/2011/04/indigenous-literary-project.html#comments

First Wednesday Club for March 2011: Help Maria Buy A Barn

In March, the First Sunday Club was offered a brand new home at one of Australia’s most popular websites  www.Mamamia.com.au  We also changed our name to the First Wednesday Club.  In March, we asked you to fund a microloan with FITE.  You can read that post here http://www.mamamia.com.au/weblog/2011/03/the-first-wednesday-club-changing-the-world-with-10.html

Sunday Mail Column for Sunday 6 March 2011: the Ultimate Girly High Tea

The Way We Live For Sunday 6 March 2011

I have never met a lemon curd tart I didn’t like. Which is good news because they’re on the menu for the Ultimate Girly High Tea on Sunday 1st May at the Sofitel Hotel.

When the floods hit Queensland, you may remember I joined forces with Kate Eltham, CEO of the Queensland Writers Centre, to do something to help. First up we organised the Writers On Rafts competition where we raffled off dozens of authors from across the country to local book clubs and writing groups.

Now our attention has turned to the Sofitel’s famously lavish high tea of ribbon sandwiches, lemon curd tarts, pistachio macaroons and scones piled high with jam and cream – all in the name of raising money for the Premier’s Disaster Relief Fund!  The Ultimate Girly High Tea is all about that delicious food plus bubbly, girly gift bags and the chance to chat to some of our favourite high-profile women.

Like who?

Like entrepreneur Therese Rein, website editor and journalist Mia Freedman, co-creator of the 4 Ingredients phenomenon Rachael Bermingham, the Sunday Mail’s own Frances Whiting, best-selling authors Kate Morton (The Shifting Fog, The Forgotten Garden), Jessica Rudd (Campaign Ruby), Anita Heiss (Manhattan Dreaming), Caroline Overington (Ghost Child) and Kate Hunter (Mosquito Advertising: The Parfizz Pitch) plus Triple M’s Emily-Jade O’Keefe, 97.3FM’s Robin Bailey, Girl With A Satchel blogger Erica Bartle, model and author of Chooks in Stilettos, Carolyn Donovan and many more.  And me.  I’ll be flying back from Adelaide to MC the whole event (and to steal your lemon curd tart when you’re not looking).

So if you’ve always wanted to meet Mia, chat to Fran or Therese or have a book signed by Kate Morton – this is your chance. They’re under instruction to table-hop and chat with as many guests as possible. And let me tell you, the Sofitel is pulling out all the stops to make this an extraordinarily girly affair.

We have just 200 tickets on sale – so get to it.  Think of it as an early Mother’s Day gift for yourself.  The Ultimate Girly High Tea is on Sunday 1st May from 10am-midday at the Sofitel Hotel. Tickets are $130 per person or $1040 for a table of nine.  Go to http://writersonrafts.com/ or call 07 3842 9922 for more details.

Finally, I wanted to let you all know this is my last column for the Sunday Mail as new, exciting changes await you next week.  Since I started this column in July 2007, I’ve had nothing but amazing support from readers as together we explored life, love, loss and everything in between. I cannot express my gratitude enough to all of you for that support, especially the compassion you showed me following the loss of my daughter Georgie.  The truth is, I wouldn’t have survived those first few months without you all.

As for the First Sunday Club – it will be continuing. We have a new home on  www.Mamamia.com.au The only change is in our name. We’re now The First WEDNESDAY Club. Click here http://www.mamamia.com.au/weblog/2011/03/the-first-wednesday-club-changing-the-world-with-10.html to read about FITE – our charity for March.

See you on 1st May.

 

First Sunday Club for February 2011: Dress For Success

Cue the smoke machine and the wind chimes sound effect; we’re about to go back in time. Back to 1995.  Toy Story was the movie everyone was talking about.  Microsoft launched Windows 95 (go figure).  Paul Keating was Prime Minister.  And I experienced the most nerve-wracking job interview of my life. I’d applied to be a publicist for Channel Nine in Sydney. I was stupidly underqualified for the job and yet like all good twenty-one year olds had the bravado of Justin Bieber. Well, Justin Bieber with a perm.  Somehow my youthful enthusiasm snagged me an interview and I was told the station would fly me down to Sydney for the day to meet the National Publicity Director. Suddenly my confidence evaporated faster than you can say, “My best outfit is from Splendiferous”.  I immediately went out and spent all my money on a ridiculously ugly leather briefcase. I thought it made me look like Amanda from Melrose Place. Because that’s how you want to look in a job interview, obviously.  Like the morally questionable vixen who runs D & D Advertising.

Why am I telling you all this? Probably because I think it demonstrates the role that clothes play in our self-confidence. Particularly when it comes to job interviews.

Recently I found out about a not-for-profit Brisbane organisation called Dress For Success.  They provide a free, specialised dressing, grooming and interview skills program for long-term unemployed women. The Dress for Success mission is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and life.

“Having the right clothes makes a huge difference for our clients,” says Executive Director Lana Gishkariany.  “Some women have never worked before, they’ve never owned work clothes. So they arrive nervous with low self-esteem. Through our one-on-one service, our boutique volunteers make them feel welcome while treating them with respect and dignity. When we get a complete outfit together for our clients, their confidence and self esteem is instantly transformed.”

It’s the first Sunday in February so for this month’s First Sunday Club I’m hoping you’ll go through your wardrobe to see if you have any work clothes you can donate. If we’ve learnt anything from the recent flood crisis in Queensland, it’s that the smallest acts of kindness can make an enormous difference.

Dress For Success welcomes all good quality secondhand work clothing including work-appropriate shoes, handbags and unused lipsticks for women of all ages. If you’re one of the thousands of women who lost everything in the floods, Dress For Success are currently offering a free work outfit for flood-affected women. And if you have spare time on your hands, Dress For Success is always looking for mentors for their clients who have just returned to (or started in) the workforce

For more information call 07 3216 1969 or go to www.dressforsuccess.org/brisbane to make an appointment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Way We Live – Good intentions and keeping your shirt on ….

This is my favourite week of the year. The year ahead is at its most shiny, its most fresh.  Right now 2011 is perfect and ripe with possibility and potential. Unlike, say, July by which time you’ve gone on breakfast radio and confidently derided the Broncos for taking on Brendon Fevola only to be told he actually plays for the, um, Lions (March); allowed your daughter to eat peanut butter out of the jar if it means she’ll let you finish the feature you’re writing (May); and made a topless dash to the lounge room only to notice a delivery driver staring at you through the window next to the front door (April and don’t ask).

But on 2 January none of that’s gone down yet.  On 2 January you’re on track to be the smartest, funniest, thinnest, most widely read, most patient, most community-service minded version of yourself that it is possible to be without having a drinking problem.  Accidentally flashing a delivery driver while dashing around the house isn’t even on your radar because in 2011 there’s no dashing.  In 2011 you will glide (with a top on.)

This time last year you may recall I started our First Sunday Club with the goal of donating $10 per month to a specific cause.  My aim was to bring more meaning into my life (and, lets be honest, win a few Brownie points with God). As I detailed last week we made some amazing contributions in 2010. But this year I’m going to mix things up a little (because in 2011 I’m more creative and spontaneous, clearly).  Some months I’m going to ask you to do more than just write a cheque. Some months I’m going to ask you to get involved by donating items or even volunteering.

But enough from me (see? I’m less self-absorbed in 2011. Brad’s next to me rolling his eyes.). Let’s kick things off with Givit.org.au  Most of you will have heard of this innovative website set up last year by Brisbane woman Juliette Wright.  It’s like a matchmaking service for donated items. Charities get in touch with Juliette to tell them what they need and Juliette lists the items on her site in the hope that some good person will respond.  As I write this a homeless women’s service is looking for a lockable craft cupboard; some refugee claimants in Windsor would love some gardening tools to help start a community garden, and a previously homeless man with a disability needs a washing machine as he sets up his new home.

So here’s what I would like you do. Go online and see if you can help. Register to receive the weekly Givit list. There’s usually a long list of items that are needed from computers to desks to freezers to gardening equipment.

We all have way too much stuff. Start 2011 off on the right foot by giving something away. (Just not your top).  Visit www.givit.org.au or call (07) 3289 2590.

 

The Way We Live, Sunday 26 December 2010: Triumphs and Trials

There’s still five days to go but I’m guessing you’ve already called it. The votes are in. The tally’s been done. You’ve summed up 2010 in your head and made the decision whether you’ll file this away as a terrific twelve months or a year which sucked like your mother’s old Hoover.

But the fact is each year brings with it both triumphs and trials. Can’t think of any triumphs? Sure you can.

Take my year.  After a six-year wait, dear friends finally got to meet and bring home their newly adopted son from China and he is the most cheerful little soul I’ve possibly ever met.  After years on IVF my friend Lisa, who had given up on motherhood, fell pregnant naturally at the age of 42.  Lisa’s due to have a baby boy in March. Meanwhile my friend Kat, who’s been single for ten years, fell in love with a glorious man and has started a new life with him in Perth.  What else? Let’s see.  After 12 months of gruelling study, family members passed their medical exams and are on the road to becoming doctors.  New, wonderful friendships have come into my life when I least expected it.  And last month I was given the chance to tell my favourite History teacher – Mike Selleck – how much he meant to me before he passed away last week.

And how about what we have done together through this column and our First Sunday Club? As a group we have raised more than $60,000 for a host of different charities.  Just by donating $10 per month we’ve bought books for girls in Afghanistan, paid for street swags for our country’s homeless, contributed to an orphanage in Thailand, helped buy a Liberty swing for wheelchair-bound kids in McGregor, provided fresh pyjamas and storybooks to Queensland foster kids, paid for more staff to help educated school kids about the risks of spinal injuries and more counselling time for children who have been sexually assaulted. We’ve given high school girls better facilities at Southside Education, funded more research into stillbirths and ensured that more disadvantaged kids will have something to open on Christmas Day. (On that note, Ann George from Project Love and Care has asked me to pass on her deep gratitude for the overwhelming support you gave her this month).  On 3 January when I launched the First Sunday Club I hoped we would spend the year changing lives. We did.

And while there are only a few days left of 2010, you never know what little triumphs are yet to unfold.  This time last year I encouraged you to squirrel away every five-dollar note that came into your possession as a way to save money.  Joan, a pensioner, wrote to me yesterday to tell me she now has $930 to spend over the holidays.  Way to go, Joan! Yet another item to put in my 2010 triumphs list.

 

First Sunday Club: Project Love and Care

Christmas 1975 and there was just one toy I was whispering about in Santa’s ear. One toy I desperately wanted, longed to own, dreamt of unwrapping under the tree on Christmas morning.  That toy was Baby Alive.  She cried! She ate! She made a disgusting mess in her plastic nappy!  And as a three year old I was desperate for her. Unfortunately in the 70s so was every other three year old girl.  My poor mother tried countless toyshops but couldn’t get her hands on a Baby Alive in time for Christmas.  So in her place I unwrapped a doll with red curly hair and a gigantic goofy smile and eyes that rolled around like Lindsay Lohan’s after the MTV Awards. I spent much of the day in tears. As for Santa Claus? He and I were no longer speaking.

While I’ve had fabulous Christmases and birthdays since (okay except for the year “Santa” gave me a bike helmet and Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youth album), I can still remember my utter disappointment that year.

This is the difficult part of Christmas.  For kids in particular, it’s full of expectation.  Expectation that Santa will come and that of course he’ll bring you that X Box or bike or those Ben 10 walkie-talkies you so desperately want.  The fact that dad has been retrenched or mum is drowning in bills is irrelevant when you’re a child. Christmas is about singing Away In A Manger and eating Nanna’s pudding and Santa.  End of story. Well, not quite. This year thousands of children will be waking up to nothing. And they’re often the kids who had nothing to start with.

There are countless charities that work hard to deliver toys to families in need and they all do a wonderful job.  But for December’s First Sunday Club I’m nominating an organisation you’ve probably never heard of: Project Love and Care.  This tiny not-for-profit group, based in Inala, is run by Ann George and her friends. Together they dedicate their time to making up “care kits” for children going into foster care.

From a new toothbrush and fresh underwear to shampoo and pyjamas – they’re the type of items you and I take for granted. Ann’s kits are given to the Department of Child Safety who help distribute the packs to the growing number of kids who come through their doors.

So this month, let’s donate $20 (yes, double our usual amount) to Project Love and Care to help them continue their work.  100% of your donation will go towards providing a new toy for a foster child.  Or you can buy your own present and organise to drop it off at the Project Love and Care Headquarters.   Our own kids won’t notice if we spend $20 less on them at Christmas. But there’s a child out there whose face will light up thanks to that Ben 10 figure or those Dora Explorer walkie-talkies you paid for.

For more information go to www.projectloveandcare.com or call Ann on 07 3372 8493.

 

First Sunday Club November 2010: Stillbirth Foundation Australia

In 2003 a friend handed me a video. “Watch this,” she said. “It’s devastating.”   Devastating didn’t come close.  What I watched that afternoon was “Losing Layla” – a documentary made a decade ago by filmmaker Vanessa Gorman. The film was intended to be about Gorman’s pregnancy and the impact a baby would have on her life.  What it ended up being, however, was something vastly different. Gorman’s much-wanted daughter, Layla, died eight hours after birth.  Consequently the film became a heartbreaking, up close study in raw grief.  I remember watching it with a strangled heart. And the whole time I wondered how any parent could cope with the intense pain of losing a child.

Five weeks ago I found out.

My own beautiful baby daughter Georgia Grace was stillborn at 37 weeks. Ava’s little sister entered this world without taking a single breath. Without seeing the love in my eyes or feeling the warmth of my arms around her. Without knowing how deeply she was wanted by Brad, Ava and me.

I’ve tried to write this column a hundred times in my head.  And I wish I could write something beautiful and wistful but the words won’t come today. All I can tell you is that our hearts have been broken.  That I have been profoundly changed in ways I can’t articulate.  And that we would do anything, give up everything, to have our little girl – with her button nose and her chubby cheeks and her dark hair – back.

Grief is a strange beast.  I’ve gone through the textbook stages of denial and anger, guilt and despair. I’ve talked to strangers online but avoided seeing close friends. I’ve worried that Georgie’s death will end up defining me. And then been terrified it won’t.  And every day my heart aches for a little girl I never got to know.

And yet there is so much for which we are grateful.   We have experienced nothing less than a tidal wave of support from family, friends and from you, Sunday Mail readers.  We have been flooded with cards, flowers and emails of love and concern.   Lasagnes have appeared on our doorstep.  Cleaners have been paid for. One friend simply posted me a beautiful new handkerchief. And then there’s Ava whose beaming smile and demands to do the hokey pokey give us a reason to get out of bed.

For this month’s First Sunday Club I’m nominating Stillbirth Foundation Australia.  Every year approximately 2000 babies, like Georgie, are stillborn and often the cause of death is never known.  So in honour of Georgia, I’m asking you to donate $10 to them to help continue their research.

You can donate your $10 at  www.stillbirthfoundation.org.au or send a cheque to PO Box 9, Willoughby NSW 2068.

As for Brad, Ava and me, we are coming to terms with Georgie’s death and walking into the future determined to find ways to honour her life.

First Sunday Club October 2010: Community Angels

Forget the blue bubble snow dome of Rome and the kitsch “I heart Athens!” teaspoon. Forget the “Bula Fiji!” tea towel, the Queenstown fridge magnet and the classic “I got wrecked on Great Keppel” stubby holder.  Really, if I want friends and family to see where I’ve travelled all I need do is send them into my bathroom.

How do I say this? Um, it was pointed out to me recently that I appear to have the world’s largest collection of complimentary hotel shampoo bottles.  See, now you’re imagining me swanning around at home in a Marriott fluffy bath robe, glancing at my Hilton alarm clock, admiring my water-coloured parrot print I lifted from a dodgy resort in Noosa. No, it’s not like that. My home phone doesn’t have a “Dial 9 for reception” notice on it.   I promise you I don’t go to hotels and channel my inner-Winona Ryder. But those itty-bitty complimentary bottles of shampoo?  Can’t help myself.

The really idiotic thing is that I rarely use them.  They tend to sit in my toiletries bag ready for when I go away … to another hotel where I can pilfer more shampoo and bath gel bottles. (Don’t judge me. Too late?)

This week I discovered the perfect way to put my addiction to good use. Homeless shelters. Our homeless shelters are always desperate for the bare essentials – shampoo, soaps, toothbrushes, deodorants. That kind of thing. And I’ve been told those little hotel shampoo bottles are the perfect donation item. So that’s where my stash is going from now on.

And it’s homeless shelters that are part of the focus of the First Sunday Club this month.   Recently I heard about a group of Brisbane women who call themselves “Community Angels”. Working as a registered charity they dedicate their time to raising money, collecting donations and finding volunteers for a range of small charities in Brisbane including the Pindari Women’s Shelter in Spring Hill which houses up to 30 homeless women at a time; Young Mothers for Young Women which offers family support and education to young women who are parenting; and the Deception Bay Flexible Learning Centre Network which offers education to kids who are struggling with family breakdown, drug and alcohol abuse and low socio-economic conditions.

Led by Mary Bourke, these women are dedicated to fulfilling needs where they find them.

 

“At the moment there are ten active members,” Mary tells me. “The original conception of Community Angels started close to six years ago. Some of us had worked together previously supporting homelessness in the community and we discovered the need for more support for women and children in the Brisbane area.”

 

I say let’s give them a helping hand and allow them to put our $10 to whatever need is currently greatest.

You can post a cheque to Community Angels PO Box 2216, Tingalpa 4173 or email marybourke@westnet.com.au for bank account details. Click on www.communityangels.org.au for more information.