Volunteer profile: Fiona

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How long have you been volunteering for Children First Foundation?          

My husband Roger was persuaded to become involved with Children First Foundation by Margaret Smith, the previous CEO, almost 20 years ago.  He was invited on the Board to offer some business and commercial insights.  At some stage after that, it was decided that the Foundation needed to get serious about major fundraising, and the idea of a Gala Ball was proposed.  Margaret and Roger suggested I might like to help in getting the concept up and running.

Fiona at the Gala Ball with fellow events committee member Kim

Why did you choose to volunteer for the Foundation over other organisations – what stood out about us for you?

Roger and I were always very impressed by the goals and objectives of the Foundation.  Working with children, some of whom are from the poorest or most remote countries in the world, also had enormous appeal.  The prospect of helping children from other countries, who by virtue of where they are born, have little or no access to medical services, seemed so worthwhile.  

Tell us a little bit about your role in the events committee…

My work on the events committee is a privilege, and I get to spend time with some of the most wonderfully talented and inspiring women.  We work on two major events a year – our Gala Ball in October and our Sparkling lunch in May.  Smaller events also run throughout the year when opportunities present, where we can gather and spruik the Children First Foundation mantra.

Tell us about some of your standout memories of volunteering with us…

One of my most standout memories is the connection my two boys (who were much younger at the time) made with two similar age boys from Iraq, Ahmed and Emmanuel (whose life-changing surgery was being facilitated by the Foundation). With no arms and prosthetic legs, the Iraqi boys were able to catch and kick a footy with the best of them.  For our children who have grown up in a country where access to first class medical care is so taken for granted, it has been a wonderful life lesson for them to learn just how fortunate they are to live in our wealthy and well-resourced country.

Another highlight has been to watch the development of a shy and withdrawn young man with late on-set heredity rickets from Palestine called Ali, reach such pinnacles of achievement by now attending university in his own country as a confident, beautiful young adult.   Ali was with Children First Foundation for about a year as he had surgery and treatment to straighten his legs so he could walk pain free again and complete his education.

More recently, in these times of Covid 19, opportunities have arisen for us to spend more time with the children up at the CFF Retreat, to play games, support rehab, provide meals and relax together in a warm and homely environment.

Fiona with her sons

What is the best thing about volunteering with Children First Foundation?

Without doubt, it’s watching the transformation of young children for whom life would otherwise offer very few prospects.  Some are constantly in pain; some are banished from their communities, and many have no prospect of a productive and satisfying future.  When they return to their own countries after surgery/surgeries and rehab to be reunited with families, they are brimming with possibilities and optimism.  It is also extraordinary to me that many of our children express a desire to grow up to be doctors, nurses or carers in their own communities – such an inherent sense of wanting to give something back, that is most humbling for those of us with so much.

Tell us a little bit about yourselves… I have two beautiful, grown-up sons and a husband to keep me in check!  I enjoy a warm social network, love the theatre, tennis and the beginnings of a golf obsession, time at our beach house and a fun-loving book group.  Regular exercise is an important part of my life, as is cooking, entertaining and travel.  I also volunteer fortnightly at Fareshare to help prepare nutritious meals for those in need and have enjoyed the added advantage of making some lovely new friends there.  The Spring Racing Carnival is also an annual highlight for us with interstate friends arriving each year to stay with us and to share in the fun. Oh, and we have recently moved into a new apartment where I’m delighting in the decorating process.

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