Five minutes with Deb and Judy – our Retreat Managers

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L-R, Sonia, Christina, Deb, Judy, Nichole and Koko.

Deb Pickering and Judy Goss run our Retreat! The Retreat is a purpose-built home in rural Victoria where the children are cared for 24/7 pre and post-surgery. The Retreat is the warm and loving heart of what we do. Here, Deb and Judy tell us about their roles.

What does your role involve?

Deb: I am The Retreat Manager, and my role is to oversee the day-to-day operations of The Retreat. On average, most of the kids we help stay with us for approximately six months. Of that, about a week is spent in hospital and the rest at The Retreat. Along with my colleagues and all our volunteers, we work hard to create a home-away-from-home at The Retreat, a haven for the kids to prepare and recover from surgery.

Many of the kids have often been ostracised from their community due to their condition, so it is imperative that we create a safe place where everyone is accepted for who they are.

On any given day, you might find me tending to wounds, taking children to appointments, administering medication, and helping the kids follow their physiotherapy programs.

Day to day it is like any other household with chores to do, meals to prepare, washing and drying and cleaning. I guess I feel like the “Mother hen”, a role I relish.

Given the children are often here without parents or a loved one, it is important they know that I’m here for them to give reassurance, guidance and most of all, love and compassion. I even make sure they do their homework and eat their veggies!

The children and everyone else at The Retreat are like my extended family. It really is the best job in the world.

Judy: I am the Assistant Manager of The Retreat and the Volunteer Coordinator.

I assist Deb with the daily activities of caring for the children. I take them to doctors’ appointments and accompany the kids to hospital for their surgeries, staying overnight with them to make sure they are ok. Post-surgery, I assist the children with their physiotherapy and exercises.

I also cook, clean and shop for the extra food needed to top up on our donated supplies. Most importantly, I care for the children to ensure they are protected, well, happy and that they have lots of fun!

As the Volunteer Coordinator, I manage our wonderful and dedicated volunteers, without whom we could not do what we do.

Meal prep!

What is the best part of your role?

Deb: It is such a privilege to be a part of each child’s life-changing journey. These children overcome so many obstacles to get the treatment they so desperately need and deserve. Witnessing their strength, resilience, and courage is truly inspiring. I hope, because of their determination, when they return home after their treatment, they WILL pursue their hopes and dreams well into the future.

I also count myself very lucky to be surrounded by kindness and compassion – the kind heartedness of our volunteers, the medical professionals, supporters, donors, and the kids and carers who are always looking out for each other. In a world that can sometimes be cold and hard, I am reminded, every day, that humanity is not lost.

Judy: Wow, that is a hard one!! I love every aspect of my role. I love seeing the children after surgery, knowing that their lives are about to change – something they have hoped and dreamed for, for so long! I adore the cuddles, and the gorgeous little cards and messages of gratitude they write. I just love caring for them as if they were my own. I do what I do, always, for the kids.



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