The Foundation Team

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Support Office, North Melbourne

Elizabeth Lodge, Chief Executive Officer

My first association with Children First Foundation was when my children’s primary school conducted a fundraiser eighteen years ago to help build The Retreat.  Fast forward, and for over four years I have the great pleasure and privilege of being the Foundation’s CEO. Following 20 years in education, I joined the non-profit sector as state manager of another children’s charity.  My passion has always been to work with children, many of whom are having a rough trot.  This passion, combined with a solid background in governance, leadership, relationship management, strategic and operational development, fundraising and financial management, plus a strong desire to keep learning and growing, finds me well placed to lead Children First.  ‘Courageous’ is one of our Values – it reflects the courage of the children we help. “Hanging out” with our kids is an absolute joy; they constantly give me the courage to embrace all possibilities to achieve the best outcome for them and the Foundation.

Catherine Camilleri, Finance Manager

I am a qualified Accountant with a background working for not-for-profit organisations within the government sector. I have always believed that every child should have access to proper health care and education to allow them the opportunities they so rightly deserve. I am absolutely honoured to be able to use the skills I have gained in Accounting and Finance to play a small part in assisting the Foundation to help children from overseas access medical care that they would otherwise not be able to. Seeing what the Foundation achieves and the generosity of donors, volunteers and the medical teams who offer their time, gives so much more meaning to my work.

Sarika Shah, Media and Communications Manager

Having worked in communications and marketing for over 15 years, I am very passionate about using my skills to help inspire people to make a positive difference. Growing up in a developing country, I have seen first-hand how so many children suffer because they can’t get access to medical treatment and other basic life necessities. I love my work at Children First Foundation because we get to make a real tangible difference. What gives me the most joy is being a part of a child’s life-changing journey and seeing them go home happy and healthy, with a brighter future ahead of them.

Treaisa Rowe, Supporter Relationships and Philanthropy Manager

I’ve worked in the not-for-project sector for over 15 years designing and implementing programs and more recently focusing on organisational growth and development. Having worked mainly in international settings I have often witnessed first-hand how inequality and disadvantage impacts people in their everyday lives. After spending a year living and working in Indonesia I knew that when I came back to Australia I wanted to work for an organisation where I could clearly see the difference my work was making to people – not figures and reports but real people, experiencing real change.  The children that we help at Children First don’t feel like “beneficiaries” or “program outcomes” and being able to help them have a better chance in life motivates me every working day.

Marina Te Maro, Program Operations and Development Manager

I joined Children First in 2010 to manage the medical evacuation of our children to Australia.  I previously worked in the corporate sector as a Business Development Manager and brought my skills in project management, relationship development and sales to this role.  Each time a plea for help for a child with a medical condition is placed in front of me, I am reminded how fortunate we are to live in a country where every child has access to excellent medical care.  I gain immense satisfaction from working with the surgeons and the hospitals to secure their support for each child. Watching the children progress through their surgery and recovery and return home to their family happy and healthy is pure joy.

Children First Foundation Retreat, Kilmore

Debbie Pickering, Miracle sMiles Program Manager

I’m a Registered Division One nurse and trained hypnotherapist.  I’m also a mother with two daughters, one of them still in secondary school.  I’ve been nursing all my life in a number of specialties, including child and adolescent mental health and orthopaedics.  I bring experience with different cultures to my role at Children First, having worked with children and families from Iraq and Vietnam, in a medical capacity and as a volunteer.  I’ve always had a passion for helping people and strive for the best outcomes for the children in our care.  I feel blessed in my position of Retreat Manager, working closely with such dedicated staff and generous volunteers.

Judy Goss, Miracle sMiles Assistant Program Manager

After a number of years volunteering at my church, I travelled to Vietnam on a mission trip.  During this journey I met and interacted with children in different situations, some in hospitals, others at school or just playing in the villages.  This experience inspired me to realise what I wanted to do and be part of, and that was to help children who were less fortunate.

In 2017 I began volunteering at Children First’s Retreat, while studying for a Diploma of Community Services.  This qualification allowed me to follow my heart and combined with my skills in business management and administration, I was offered the role of Assistant Manager at the Retreat.  I feel honoured and blessed to be given the opportunity to be part of this wonderful Foundation.

Miracle sMiles Program Coordinators

The Miracle sMiles Program Manager is supported by an enthusiastic group of coordinators providing 24/7 care for the children at the Retreat.  As well as a passion and commitment for the children, they bring nursing, first aid and cross cultural experience to their roles.

Grace Bucci

Susan Whitehead