Spirit of giving binds us all

Last year I became aware of a woman whose eyesight was failing. She approached WA Charity Direct for funding to learn Braille because she was becoming stuck at home and found it hard to get out or do anything.

After learning more about her health issues we confirmed there was no medical solution for her eyesight, but that a simple pair of new glasses would make more difference than anything else.

One good $400 pair of glasses later and that lady's eyesight has been restored as much as possible. She is now liberated from her home and living a renewed life.

This brief story shows that we don't have to do much to make a difference in our community. We can all do our bit no matter whether we have lived here all our lives or arrived recently.

Being part of a community is like owning a farm. If you sow seeds in the same ground each year and expect a great crop, the land will eventually fail you. If you don't fertilise and give back to the earth, sooner or later the ground becomes barren.

Put simply, you have to put in to take out.

We all have to look after our community to ensure it stays strong and healthy. A community doesn't look after us, we're looking after it.

The charity I'm involved with, WA Charity Direct, gives donations direct to individuals and families who are falling through the cracks. Our members contribute $2000 each per annum and the money goes to solving problems that are tiny in the grand scheme of things, but make a big difference to individuals. For example, providing a specialised bed for an autistic child, a medical spa bath for a family in which the mum is a round-the-clock carer to two disabled kids and a badly injured husband, or a helping hand for teenagers with depression. The list never ends because there is always someone who needs a hand.

Through my business I've been fortunate enough to travel the world. Every time you step back into WA, it's evident how strong our community is and how lucky we are. I think most of us know how good it is here, appreciate what we have and want to preserve the best of it.

Like the farmer, it's not hard to put back in. You just have to be aware that effort is needed. Many of us do it without realising it. It becomes part of our life and that's the way it should be. Helping out at school, managing a kids' sporting team, giving a neighbour a hand - they are all giving back.

If you don't do anything like this in your daily life, give it a go. I have found the rewards are endless. It's certainly not about money, it's more about spirit.

WA Charity Direct may hand out vital sums of money to needy people, but it's the spirit of the members who want to help that is most important.

Seek out organisations and charities in the community. Become a volunteer. Our community is built on volunteers. You don't have to go far to find an individual or organisation that needs help.

About 60,000 people a year are moving to Perth. If you are among the people who have moved here recently, then settle in and join in. I think most people who come here have identified how special our community is. They are ready to participate.

We need to remember that for most newcomers this is a foreign country. Our habits and interests are alien. After all, no one plays Aussie Rules in Africa, or anywhere else for that matter. If we went to a foreign country and tried to understand their culture and community, we would struggle to start. So if we want people to participate in our community, we have to encourage them irrespective of culture or language barriers.

Most migrants have their own support network, but it's important they are invited into mainstream activities because that helps build broader networks and friendships.

There are many issues in our community that could be solved relatively easily and really improve people's lives. Many don't take vast amounts of money, but the right spirit.

One question continually on my mind is why we can't have a proper disability transport system. Every taxi should be enabled to facilitate wheelchair use, particularly now we have the bigger London cab style of taxis. All the Government has to do is mandate that every new taxi must be able to accommodate a wheelchair. Within 10 years the whole fleet would have been upgraded at almost no cost to the public or the Government.

The cases we hear in this area are depressing. Disabled people confirm a booking for a wheelchair taxi. Well past the confirmed time they are still waiting and end up missing the event they want to attend. Or it can happen on the way home and they are left sitting on the edge of the road. There is no rocket science in the solution, only the right spirit.

Let me end these thoughts on community with another example of giving back. The son of a colleague is 18. Every Friday night he visits restaurants and supermarkets to pick up surplus food. Then he packs it into boxes and gives it to homeless people.

His sister wonders why he isn't out on the town.

His response is that it's worth the effort just to see someone's face when they open the box. Now, that's really being part of the community.

Find the spirit and give it a try.

Peter Carter is a businessman involved with Crosby Tiles and safety footwear company Steel Blue. He is a board member of the West Coast Eagles and a trustee of WA Charity Direct

The West Australian

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