CHELSEA’S Mary Daly said the recent VIEW Club lunch at Settlers Run Golf and Country Club celebrated the work the club was doing, and helped raise funds for its Learning for Life Program.
A highlight for the 141 club members was listening to student Kelly Cairns speak about her family and how the club – through The Smith Family – had sponsored and supported her education.
Kelly is one of 1140 students assisted by VIEW clubs nationally. As all sponsorships are strictly anonymous, her appearance “completed the circle” and laid bare some of the raw facts associated with disadvantaged children, Ms Daly said.
The mature and confident 20 year old, whose education expenses have been met by The Smith Family since Year 10, is about to complete a degree in Zoology and Animal Science at Deakin University.
She has never known a life without struggle and hardship. Her parents came to Australia from Belfast 21 years ago to make a better life for their children, but life “simply didn’t pan out that way”.
Everything started out well, but with six children under 14 in a three-bedroom house it became “very tough”. When her father was laid off and there was absolutely no money, Kelly remembers “eating canned food for quite a while”. Her parents suffered depression and an older sister, aged 16, battled suicidal depression.
Kelly began primary school at Wallarano Primary School, Noble Park, and then went on to Wellington Secondary College, Mulgrave. In Year 10, she was invited to join the Learning for Life program, through which she completed her secondary and tertiary education and gain the degrees.
“It isn’t only the monetary support I am grateful for, but the wonderful emotional support I receive as well,” she told the gathering.
“There is always a friend from The Smith Family at the other end of the phone to advise and help me.”
Kelly is the only member of her family to have completed Year 12 and she found applying for university a daunting experience. When offered a scholarship to both Monash and Latrobe universities, she chose Deakin, at Geelong, because it offered her the course she most wanted to do.
She moved to Geelong for two years, while also helping her mum and dad pay the rent and provide food for her younger siblings. This ultimately proved too difficult and she returned to Melbourne to complete her degree on-line.
Through an interview process at Deakin, Kelly was chosen to travel with a group to South Africa for seven weeks, spending time at the Kwantu game reserve. She worked hard to pay for her travel expenses and her parents were “over the moon” that she had the opportunity.
“I met some amazing people and I believe travel makes you who you are and shows the path you want to go,” she said.
Birthdays and Christmases are all about family: there just isn’t the money for presents. One of the family creeds is that “honesty is the best policy” and this must provide a great deal of comfort and security within the family unit. They don’t have the usual technological items at home, but there is conversation and communication.
Kelly’s five-year goal is to have her master’s degree, and then take a year off to concentrate on her two jobs and, hopefully, do some volunteering work in Africa.
The Smith Family and VIEW Club Australia say they have reason to be proud of the important role they have played in Kelly’s journey, describing her as “a wonderful ambassador” for their Learning for Life program.
Organiser Ms Daly said the lunch’s theme “Our Children our Future” celebrated 55 years since The Smith Family’s George Kennedy Forbes saw the need for an organisation of women who, through hard work and generosity, would “get things done”.
VIEW is an acronym for Voice, Interests and Education of Women and, during these past 55 years, Mr Forbes’ vision has proven successful.
Those wishing to join a VIEW Club should call Ms Daly on 0401 035 835.