Whilst Melbourne is widely regarded as the “World’s most liveable city”, its reputation is far from reality for many in our city. As in other large world cities, many residents of the high rise towers in our inner city experience struggles that to many of us seem inconceivable.
Surrounded by crime and despair
Many children of the high-rises live in families where no-one holds down employment. They are often deprived of love and emotional support, and even the basics of care are absent. Once they hit the streets, and often even at home, they see drugs and violence as a normal part of life. Syringes litter their playgrounds and drug dealers are ever present. Some have a criminal record at the age of 10 whilst others have experimented with drugs by 15. Their choices for the future are based upon what they are exposed to on a daily basis. For most of them, violence and crime are all they understand.
Making good life choices
So many problems stem from an absence of hope. Operation Stitches aims to reach out to the children of the high-rises, offering them hope, preventing them from becoming drug users and criminals.
This non-profit charity organisation based on Christian values, delivers a clear message of how good life choices will positively make a difference. The program teaches core life values such as respect for self and others, for pubic and private property, and for law and order. Instilling virtues such as self-discipline, honesty, love of family and honour of God and country, is done with an anti-drug, anti-violence and anti-crime emphasis. The kids are taught the difference between right and wrong choices and the subsequent consequences.
Presenting an important message in a fun way
The Stitches’ message is important. It is delivered in a way that is engaging and fun so that the kids respond. A regular carnival offers free rides, activities and fun foods with a fast paced stage presentation of songs, games, dance and drama. The message is continually reinforced in a fun way to say "NO" to life binding activities.
Children are invited to join a "Kids Club". They are continually encouraged to make and keep positive choices. Kids are mailed activity sheets to reinforce good choices. They receive personal birthday cards, are given Christmas gifts, get taken on bus outings and have access to a Stitches phone chat line. They can join a homework club and receive home visits.
Stitches also runs an inner-city warehouse that is equipped for holding special activities and social meetings. It is specially set up for children and youth events.
A story of change
Eight years ago, one of our staff, Mark Cottle, took a year off work to volunteer for Operation Stitches. He participated in a weekly carnival, after school programs and visited hundreds of families giving food, support and of course... lollies!
For years he wondered what became of the kids and families he befriended. Recently, one little girl (now 17 years old) contacted him on Facebook. She told how he had been, “a big inspiration in her little life and she wondered all these years where he had been.” After catching up with her and some of the other kids, Mark was amazed to see the profound, positive and lasting effect that Stitches had on their lives.
Saward Dawson and Stitches
Running a not for profit program like Stitches, no matter how worthwhile, requires them to comply with significant financial reporting and statutory obligations. Saward Dawson helps Stitches with their responsibilities in the areas of the Corporations Act, financial reporting and lodgement of financial statements. This enables the Operations Stitches staff to concentrate on their work of changing lives.
Patrick Templeton of Stitches says that the best testimonies come from those whose lives have been changed forever. Wesley’s story is typical, “Stitches was a time of fun, socialising, playing games, winning prizes and learning about the Bible and of course fairy floss. I now see Stitches for what it truly is. Love, commitment and compassion. It has shown me, I can make a difference in the lives of others, and therefore I aim to do so. I hope that Stitches can continue performing all its subtle wonders and touch the lives of future generations the way it did for me.”
Operation Stitches is always looking for volunteers and supporters. Unfortunately, the need always exceeds the help available. Visit the Stitches website. It has a bright, inspiring message.