Community Service Director, Yevonne Pollock, introduced our Guest Speaker Roger Donnelly. Married with three teenage children and working in Financial Planning, Roger’s community service story started five years earlier whilst travelling in India. The large number of children who were disenfranchised in the villages was a poignant reminder of the poverty and lack of opportunity which they faced and this provided the background for his establishment of the Sathupalli Children’s Home catering for 20 children which, with the help of others, is an ongoing project. Upon his return to Australia, he recognized similar needs in his own community in the Tarakan and Buna Estates in West Heidelberg. Harvesting an old caravan at La Trobe University and encouraged by volunteers from Our Lady of Mercy College and Ivanhoe Girls Grammar Schools, the nucleus of a support program began to develop. The communities raised a range of health, lack of education and opportunity, law enforcement and general lack of self-esteem which he believed could and should be addressed and so the Salt Foundation came into existence. Its charitable credibility was recognized when the ATO granted it tax- deductible status in 2009. Roger and his small group of volunteers have worked to get people out of their homes and meet in a supportive and welcoming environment. Every day of the week activities are organized within the local communities to provide food and support and encouragement for skills training. Food for about 700 people per month and counselling services are also provided. A garden has been established and a “Homework Club” to support and assist local students. Some financial assistance has been received through the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Fund and Bendigo Bank. An association has been formed with Brother Harry Prout and the Exodus Foundation in West Heidelberg to operate through the Alice House project. A trailer will be refurbished and training provided for gardening maintenance. The project has the scope for development of employment and business skills in a caring and supportive environment. From the Salt website:

If we can land a man on the moon, we can give all humanity access to basic rights such as food, shelter, clothing and justice.

Reporter Barrie Williams 16th July 2014