The trip to Cambodia inspired Maureen, Cathy and Melinda to raise funds for ChildFund to build a pump well in a disadvantaged rural community in Kratie Province.
Two years later, after seeing the difference the well had made to the lives of children and their families in Kratie, Maureen funded the construction of two wells at health clinics in Battambang Province.
Today, the wells are providing clean water to more than 18,500 people, including almost 9,000 children in Battambang. They are helping to ensure healthcare staff and patients have access to a reliable source of clean water, especially during emergencies such as childbirth. “I dedicated the two wells to my mother Pat and mother-in-law Jeanette, who had 12 children between them,” Maureen says.
The chief of one of the health clinics, Sophat Ngon, says having readily accessible clean water all year round is saving the lives of mothers and children. “Before we had this well, women who came to the health centre to deliver their babies were arriving with their own water,” he says. “My patients and staff are very happy to have this new well. We are so pleased.”
Life-long work with disadvantaged communities
Philanthropy and working to improve the lives of disadvantaged people has been a significant part of Maureen’s life. For two decades Maureen worked in the public housing sector with the ACT government, helping to find suitable homes for people living on the street.
“I worked with homeless people on what it was that they wanted from their housing,” Maureen says. “They wanted housing to contribute to a better life for them; it wasn’t just a roof over their heads. They wanted somewhere where they could cook a meal for their children; where their children could do their homework.”
Maureen also worked in the area of disability, including helping to establish Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme.
“I saw how having a disability led to poverty because there was simply not enough support,” Maureen says. “People with a disability envisage a life for themselves just like everyone else. Having a disability doesn’t define someone. Everything that everyone else in the community wants to do, people with a disability want to do also.
“This is the same with people in poor countries; they have the same aspirations for themselves and their children, they just don’t have the resources to do it.”
Call for Australians to act
Maureen’s next focus is helping ChildFund provide critical healthcare to mothers and children in Papua New Guinea.
“My focus will still be maternal and child health, but it’s about where the greatest need is,” she says. “Having done three wells in Cambodia, I now think our family can do something for women and children in Papua New Guinea who live so far from health services.
“ChildFund has a program that helps to establish mobile clinics that bring health services closer to women and children living in remote communities, so I’m interested in supporting that.”
Maureen is calling on more Australians to dig deep and take action on issues that matter to them.
“I think where you’re born is a luck of the draw, but things should be fair and they should be safe for everyone,” she says. “Every person has to look within themselves and work out what is important and what’s the right thing to do; and at least part of that has to be doing things that benefit more than themselves.
“That’s what I would encourage others to do: decide what’s important, and act upon it and put some resources behind it.
“It’s a responsibility of us who can help, to help.”