Do we need ambassadors for us to care?

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On May 2, the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, announced the appointment of Academy Award winning actor, Cate Blanchett as a Goodwill Ambassador.

This announcement came as Blanchett returned from a mission in Jordan, where she witnessed the ongoing humanitarian support to people displaced by the conflict in Syria. In light of meeting those seeking refuge, UNHCR released a video (here) of Blanchett speaking of the importance of compassion and our innate desire to connect is what makes us human.

‘We have a deep vein of compassion …. It seems we are at a fork in the road, do we go down the compassionate road or the path of intolerance’?

Capitalising on the influence of prominent public figures plays an important role in bringing to light many of the issues NGOs, grass-roots, and many other organisations are striving to aid. It seems we need a central figure, someone who is respected, appealing and perhaps holds a connection to the cause; to inform us about what to care about and how to go about assisting if we have the inclination.

The support of an impassioned celebrity for a cause can help to reach a new audience, albeit this reach can only drive so far. Working on delivering a campaign message which genuinely touches a nerve with the public is of greater importance.

UNHCR is not alone in utilising public figures for influence, many organisation seek persuasion through these channels. Depending on their profile, interests and level of responsibilities, gaining support from prominent figures can place the organisation at the forefront of the people’s awareness and act as a liaison between audience and organisation.

When seeking local support, ambassadorship can take on a different ideal. If used to gain meaningful connections with the community, utilising local leaders and people prominent and well-respected in the industry can be of far more importance. Key ambassadors for the Asylum Seeker Resource centre located in Footscray are 2010 Australian of the year Prof. Patrick McGorry and writer, human rights advocate Arnold Zable. Likewise, youth worker, author and former refugee Abdi Aden was appointed Australian Red Cross Ambassador. These somewhat less prominent figures all aspire to achieve the same as those with notoriety, to pull public awareness and gain support for the causes they champion.

Blanchett asks the audience a poignant question ‘what type of world do we hope to live in?’, perhaps this is the reason we need public figures championing causes. Perhaps we need to be reminded of what is important; a central figure championing causes that need our focus and to highlight the issues that will define the type of world we live in.

Words by Lucy Davidson

THE HOMEWORK CLUB (Now part of our Learning Support Program)

Footscray North Primary School’s Homework Club, run by RMCC, is making a world of difference for disadvantaged children.

When I was a primary schooler homework wasn’t something I looked forward to, however there are big grins on faces as children file into the Footscray North Primary School library at 3:15, where Homework Club is about to begin. They happily greet their tutors and pull out their books ready to read.
The club, run by RMCC is part of their ‘Youth and Children’s Program’, which is aimed to primarily assist refugee children, as well as migrant children and children with learning disabilities. Refugee and migrant children often face the after-effects of trauma, language difficulties, and social isolation. Educational support is enabling these children to enjoy the same opportunities as their peers and building confidence that they can navigate a successful future. The program runs every Wednesday and Thursday afternoon for an hour, and consists of reading, homework assistance, and game time.
The session starts and I go and sit next to a boy and who is already stuck into his book – I ask him about it and he mutters a response and buries his nose in the book again. Clearly I’m distracting him from what appears to be quite the page-turner. I leave him be, remembering how no one could tear me away from Roald Dahl and Harry Potter once I was in the zone. His sister and her tutor Ella on the other hand are chatting away like old friends, as they read together. Ella, a university student, thinks everyone should volunteer if they have the chance. “I was particularly interested in this program as it deals with education and literacy specifically, subjects that I am interested in as a literature student considering teaching in the future. I also have a keen interest in asylum seeker and refugee policy, so the fact that this program was set up in part to assist these specific groups is great”, says Ella.
I move to another table where two adorable girls are working on their homework – the one next to me fills me in on all the latest playground gossip. Her tutor kindly brings her attention back to homework. Parents are sitting nearby. I have a chat with one of the mums, a lovely Ethiopian woman who really values the program for her two children.
“For the students at our Homework Club it's not so easy for them to take their homework or reading to their parents at home, as English is a second language for most of these families. I think it’s very important that we are there to lend helping hand and to reinforce and clarify the skills they are being taught in school,” says Bobby, RMCC volunteer and program coordinator.
Now its snack time and the chocolate muesli bars are a crowd favourite. The kids all seem to enjoy the one-on-one attention from their young mentors. The tutors are patient and attentive, letting the kids give it their best go, helping them sound out, work out, and give it their best go before providing constructive feedback and praise. One of the girls tells me she hates reading but is pleased to tell me all about the book she’s just finished.
Ella says the most rewarding thing about being a tutor is “seeing progress from week to week with the kids, and particularly seeing them happy and excited to read and tackle homework tasks. It’s fostering an interest in learning for these children, and providing them with an environment that supports and assists them to succeed and to enjoy the process. As someone from a low socio economic background, I have a keen understanding of the importance of education and the difficulties some children have in accessing it or being able to get the most from it.”
At the session is Kylie, Footscray North PS’s welfare coordinator. She says RMCC has been a huge help since they came on board 4 months ago. While the program has been running for 5 years, RMCC has kept it afloat, bringing in funding and more tutors.

For RMCC it’s an investment worth making. The charity is looks to expand the program to more schools in the near future.
For more information or to donate to RMCC’s programs please visit

Words by Pania King