Hands-up help for local charities doing it tough

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From left, Dave Burnet (Palliative Care), Craig Wallace (ACTCOSS), Matthew Watson (Pegasus ACT), Katriina Lehelma (Kulture Break) and Peter Gordon (Hands Across Canberra). Photo: Holly Treadaway

NINETY seven per cent of charities in the ACT were impacted by the difficult year that was 2020.

“Hands up for Canberra”, the biggest fundraising event in the region, is looking to turn that around.

Pegasus ACT, an organisation that helps physically and mentally disabled children through therapeutic horse riding, lost two of its three yearly fundraising events.

Kulture Break, which uses the performing arts to give children a safe haven and a way to express themselves, had to go completely online.

Palliative Care ACT, looking after people at the end of their life, had to use phones to check up on its patients rather than their regular, important face-to-face services.

These are just three of the 55 charities banding together in the “Hands up for Canberra” giving day initiative, which will kick off on March 9 and over the following 48 hours attempt to raise $500,000 for good causes throughout the city.

Behind the day is Hands Across Canberra, a group established in 2010 that CEO Peter Gordon says is about getting people to “give where they live”.

“About 10 years ago myself and a few others realised that the government can’t do everything,” says Peter.

“It’s up to us, as the people, to work together to lift our city up, too.

“That’s especially now, more than ever, after last year we saw charities’ ability to raise money go down, and demand for their services go up.”

Peter believes Canberrans are the most generous people in Australia, saying that an average of $400 is donated a person a year. However, he also says much of the community’s donations leave the capital.

“If you look at Canberra’s headline stats: rising median house prices, rental demand and high median income, it’s easy to believe that Canberra doesn’t face the same level of poverty, homelessness and social disadvantage as other areas,” says Peter.

“Sadly, this is not the case, with many of our local people doing it tough and in need of our help.

“We want to reshape this misconception. We are not asking people to donate more, nor to stop donating to these causes, but we do hope Canberrans consider allocating some of their generosity to local charities.”

Last year, “Hands up for Canberra” raised $226,000, an incredible effort for what was its first year. In 2021, they want to more than double it with a goal of $500,000.

Craig Wallace, the acting CEO of the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS), another cause partnered with the initiative, says that it’s about “turning intention into action”.

“Canberrans pride themselves on being generous people, concerned for their fellow community members,” says Craig.

“With ‘Hands up for Canberra’ we can amplify the voices of those in the community who aren’t heard, and turn our generous spirit into real change.”

For Matt Watson, CEO of charity Pegasus ACT, the initiative means so much to him and his organisation.

“We wouldn’t be able to get the exposure we do without it,” he says.

“There’s so many in Canberra doing it tough out there, Hands Across Canberra helps them get noticed.”

CEO of Kulture Break Francis Owusu says that with the generosity of Canberrans they can continue to offer a place of self validation and expression for the youth of Canberra.

“We want to continue to provide a place where young people feel like they matter and are valued, no matter where they come from. Every dollar counts.”

President of Palliative Care ACT Louise Mayo says that 70 per cent of Australians wish to die at home, but only 14 per cent get that chance.

“Additional funding means we can continue our vision to allow more people to spend their last moments at home with their families, rather than in hospital,” she says.

Whatever cause speaks to Canberrans’ hearts, it can be found on the Hands Across Canberra website, the home of the appeal where visitors can see the plethora of generous work that runs throughout their city and choose what they’d like to donate to.

Being the day after Canberra Day, Peter hopes that it will make people all the more proud to help out their city.

“Canberra truly is a great place, one that’s been so good to so many of us,” he says.

“This year we hope people will celebrate calling Canberra home, then look out their window and ask what they can give back.”

Donate at handsacrosscanberra.org.au


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