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Timely focus on loneliness

“Loneliness: the solution is community” is a particularly significant theme for Neighbourhood House Week 2020 this week, given the varying levels of social restrictions and lockdowns globally.

So, with people having to stay home, how can we connect with each other to maintain our sense of community? We hope the following might help.

It is great news that we can now welcome up to five friends or family members into our homes, or catch up outdoors in groups of up to 10, especially for those who have been missing their loved ones. However, please remember to maintain safe distancing and hygiene practices.

With the easing of some restrictions, some of our community’s most vulnerable people will still be isolated, so you might like to drop a note in their letterbox, offering assistance. Cire has created a simple form to offer your support.

Our Hubs team is proud to be part of the Community House network and help with the Outer East phone chat line. For anyone bored, isolated, lonely or just wanting someone new to talk to, we are here Monday – Friday 10.00am – 1.00pm and Monday – Thursday 5.00pm – 9.00pm or we can schedule callbacks outside of these times.  To get in touch for a chat, give us a call on 1800 984 825.

For those on Facebook, or other social media platforms, there are many ways to keep in touch. Now, more than ever, we are using our Community Hubs Facebook page to share information and stay connected with locals. Social media is a great way to have everyday interactions with family and friends, but it’s also full of groups to join.  If you have an interest, there’s sure to be a group of like-minded people.  We’ve been enjoying our “Lock-Down Lego” challenges, as a way to create connections with those who enjoy building.

Another option to grow your digital community is the “Next Door” website.  This platform helps people connect with their neighbours, posting information, as well as offers of goods, services or support.  As always, remember the core cyber-safety principles, and never share your personal information online.

Cire Craft Group

Cire Community Hub Craft Group catching up via Zoom

It has been exciting to see the ways that people have embraced using technology to engage with each other.  I had heard of FaceTime and knew that Messenger (Facebook) had a video call option, but I would have never thought that words like “Zoom” and “WebEx” would become so familiar, or add-ons like Microsoft Teams and Google Meet would become life-lines connecting with my colleagues. One of my favourite COVID-19 responses is the way our “crafters” have adapted to catching up via Zoom, rather than their usual Wednesday morning tea at the Chirnside Park Community Hub.  Chatting about current craft projects, grandchildren and offering mutual support is being done via video meeting, but the joy of connection is still very much alive.

Don’t forget our Hubs team is here for anyone needing some assistance in becoming familiar with using technology to connect to others.  Just give us a call on 1300 835 235, or email us at communityhubs@cire.org.au for more information.

Announcing the 2020 SwinLocal Scholarship Recipients!

The SwinLocal program is a community outreach initiative by Swinburne University of Technology, offered to students studying at Learn Local or community schools, such as the Cire Community School. Learn Local providers offer education and training in community settings and Cire Training was awarded the Community Training Provider of the Year for 2019.

The SwinLocal partnership currently covers the outer-east, including Yarra Ranges. Established in 2016, SwinLocal has awarded 23 scholarships, enabling students to undertake VET courses at Swinburne University. Scholarship recipients receive quality vocational training and a safe, supported introduction to a larger educational institution.

Our Community School team are pleased to announce that the following Cire students have received SwinLocal scholarships for 2020:

Rhonan Wouters
Certificate III in Information, Digital Media and Technology – Game Art and Animation

Kyha Edwards
Certificate II in Building and Construction Pre-Apprenticeship – Carpentry

Sienna Withers-Burke
Certificate III in Laboratory Skills

Each of these students submitted an application for the scholarship and participated in an interview process. They have already attended orientation and enrolment sessions in preparation for their studies, which will commence February 2020.

Janice Farrell, Student Wellbeing Coordinator, SwinLocal VETSS Program supported the students through the application, interview and enrolment process. She explains “The SwinLocal Scholarship program, now in its 3rd year,  aims to bridge the gaps that currently exist for students studying at Learn Local or community schools. Previous SwinLocal students have made successful transition pathways into employment or further vocational studies.”

Thank you for supporting our Christmas Twilight Market!

The evening was certainly merry and bright at Cire’s first ever Christmas Twilight Market on Friday 6th December, hosted by the wonderful team at our Chirnside Park Community Hub.

When our staff raised the idea of a Christmas Twilight Market, we had absolutely no idea just how successful it would turn out to be! With over 60 stalls, food trucks and activities and hundreds of attendees, our event received overwhelming support from our local community and business-owners. From delicious donuts and wood-fire pizza to hand-poured candles and soaps, to pony-rides and face-painting we truly had something for everyone. We even had our lovely placement student, Linda, on hand to run a sustainable crafting workshop for children as well as a visit from Santa, travelling in style on the CFA fire-truck!

The sky was threateningly grey, and we spent plenty of time anxiously checking the Bureau of Meteorology’s website for updates, but thankfully the clouds parted and our outdoor stall-holders remained dry. Speaking of stall-holders, we would like to thank each and every business who supported our event and contributed to our giveaway hampers. You were all absolutely fantastic to work with and we hope to welcome you to Cire’s future markets and events!

The donut truck was a particular favourite of our staff- with some of us making several trips!- and several of us started our morning today with a slice of toast slathered in honey from Crafted by Bees. We saw many of our attendees with wood-fire pizza boxes or a snag from the Cire Sausage Sizzle in hand and the ponies would’ve had a good night’s sleep after ferrying our smallest visitors around our outdoor space. With guitar and vocals courtesy of another Cire placement student, Grant, the atmosphere was full of community spirit and joy.

Cire wish to thank our wonderful Hubs Team, particularly Jenelle Strachan and Sara Chehade, for their hard-work and effort bringing this Christmas Market to life. We couldn’t have pulled it together without the efforts of our dedicated placement students, who not only helped advertise and set-up the event, but assisted with running the event itself. Thank you to Coles Chirnside Park, for kindly donating goods for our sausage sizzle and to Chirnside Park CFA, for bringing Santa by to put some very big smiles on the faces of our local families.

Most importantly of all, thank you to each and every one of you who attended the market. Every dollar you spent directly benefits a local business and the proceeds from the Cire Sausage Sizzle will fund future community initiatives and events.

 

 

What’s next, you ask? Well, we’ll be taking off our Santa hats and donning pairs of bunny ears for our upcoming Easter Market in 2020! With stall-holder Expressions of Interest already rolling in, our team are busy planning. If you’re interested in signing up as a stall-holder, you’re welcome to give us a call on 1300 835 235 or email us at communityhubs@cire.org.au 

For more information, make sure to follow our Cire Hubs Facebook page. We hope to see you there for more stalls, food and activities with plenty of chocolate thrown in the mix…

Merry Christmas to you and yours from the team at Cire Services.

If you cook it – they will come

Cire’s community hubs are putting on a Moveable Feast to celebrate Neighbourhood House Week, I was told. Breakfast at Yarra Junction, dinner at Chirnside Park. The premise was quite simple; to invite people in the community to come along and enjoy a free meal.  In the days leading up to the Moveable Feast I focussed on the specifics such as what we would be cooking and how we’d get the word out about what we were doing, and how we’d set up the spaces.  I was anxious that we would over cater and end up with too much food left over or worse, that we’d run out of food.

Quite new to my role at Executive Manager of Cire Community Hubs, and getting my head around all that entails, I didn’t have much time to consider much else about the upcoming feast. My amazing team at both hubs worked hard to pull it all together and I fronted up on the morning at Yarra Junction ready to serve egg and bacon rolls. And, as we fired up the barbecue and the smell of sizzling bacon wafted through the main drag of Yarra Junction, I began to see what we were actually doing.

That morning, we served 30 egg and bacon rolls in the hour we were cooking.  While some people came because they knew what was happening, the majority happened to be in the right place at a great time to be offered complimentary, hot and delicious breakfast.  Perhaps we saved some people from having to spend money on breakfast that morning, or an opportunity to grab something to eat because they’d forgotten to grab something as they rushed out the door that morning.

The unexpected bonus for me was the interactions – sometimes fleeting, sometimes more in depth, but equally valuable. It was a chance to meet and chat to people about the types of courses they’d like Cire to offer, or why we were doing what we were doing and share a bit about Neighbourhood House Week.  Seeing people smile as our CEO ran up to cars stopped at the traffic lights to offer a breakfast roll through their car window, or getting to pat a sweet little dog called Maverick who also loved bacon – it was an extra ordinary morning for us, for Maverick, and most definitely for those who received breakfast while waiting for the green light!

Fast forward to dinnertime when we were cooking the most giant pot of spaghetti bolognese I’ve ever seen, I worried that people wouldn’t come.  Our Chirnside Park Community Hub is a little off the main road which meant there would be very few people to invite to join us. We were relying on people to leave the warmth of their homes on this cold night and let us cook them dinner.

I had no reason to worry. From 6pm people started trickling in and by 6:30 we were churning out bowls of pasta at an impressive rate.  Again, I could see the immediate impact and how we were able to give families a night off from cooking, and an escape from the inevitable, “What’s for dinner?”. There was lots of chatter as old friends caught up and new introductions made over a shared meal.

And, at the end of what was quite a long day and while tackling the piles of dishes that result from feeding so many people, I reflected on what the day meant and had achieved. The departing comment from one of our dinner guests nailed it: “I was having a bad day so I came along for some company.  And I’m leaving with a full stomach and a smile on my face”.

My worries about what we should cook, how much food we should buy, would we get enough people through the doors suddenly all seemed so trivial. The fact that at least one person had been impacted positively made the day so worthwhile, and makes me want to do it all over again.

Laura Shortis,
Executive Manager, Cire Community Hubs

Finalist in Telstra National Business Award

Telstra Business Award Finalist 2019Cire Services is delighted to be a finalist in the social change maker category of the 2019 Telstra Business Awards.

Our progress in the award program demonstrates Cire’s credibility as a social change maker and our continuously growing strength and reach in the sector. Winners are expected to be announced in the second part of 2019.

The prestigious awards are now in their 27th year with the social change maker category celebrating organisations that have positive social impact at ‘the core of their purpose’.

Being part of the program highlights Cire’s work as one of the largest not-for-profit organisations in the Yarra Ranges Shire and the diverse needs of residents of all ages that we try to address through our core operations.

Cire is proud of its reputation for providing flexible learning opportunities, education and training and a depth and breadth of community programs and services to help meet the needs of, and empower, people of all ages through the Yarra Ranges and beyond.

Our credibility is further reinforced by the partnerships we enjoy with local, state and federal government bodies and other organisations and philanthropic endeavours through funding and in-kind support and joint projects.

Cire operates across sites in Lilydale, Yarra Junction, Mount Evelyn and Chirnside Park, as well as through outreach. Our core services are:

  • Cire Community School which has pioneered successful educational options and approaches for Years 7 to 12 students requiring an alternative to mainstream schooling.
  • Cire Children’s Services which delivers long day care including integrated kindergarten programs; occasional care; outside school hours care as well as other family and children’s services such as a range of playgroups.
  • Cire Training, our Registered Training Organisation (RTO) which delivers accredited and non-accredited short courses and Vocational Education and Training (VET).
  • Cire Community Hubs which offer a diverse range of programs and services in a welcoming and inclusive environment at Yarra Junction and Chirnside Park (formerly Kimberley Place).

Cire has enjoyed a particularly exciting start to 2019.  Our corporate services and Cire Training, our Registered Training Organisation, are now based in offices at 211 Main Street, Lilydale. This has given more space for our Community School and Children’s Services at their Mount Evelyn campuses, as well as creating a dedicated location for our Community Hub at Yarra Junction.

Equally exciting, Cire commenced operating Chirnside Park Community Hub at the start of the year at the invitation of Yarra Ranges Council. Our Mount Evelyn campus was developed after Council invited Cire to take over Morrison House in 2014.

Community garden ‘explodes’

While students were enjoying their school holidays, the Cire community garden at Mt Evelyn has been bursting at the seams with extensive growth.

The tomatoes, pumpkins and zucchini plants have been quickly filling up the beds and we have already harvested more than eight kilograms of delicious zucchinis. In true community spirit, Cire families and staff have shared the zucchinis for use in slices, relish casseroles, salad, grated into pasta, crumbed, filled and roasted and even made into a chocolate cake.

Other crops that have been harvested during the Spring/Summer season include rocket, garlic, silverbeet, snap peas, garlic chives, kale, spring onion, and herbs like parsley, chives, oregano, rosemary, nasturtiums and thyme.

This year we grew four varieties of potato – White, Desiree, Royal Blue and Brake Light. The White has been extremely abundant and large in size. For flavour and versatility, Royal Blue won hands down. Delicious roasted, fried, used in salads or mashed.

The garden has struggled against wild rats and we have done what we can to protect the crops and garden beds from their destruction. It has been devastating to discover their destruction of seedlings and crops such as basil, beans, peas and more recently, the entire corn crop.  However, we are always learning and adapting to our environment and hopefully, we can focus on the positives. We may not be able to harvest any corn this year but we could use the stalks as climbing frames for beans, a shelter for nearby crops and then mulch for the garden beds.

The biodiversity and health of the plants and soil, as well as the lush plantings, have encouraged an abundance of wonderful creatures who all call the garden home and have various roles to play. We have a family of three young kookaburras learning to fly and feed around the garden and also honey bees, hoverflies, butterflies, blue banded bees, lady beetles, rosellas, magpies all calling the garden home with various roles to play.

The students did an amazing job of tending to the garden during classes last year. They have injected their own unique style with art pieces and ornaments starting to appear, adding vibrancy and colour to the garden.

We are reaping many benefits from the garden. It is very productive with the array of self-sown vegetables and herbs, as well as providing seeds to collect and plant next season. The garden is also a peaceful haven for all involved. Such continuously expanding benefits are extremely rewarding and highlight how our garden awards are so well deserved.

We are looking forward to another fantastic and productive year. Happy gardening!

Jillian Dowling
Horticulture Trainer
Cire, Mt Evelyn

If you would more information on our training courses click here.

Cire scoops two awards for Mount Evelyn garden

Cire’s Community Garden at Mount Evelyn has starred in the 2018 Victorian Schools Garden Awards (VSGA).

It topped its category for the most engaging school garden, awarded by Catholic Education Melbourne, as well as winning the secondary schools section for North Eastern – Regional.

The dual awards are a testimony to the hard work and creativeness of staff and students as well as highlighting the flexible and quality learning opportunities Cire provides people of all ages.

The VSGA recognises the importance and value of gardens and outdoor spaces in progressive modern education. Established by Paul Crowe OAM and the late Kevin Heinze in 1977, the program helps promote the joy of gardens and gardening to school-aged children.

‘VSGA is a great way for us to showcase the types of flexible learning opportunities that Cire provides people of all ages, including our students. We are very proud of our awards, particularly because they publicly acknowledge what we have accomplished and aspire to achieve in the future.’Said Anna-Louise Allen, Executive Manager Education and Training, Cire

Revitalised from a previously neglected community space, Cire’s garden at the Mount Evelyn is a well-organised hub of activity for hands-on learning and engagement for students from the school, Registered Training Organisation (RTO) and kindergarten. As part of our paddock-to-plate program, our VCAL students use the produce to create deliciously healthy meals in cooking class.Cire-Community-Garden Award

It is a constant work/creation-in-progress with the change of each season and the ongoing input from different waves of students who are constantly thinking of improvements/new initiatives.

In addition to the lush range of produce and the resident chickens, there is a focus on sustainability with a water tank and composting, as well the resourceful reuse and recycling of most of the materials used.

We have great plans for the future with a focus on creating a sanctuary for students to connect with nature, their health and wellbeing; a safe space for animals, and a green and productive area. The garden also facilitates greater connection with the wider community through the availability of surplus produce and volunteer assistance.

Recent achievements include:

  • Resource Smart School accreditation with Cire setting an ambitious goal to gain our first two stars including one for waste management. The Vasili's Garden MagazineVictorian Government initiative assists schools to embed sustainability in everything they do, encourages real-life sustainability learning and helps schools save money.
  • Our garden has been featured in the nationally-distributed Vasili’s Garden magazine which promotes healthy and sustainable lifestyles

If you would like further information on our Community Garden please call 1300 835 235.

Pictured: Award-winning Cire gardeners, from left, Hannah, Luke and Rohnan with
Maria Minto- Cahill from Catholic Education Melbourne.

Pictured: with Paul Crowe OAM, VSGA co-Founder and Patron, are award-winning Cire gardeners, from left, students Hannah, Rohnan, Luke and Cire trainer Jill Dowling and teacher Ebony Mackay.

 

Cire joins Rotary

Cire Services Inc. has added further depth to its community partnerships by becoming one of the first organisational members of Wandin Rotary Club.

Cire has welcomed the initiative because it helps build on our existing relationship with Rotary and work even more closely with a service organisation very much driven by similar values and goals.

‘We are honoured to have been invited to join Rotary which is such an enormously respected organisation worldwide,’ Cire CEO, Gus Seremetis.

‘We already enjoy a great relationship, having partnered in various projects and we greatly look forward to more collaborations in the future to help improve the lives and opportunities for others in our region and beyond.’

In welcoming Cire, Wandin RC President, Heinz Budweg, said he looked forward to partnering more with Cire in the future to deliver many positive outcomes for people of all ages. He also commended Coldstream Primary School which joins Cire as the first organisational members with Wandin RC.

Wandin RC’s has provided invaluable support to Cire across its diverse services with initiatives including scholarships for students at the Community School, defibrillators for Cire Community House and our Mt Evelyn campus, and books for Yarra Junction Child Care Centre. Through Rotary connections, the Days for Girls program has been introduced at Cire Community School to help make education more accessible for girls in Third World Countries, and students have assisted with landscaping projects at Yering and Coldstream primary schools. Plans are also underway for Rotary to provide mock employment interviews for our students.

In jumping aboard Rotary, Cire has launched a postal stamp collection drive to support ROMAC – Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children. Please see the end of this article for details.

Rotary International has 1.2 million members and more than 35,000 clubs across the globe who contribute 16 million volunteer hours each year.
The organisation is driven by a philosophy that: ‘Together, we see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves… Each day, our members pour their passion, integrity, and intelligence into completing projects that have a lasting impact. We persevere until we deliver real, lasting solutions.’

For more than 110 years, Rotary has bridged cultures and connected continents to champion peace, fight illiteracy and poverty, promote clean water and sanitation, and fight disease.

Eliminating polio has been one of its greatest campaigns with 2.5 billion children immunised against the debilitating illness, particularly in Third World countries.

Another of its projects is ROMAC which funds life-saving and dignity-restoring surgery for young children from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Timor Leste, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

Everyone can help ROMAC by collecting used stamps. All you need to do is cut the stamp off the envelope (please do not peel off), leaving roughly a 2cm border. Once you have collected a few, drop them into Cire’s Yarra Junction office in an envelope marked ‘ROMAC – Sandra Bucovaz’.

A recent comedy night hosted by Wandin RC raised $13,000 for ROMAC!

If you would like further information on Rotary visit www.wandinrotary.org

Pictured: Cire’s Manager of Partnerships and Funding, Sandra Bucovaz, and Coldstream Primary School’s Chaplain, Chris Waizel, with Wandin RC president Heinz Budweg (centre).

Everyday skills can be hard for some

A surprising statistic for you – around 44% of adult Australians has literacy levels that make everyday tasks very difficult. Sadly, our numeracy levels are worse with over half of Australian adults scoring low on international surveys.

If you have been able to read this so far, fortunately, you are likely not a contributor to this statistic.

Low literacy or numeracy ability is not just being able to read this blog. It is so much more. Social exclusion, financial hardship, struggle to pay for a coffee, not being able to help your kids with their homework or hearing your child tackling with their first words and dreading when they ask, “What’s this word?”, in their high pitched inquisitive little voices.

More worryingly, however, is the health impact this can have on individuals. Not being able to read instructions on a medical prescription and let’s not even start with reading the health benefits of chia seeds, matcha powder and goji berries – what berries?  Low fat, reduced fat, no added sugar, aaargh.

More practical low literacy levels can have a real impact on one’s employment prospects.

Workplaces never used to require as much arduous paperwork or there may be a entry exam as a part of the recruitment process.  Now there are logbooks for trucks drivers, OH&S requirements for factory workers to follow, policies to read and seemingly endless forms to complete.

So what can we do?

Here at Cire we have a number of Everyday Living Skill courses to not only improve your literacy and numeracy, but also improve your life skills, and in turn, your confidence and social interaction, all in a supportive and fun environment.

From Everyday English and Maths to Independent Living and cooking in Kitchen Kaos.  There is such a diverse range of courses to help anyone who wants to learn.

One day you can be going to the laundry mat or cooking up spaghetti bolognaise and the next increasing your reading and writing or setting out a simple budget in maths.

“My reading, writing and maths have really improved since starting at Cire. This makes me feel happy and more confident”. I also like coming to class to socialise with others – Robyn, Student, Everyday Learning Skills

Here are just some of the great courses on offer,

  • Independent Living
  • Kitchen Kaos and healthy living
  • Tech Hub
  • Everyday English
  • Intermediate English
  • Everyday Maths
  • Smart Money

If you or someone you know wants to learn more about our courses, please contact Cire on 1300 835 235 for further information. We also offer a free trial where you can attend a session to see whether the course suits your needs. ­­

The value of volunteering

Did you know that more than 6 million Australians make a difference by volunteering each year? A national study in 2010 showed that 36.2 percent of people aged 18 years and over participate in formal volunteering. There are many reasons people volunteer. Some people undertake volunteering in order to gain new skills, whilst others use volunteering as a way to meet new people or to make a difference to their local community. The variety of different tasks that can be completed by a volunteer is endless. Volunteering is a two-way exchange where people give, but also gain valuable experiences and skills in return.

Many volunteers may be unaware that their activities are considered volunteering. Volunteering itself can mean different things to different people. In 2001, the United Nations adopted specific criteria to differentiate volunteering from other behaviours. According to the United Nations, volunteering is

  • not to be undertaken primarily for financial gain
  • is undertaken of one’s own free will and
  • brings benefit to a third party as well as to the people who volunteer

People structure the way that they volunteer in many ways. Some roles involve short (or even longer term) projects where you would be involved for a block of time or just as a one-off activity. Other roles will offer shifts that would be on a regular or casual basis and fit around your other commitments. Organisations like Cire Services will include information about the times needed when advertising for a volunteer position and individuals can discuss availability and flexibility when initially making enquiries about the role advertised. Becoming a volunteer can also have an added bonus, not only giving the opportunity to learn new skills, but also give you a pathway that can then lead you to paid employment.

So what does it take to become a volunteer?

Most volunteering organisations will have a checking process to protect volunteers and the people they will be working with. Organisations will ask you to provide identification (eg. Driver’s licence), a reference letter or contact details of a referee and depending on the type of work undertaken you may require further screening, such as providing a working with children check.

As part of the induction process, discussions will also occur outlining the organisation’s policies and procedures.

Here at Cire Services, we are fortunate in having a group of hard working dedicated volunteers who contribute to a range of activities. Russell Varney is one of those hard-working volunteers that always presents with a positive attitude and helps out in a range of our education groups. Russell is the 2017 winner of the CHAOS Volunteer Award for Cire Services for 2017.

Another one of our valued volunteers is Judy Cook (main image) who helps out in the administration area on a weekly basis. Judy shared the following comment about what volunteering means to her:

“Having worked in the not for profit sector for twenty plus years, I was interested in giving some of my time to a community organisation after I retired. Just a few hours a week can make all the difference. Volunteering enables me to meet new people and keep in touch with some of my former colleagues. Volunteering allows the exchange of ideas and information and it is rewarding for me to share my experience and feel valued.”

In 2018, Cire Services will be working on a number of projects that will require a range of volunteer skills and backgrounds, so keep an eye out on our Facebook page and website for some exciting volunteer opportunities to be announced.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers at Cire Services for their hard work and contributions and wish them all a restful and relaxing Christmas and New Year.

If you would like to find out more on becoming a volunteer or about what we offer here at Cire Services contact us on 1300 835 235.