Refugee advocate Sister Diana Santleben knows first hand what the Newcastle community is capable of when there is a good cause in need of support
And she has a project that she hopes will inspire individuals and businesses to give just in time for Christmas.
Zara’s House, Newcastle’s refugee women’s centre, has crowd funded more than $450,000 towards the cost of purchasing a disused Anglican church and hall in Hill Street Jesmond. But they are still $200,000 short of achieving the purchase price.
“We paid a 5 per cent deposit in November and have exchanged contracts. We have agreed to settle by 5th February but I would prefer it to be by the end of this year so our GST burden of $62,500 is greatly reduced,” Sr Santleben said.
“We will borrow the balance if we fail to raise what we need, but we will have to manage the debt at the same time as we are running this centre for refugee women and children – not an easy prospect to contemplate.”
Zara’s House was established in 2016 as a place where refugee women can meet, make friends and share skills. It followed a survey that found 80 per cent of women who arrived from Afghanistan were unable to write their own name.
“We are standing in Jesmond where 85 per cent of all refugee families have settled in Newcastle. This place is easy walking distance for most of the women pushing a pram,” she said.
“We can have a play group child minding in the old church while their mothers go into the hall to have English or mother language literacy or learn about citizenship or the other things like swap recipes and become friends.”
Zara’s House has been renting the Hill Street premises since February.
Hundreds of individuals and groups have already donated hundreds of hours of labour and skill to help get the facility up to scratch.
A further $15,000 was raised by the Lord Mayor’s prayer breakfast that was held at the centre in October.
“We just need another four people with a big tax bill who would rather make a donation to us rather than the tax office,” Sr Santleben said.
Zara’s House is planning to a house warming party in the new year to celebrate the organisation’s achievement’s to date.
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