MERCURY SERIES - Making A Difference
When Illawarra ITeC donated $500 to urgently feed 54 children in an African orphanage two weeks ago it uncovered some important work being done by two Wollongong men who have known each other since childhood.
Department of Education and Communities training services manager Andrew Dodd and former Fairy Meadow resident Dr Graham Toulmin have witnessed many things at Butembo in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But the place closest to their hearts is the Mama Dorcas Orphanage.
It is so close that Mr Dodd had told another friend, Illawarra ITeC chief executive Tony O'Connor, many stories about the orphanage over the years.
So when he said the children were running out of food Mr O'Connor was the first to respond.
He knew how most of the children had been left homeless after their parents had died of AIDS or were killed in the civil war and when he heard their food situation was dire he knew exactly what he had to do.
"I did not have to think about it too long because $500 over there goes a very long way," Mr O'Connor said.
Few charities service the area because of its remoteness and the level of danger.
But that has not stopped Mr Dodd from making many visits.
"I found out about the orphanage through an old mate of mine [Dr Toulmin] who used to be a missionary in that area. He is a dentist and when he went back there seven years ago I went along with my son [Stephen]," he said.
"One of the key points to that trip was to see Mama Dorcas and the orphans. She is a human dynamo. African women work very hard and her husband, Reverend Kasereka Kiharami Emmanuel, is one of the Anglican ministers there.
"He was very supportive of her as she built the orphanage and the school and a little sewing business ... about 100 kilometres from the Ugandan border. My mate [Dr Toulmin] has done a lot of work there trying to access funds and building dental clinics. He regularly makes CDs ... to raise funds. Some was used to build the original orphanage building."
Mr Dodd also has a background in engineering and whenever he visits Butembo he installs solar lights in dental clinics, birthing units and schools.
But he said the most effective way Illawarra residents could help the orphans was by sending money to Mama Dorcas.
The need was so great that when the Illawarra ITeC money arrived, Rev Kasereka and his wife sent an immediate email response.
"Thank you so much for the funds. May the Almighty God's blessings flow over you. Andrew is our special friend and he has been so good for orphans." .
Mr O'Connor said the 40 staff at the Coniston-based training, employment and small business service provider were now looking at what else they could do to help.
"I think it is a fantastic thing to be involved in and I would like to keep up the relationship. Not only did it help out the orphanage it had a fairly profound effect on staff here as well," he said.
There are only two bedrooms at the orphanage where at least six children sleep in each bed.
There is presently a need for people to sponsor 50,000 mud bricks that need to be made for a new food hall.
But clothing, pots, pans, knives, chairs, bowls, cups and more food are also in demand. Illawarra ITeC is the contact point.