CHAR­ITY WORK TRIBUTE

Mak­ing a change in re­gion

Central Queensland News - - FRONT PAGE - Louise Shan­non

IN­SPI­RA­TIONAL is one word to de­scribe Emer­ald woman Ali­son Ray. Gen­er­ous, hum­ble, kind and com­pas­sion­ate are oth­ers.

Mrs Ray, who is a fi­nal­ist in this year’s In­spi­ra­tional Women 65 plus cat­e­gory of the Queens­land Ru­ral Re­gional and Re­mote Women’s Net­work Strong Women Lead­er­ship Awards, said her char­ity work as di­rec­tor of Our Rain­bow House was “a priv­i­lege”.

“But I don’t do this on my own,” she said.

“I’ve got this far be­cause of a lot of other peo­ple.”

Mrs Ray founded Our Rain­bow House five years ago in an ef­fort to give 51 chil­dren liv­ing in a com­mu­nity near Lusaka, Zam­bia, a chance to go to school and im­prove their lives.

She said the awards were a pos­i­tive way of high­light­ing the “good things” hap­pen­ing in the world.

“I just felt a real calling to do this be­cause I felt these chil­dren needed help to get them off the street.

“I al­ways love see­ing peo­ple be recog­nised, es­pe­cially on a vol­un­teer ba­sis, but when it’s your­self you feel a bit hum­ble about it all.”

Mrs Ray said she had ini­tially vol­un­teered at the School of St Jude, Tan­za­nia, and then trav­elled to Zam­bia to visit her son’s spon­sored child where she vis­ited an im­pov­er­ished com­pound of 55,600 peo­ple liv­ing on five hectares.

She said 7800 chil­dren were or­phans.

“It is not for the faint-hearted.”

In 2012, af­ter form­ing a com­mit­tee of a small group of friends in Emer­ald, Mrs Ray opened a school for 51 or­phans and “vul­ner­a­ble” chil­dren em­ploy­ing teach­ers, guards and cooks.

“It is hugely re­ward­ing to see the stu­dents, who, through sad­ness, loss, hunger, ex­treme poverty, or sick­ness still come in the school gates, smil­ing and thank­ful to have an ed­u­ca­tion.”

Last year, Mrs Ray said, the school’s first class of Year 7 stu­dents passed their na­tional high school en­trance exam.

“Con­sid­er­ing the stu­dents had com­pleted seven years of ed­u­ca­tion in only four years, it is a tremen­dous achieve­ment.

“One stu­dent has the chance to gain a schol­ar­ship to at­tend a pres­ti­gious board­ing school in Lusaka.”

She said that reg­u­lar vol­un­teers to the school gave in­valu­able sup­port to the char­ity and en­sured every cent raised was di­rectly spent to sup­port the chil­dren.

The win­ner of the In­spi­ra­tional Women 65 plus cat­e­gory will be an­nounced on Oc­to­ber 19, with the re­main­der of the awards win­ners to be an­nounced on Oc­to­ber 20.

The an­nual con­fer­ence from Oc­to­ber 19-21 will in­clude key­note speak­ers, a wel­come func­tion, busi­ness breakfast, a youth stream pro­gram, work­shops, gala din­ner, wind-up din­ner and com­mu­nity prayer breakfast.

For more in­for­ma­tion about the event visit qrrrwn.org.au.

PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED

BIG PAS­SION: Ali­son Ray is a fi­nal­ist in the In­spi­ra­tional Women 65 plus cat­e­gory of the QRRRWN Awards.

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