Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Combining work and pleasure for the greater good

Posted by Kimberly on August 27, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
August 27, 2007, page 6 (1,029 words)

 

Picture this scenario. A young woman stands at a local bus stop staring at a map with tears welling up in her eyes. It might seem a little over-dramatised but it’s not an uncommon scene for those who’ve uprooted their lives to come live in Macau. Confronted with a country they know little about and a language they don’t understand, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
That’s where the International Ladies Club of Macau (ILCM) comes into the picture.
Sure, there are the monthly morning coffees and book club meetings, the drinks at the end of every month and the weekly mahjong sessions.
None of these events should be discounted, as they provide an essential means of social interaction for those so new to Macau, they don’t even know where Senado Square is.
But the Club is so much more than that.
With its recent celebration of an important quarter-century milestone in March this year, the years have allowed the Club to achieve two things: the first is to be the greeting point for many new families to Macau.
The second, and some would say more important, is the level of assistance the Club has provided to local charities.
“We have fund raising activities to help the 20 charities we support,” says Fran Thomas, ILCM’s Vice President.
“The main fund-raiser is the ILCM Charity Ball which raises the bulk of the funds. Another major fund-raiser is the Melbourne Cup lunch and also Trivia nights,” she says, emphasising that the Club is grateful to the many companies ad the government, who support them.
“We have members who provide personal donations either monthly or annually or to assist for a specific need,” she says.
Of the Melbourne Cup, she adds, “it is a great fun day where we all wear our hats have a bet and hope our horse comes home.
“If not there is always the champagne to drown our sorrows.”
According to Fran, the charities themselves are chosen according to their needs and the Club’s ability to assist them.
“If we can’t we try to refer them to someone who can,” adds Fran.
“We have a historical association with many of the charities who have come to rely on our support over the years and support many of these on a monthly basis,” she says.
Enough funds are kept in reserve for emergency needs or for a charity that requires urgent help, and the Club always check that the money donated has been used accordingly, says Fran.
“We visit the charities monthly so are very aware of their huge needs and how the money is spent,” she says.
The support may not always be of a monetary nature, as the Club utilises the skills of its members to help the charities in several ways, including as physiotherapists, nurses, teachers and accountants, who volunteer their expertise to many of the organisations.
“Volunteers provide a valuable assistance to the homes by feeding, visiting, walking the babies, sewing and so on,” adds Fran.
The Club’s fund-raising activities go as far back as 1983, with donations to Ethiopian famine victims but the majority of effort went to supporting the orphaned and abandoned children of the Escola San Jose, Ka Ho, Coloane.
The following year in December, the Club arranged the first Christmas party for the children of the Escola San Jose, now a regular event and a must to attend.
Founded in 1982 by Brenda Histed, the Club consisted namely of CTM wives with the idea of bringing together women from different backgrounds and interests to facilitate friendship and understanding.
Several elements have changed over the years but one has been constant: the main activity then and now is the monthly lunch, held at different venues around town that bring a crowd of members together to catch up and socialise.
The Club is run by a board elected annually by members and new members are recruited though advertising, word of mouth and marketing.
Members are informed of current ILCM events via a monthly newsletter well as a weekly email updates.
The Club became an officially registered one under Macau’s laws in January 1985 and is now registered as a charity.
“The biggest thing coming up at the moment is homes for the elderly because the elderly are getting turfed out of their homes so developers can use their land,” says Fran.
“The standards of some of the homes are pretty grim. They’re grossly under-staffed but the government is trying to put in a better system now,” she adds.
The worst thing she says, is the hard conditions the carers have to work with.
“You go to the home for the elderly and they’re struggling against all odds to look after them.
“We try to go to their celebrations when they invite us and there’s nobody else there.
“All of us have contacts, so we can use our contacts to raise money. And we unashamedly do that,” she adds.
According to Fran, one home has a single physiotherapist for 160 men, while another has a single one for 240 men.
“There’s no physiotherapist at Penha [a home for the disabled], there’s no Occupational Therapist and there’s one Speech Therapist in all of Macau,” says Fran.
What makes it even harder, she says, is that “some people I know in Macau who have been born and bred here, don’t know there’s an orphanage in Taipa.
“They do not know that it’s where abandoned babies go.
“When I went there, they were babies two days old and no one knew about it,” she says.
In the end it’s all about support, says Fran, whether it be the charities or the members.
“But also part of our charter is to support each other.
“You don’t have to feel isolated. We really try to make people feel like they’re not alone in a strange place.
“The issue is we’ve not been good at marketing and it’s one of the things we’ve started to improve,” she says.
So, armed with a MOP500 cheque for membership and a willingness to lend a hand of support, there is much a newcomer to Macau can find without looking at a map.

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