Refugee Sponsorship (and cats, and lego)

July 25, 2020 at 3:01 pm (Daily Awesomeness, general life, With a list)

On the 13th of June (although, as usual in 2020 time, it feels like a million years ago) I switched my rationality off and wrote a big list of stuff I WANT. It ranges from the tragically unattainable (“I want Syria to be okay”) to the obviously psychological (“I want to stop feeling like God is mad at me”) to the shockingly complex (“I want to be a good parent”) to the financial fantasy (“I want a second storey on my house so we can see the mountains”).

A lot of entries are financial fantasy, if I’m honest. (A friend said to me the other day, “You know what your problem is? You’re not rich. I recommend you get rich.”) At the moment our whole household is bent towards replacing our air conditioning system (a really nice—and expensive—system which unfortunately for our finances is necessary for my health). It’s a horribly familiar feeling to be unable to afford medically helpful stuff (like a CPAP machine).

Moving on. Here are some items on the list that are of note:

I want my cats to do their business outside so I never have to deal with it… but at the same time, to be prevented from hunting native birds or animals.

Our yard is narrow (maximum about 3m from the house to the fence) but it wraps around three sides of the house. The main back door leads into a nice area in the corner between two of those sides, where a parent can sit and see the whole yard except for a narrow weed-bound strip that is 1.3m wide next to a windowless wall. We call that bit “the junk area”, “the jungle” (weeds grow over 6 feet there), or “the cat zone” because when the weeds are reduced and there’s bare dirt or mulch, it’s a perfect outside cat toilet.

Zipper likes it, and I’m confident that as Zoom grows bigger she’ll use it too (at the moment she’ll only go outside if there’s a human nearby… or sometimes she’ll follow ZIpper, but not far).

So the first part of the above wish was always relatively simple. The second part, not so much. I’m aware of a product called the ‘Oscillot‘ which basically just attaches to the top of a fence and flips the cat back down to the ground when they try to jump out. It’s simple and brilliant but costs around $50/metre and our yard is long. Then I saw a home-made version of this $700 deluxe cat enclosure:

The thing that inspired me was the very wide holes in the netting. Could we possible hook large pieces of netting between our house and the fence? That would enclose the space without making it too shady or too vulnerable to strong winds (which rip through more solid materials). Since that epiphany we’ve put shadecloth (which we already had) over the cat zone and we’ve mostly dealt with the weeds (and put newspaper underneath to hamper their growth—the shadecloth itself will also make it a less appealing area for weeds). So this dream is looking much more plausible. And we can do it bit by bit, section by section, until it’s done. In theory.

I want a bigger house, so Louisette has more room for her toys and I have more room for my ideas.

Even as a baby, Louisette has always obsessively arranged her favourite toys around her on the floor. This is… not ideal for anyone else. But I recently found out that people with ADD have an odd relationship with object permanence. Yes, technically they know that people and objects still exist when they’re not directly in front of them… but then again, sorta not.

Louisette will often take 6-10 trips from her bedroom to the living room in the morning, bringing out a large number of her toys and arranging them very carefully around her as she watches TV. It helped a LOT to give her an ancient laptop so she can watch TV in her room (and yes, I know that’s terrible parenting). But a few weeks ago we decided to go all-out on supporting her style and we let her have the entire converted garage for herself (sort of… there are still lots of bookshelves in there, and a spare bed). So that’s 6m by 3m. It includes a massive desk (1 metre by 2 metres) which is where the laptop lives AND a-l-l her lego. (One of the few rules I gave her was “No lego on the floor – ever”). So she watches TV and plays with lego (or does art, or plays with her other toys, or whatever). She also has a ‘babies’ area, a ‘Barbies/dollhouse’ area, and a ‘Doc Macstuffins’ area. Plus lots of open shelving.

She is thriving, and she almost never brings toys out to the living room. It’s only been a few weeks, and her room looks incredibly messy at first glance… but it’s arranged and rearranged and played with in very specific and orderly ways. And her lego creations are incredible. It perfectly mixes her inventing ability with her imaginative ability, and lets her both express herself and problem solve at the same time. She’s an 8 year-old lego master.

 

Of course I ended up with even less room to move/breathe, because I’m the only tidy person in the house (Chris also has ADD, and Tim appreciates tidiness but he’s 6 so there’s only so much self-regulation he’s going to do). Oh well. It’s not like the escape room is operating at the moment anyway, thanks to COVID-19.

 

I want to know refugees are looked after and welcomed, not just into safety (in Australia) but into living communities.

I want to know I’m making a difference.

I want my ‘good ideas’ realised.

I want to help Indonesian refugee families (but I’m also super shy and awkward).

 

If you’re one of the three people who regularly follow this blog (I’d say “Hi Mum” but my mum isn’t one of you), you’ll recollect my ‘castle’ idea from here and here. Basically, I wanted to build a big beautiful house (that looks like a castle, with lifts in the square towers for disabled access) in which to live while also providing short-term accommodation for disabled Indonesian refugee families. Because they’d be in ‘my’ house, I would find it (relatively) easy to support them with stuff like social events, English lessons, driving lessons, play dates with my kids, babysitting, some unskilled paid work (eg gardening/cleaning) to fill in gaps while they looked for regular work, and so on.

Well it looks like the core part of the castle idea—which is not the castle, but assisting refugees—might be coming true as early as 2021.

In 2018, The Refugee Council of Australia, Save the Children Australia, Amnesty International Australia, the Welcome to Australia initiative, Rural Australians for Refugees and the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce joined to form the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative. The entire idea is that non-profit groups of at least 5 people commit to looking after the financial, emotional, physical, and cultural needs of a refugee or refugee family.
That is EXACTLY what I want to do (and given my shaky health, being part of a committed group is clearly a good idea).
Now, obviously looking after the financial needs of an entire family for twelve months is not a simple or cheap commitment. Even ‘just’ raising that kind of money is going to be really difficult. (If the refugees are able to work, and to get that work quickly, great! But that’s by no means a given, especially if they’re disabled and/or have limited English. And the whole world is reeling economically already so it’s not exactly a good time.)
Send me an email at fellissimo@hotmail.com if you’d like to help financially. I’m asking a lot of people for $100 each, and have had only one ‘no’ so far so I’m well on my way to my first thousand.
And I’m limited in my helpfulness because I’m at my best in my own home but it’s unlikely the refugee family will be able to travel easily, especially at first. Which leads me to a smaller but still impossible dream: to find an investor to rent out the house next door to ours. It’s not technically for sale yet but I’ve been talking to the owners about this for a while and they’re likely to put their house on the market in the next 6-12 months. If a friendly investor bought it, perhaps I could negotiate to use it as a refugee house (so the refugees were nice and close to me). Maybe I could even commit to organising ‘bridge’ payments between groups of rent-paying refugees so the investor was literally better off for working with me.
Easy, right? Plausible, maybe? Why not?
(Are YOU interested in helping refugees and making money doing it? Or do you know someone that’s been thinking about buying a property to rent out to people? Email me… fellissimo@hotmail.com.)
Anyway, so that’s where things are at for me right now. Certain impossibilities are falling neatly into place. Others remain.

And Zoom jumped into the hammock with me (and TJ) the other day, so that was a win.

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