Rapid Response Circle Update May 2024: the good news and the challenges

As we end the 22nd year of Circles of Friends (founded in May 2002) there is the usual blend of good news and challenges.

Recognition for the vital role of all the volunteers in Circle of Friends Australia
A UniSA PHD Thesis completed in 2023 showed that Circles of Friends continue to occupy a unique support niche.  As was the original goal, the Circles complement what Agencies provide and do so responsibly, with compassion, with a minimum of red tape and in good time.  (Dr Alison Reid, “Band-Aids in a Battlefield.”)

One key component at the core of this undeviating journey is the involvement of people from all walks of life and backgrounds, in whatever way they can contribute, so that a wide, up to date range of information and ideas constantly informs those providing direct services through the Circles.

We need more volunteers
Currently the Rapid Response Circle is looking for 4 -6 new members for a range of roles.  If you are someone who spends a lot of time near their computer, or who is regarded as “houseproud” or “fussy,” or who doesn’t mind 80 km or so round trips to make deliveries, you could be  just the person needed.  For an outline of what is involved in one  of these roles, please contact Tricia Dundon (Convenor of the Rapid Response Circle)

Dire state of Asylum seekers across Australia: How the Rapid Response Circle is helping
Australia wide about 15 000 people seeking asylum are living in deep poverty and facing destitution.  More than 30 000 people who have sought protection in Australia do not have access to Medicare. (Refugee Council of Australia, 2024).

The type of temporary visas that an asylum seekers is on determines critical things like their right to work or study and, for a minority, access to Medicare (basic healthcare).  Amongst the asylum seekers the Rapid Response Circle supports are two men with no right to work or study; the  Circle covers rent and modest living expenses. The Rapid Response Circle also provides living expenses and part rent for two other men and a family of six where all the adults have work rights but remain unemployed.

Generally, the Rapid Response Circle partners with the SOS for Asylum Seekers Circle with the latter paying rent and the Rapid Response Circle paying living expenses and bills.  Expenditure by the Rapid Response Circle, on this cohort of asylum seekers alone, totals at least $4600 each month.  Total monthly expenditure is around $8000 per month.

During April 2024, in our triage role, the Rapid Response Circle received 11 new requests for help from workers at ARA, AMES, STTARS and the Salvation Army City Outreach team. Four were assisted by Blackwood/Hills Circle, Willunga Circle  and St Ignatius Refugee Education Circle.  The Rapid Response Circle responded to the remainder which included (unusually) a CPAP machine for a man with serious cardiac and other health challenges, a mobile phone for a homeless asylum seeker with no bank account or income and a particular heater for a woman with health issues.

Rapid Response Circle’s regular monthly income from donors is around $2000, which is a remarkable amount in the current economic climate in South Australia.  Regular weekly contributions of $5 become $260 over the year or $5720 over the 22 years we have been operating.  This amount, or more, is what some of the founding members of Circle of Friends have contributed. Significant supplementary grants have come from the Suzanne Elliot Trust Fund and, this year, Rapid Response Circle  and SOS for Asylum Seekers Circle each received $10,000 and $5,000 respectively from the Catholic Church Insurances Community Foundation.  A further $5000 from an anonymous donor was an unexpected boost and greatly appreciated.

Every donation, no matter how small it seems, helps build a solid amount of money that enables fast responses to calls for help.  In summer it meant up front motel costs could be paid within hours for a woman with two children who had nowhere to go on a 40-degree day, due to violence from her husband.  During this same burst of hot weather, fans were also purchased and delivered to three mothers unable to keep their babies cool.

As always, thanks to all of you who have contributed in any way to this Circle’s efforts to support asylum seeker and refugees.  Without your involvement it would be impossible.

Hoping 2024 is proving to be a good year for you and there are happy months ahead.

Tricia (Trish) Dundon, Convenor Rapid Response Circle.

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