How it all started...
Innocents Relief was founded by Colin Apelt with 10 others in 1962. In 2012 we celebrated our 50 year anniversary. We have a dedicated group of volunteers and supporters and look forward to the next 50 years.
In Colin's words, this is how our story began...
I was a teenager at school during the later years of the Second World War. Its devastating effects on civilian populations in Europe troubled me deeply. Later, during vacations at the University of Queensland, I did engineering work: experience on construction sites in remote parts of the State. I discovered that most of the labourers were refugees from central Europe. This brought home to me the human face of war's destruction. When I went to Oxford, I did research in mathematical physics; I spent much of my free time in discussion groups. Two experiences really stimulated my thinking. One was discussions with Colin Clark on world food supplies and the population problem. The other was hearing Leonard Cheshire, a Victoria Cross winner, talk about his experiences as observer of the atomic bombing of Japan and the spiritual path that led him to found the Cheshire Homes.
When the first Freedom from Hunger Campaign was launched in 1960-61, I joined the St Lucia committee of the Campaign. It came as a rude shock when we realised that the needs were so great that fund-raising would have to go on year after year. I was disheartened. What difference does it make whether I give or not? I had married and the first of our eight children had been born. I found myself contrasting our circumstances with those of families with young children in third world countries. It was then I first met the proverb, 'It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness'.
So I joined with ten others to start Innocents Relief in May 1962. It now operates from a small room under St Thomas Aquinas church at St Lucia every Thursday. Our objectives are to provide relief to children in distress and to arrange sponsorships to support and educate individual children. We know that many of these children break out of the grip of poverty and go on to become successful teachers, nurses, owners of small businesses and the like. Sponsors in Innocents Relief give at least $150 a year. But, rather than sponsoring an individual child, nearly one half are now choosing to donate money in a lump sum to be used as the Director of a Centre thinks best. Many of these 'untied 'donations are very generous.
Innocents Relief is helping children in Africa, India, Indonesia, Peru, PNG, Sri Lanka, and The Philippines. Currently we sponsor nearly seven hundred children and many more are assisted by donations to the 47 Centres we help. Last financial year we sent nearly $190,000 to the Centres. Here, Volunteers do all of the work and running expenses are less than 5% on .average. We support many kinds of Centres. Some are orphanages, many are schools, some are Catholic mission Centres. One in India is a home for severely handicapped children. One in The Philippines rehabilitates children who have been traumatised by violence. Before we decide to help children at a Centre we make sure that the person in charge, the Director, is trustworthy. Some Directors are known personally by a Member. Others are recommended and vouched for by Directors who are already working with us. As one example, we learned in 1984 that a Sacre Coeur Sister from Brisbane, Molly Ahern, was working in Uganda, educating children in very primitive conditions. Some of us knew Molly from University student days. So we were very pleased to start our first Centre in Uganda with her as Director. After Molly's return to Brisbane our support for the Centre continues under Directors she had vouched for. Another Religious Sister from Brisbane, Dain Inglis, is Director of a Centre in South Africa.
Some of our Members have been able to visit many of the Centres. We have been reassured by first-hand reports from such visits. For example, Fr Morgan Batt, the mountain climber, visited our centres in Tanzania and Kenya. He gave a very positive report on the work there when he returned. But a sad aspect of his account was about the names that some parents are giving their children, like 'not wanted', and 'burden'. Imagine the feelings of these parents when they express their hopelessness in the names of their children.
We monitor Centres continually. If the performance of a Director is not satisfactory, we give a warning that performance must improve or we will stop our support. This usually achieves the desired result but, sometimes, we decide that we cannot continue to support a Centre.
Most new Sponsors join us now because they have heard about Innocents Relief from Sponsors who are happy with their experience.
And why do I continue this work? I admit that the dark spectre of futility still challenges me from time to time. The suffering and deaths of so many people are caused by hatred or by sheer indifference. In many African countries, civil wars continue to kill and maim thousands and to cause widespread starvation. Sometimes I am tempted to think that it is futile to give any help in these circumstances. But we need to recall that evils as deep seated as these are defeated, not by one massive stroke but, rather, by many people doing the good they can with faith that goodness will prevail. If all people could be persuaded to do what they can, what changes would be wrought
This is our attempt to respond to the call that we all know;
'I was hungry and you gave me food, sick and you visited me, ignorant and you educated me.'
With your help we will continue this work into the future
Join us now to give children an education