Regional office a first for RAW Impact

Maddi Hegarty at the RAW Impact office in Nuriootpa.

Maddi Hegarty’s first taste of RAW Impact was as a school girl in 2015 when she volunteered with her classmates for two weeks in Cambodia.

Four years later the 21 year old has landed herself a role with the organisation and only recently has been able to do this work from a Barossa location.

Teaming up with Nuriootpa Futures Association, a successful grant application through the Fund My Neighbourhood initiative has resulted in the first regional office for RAW Impact.

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“We are so grateful to the NFA for their help and support and for believing in RAW,” said Maddi.

“To have an international non government working in a small country town… they have really championed us here in the Barossa.”

Maddi said the Barossa presence brings exciting times for RAW Impact and it will enable people to make a difference in Cambodia from their own backyard.

More than 200 people from the Barossa have gone to Cambodia as part of RAW Impact and Maddi envisages that number will continue to grow.

“There is a love for RAW and Cambodia in the Barossa and we really wanted to have a volunteer hub and office that enabled people to continue the RAW journey when they arrive back home,” said Maddi.

Maddi is the first to volunteer with RAW in the Barossa office and works one and a half days a week.

“I, along with a local team leader, help to facilitate the Barossa service trip to Cambodia which involves helping launch the trip, promote it in the Barossa and once we have got the team organised, prepare them for the trip,” said Maddi.

Maddi said the new office, part of Coulthard House, provides a great location for fundraising events and meetings.

Maddi’s first trip to Cambodia was the beginning of a quest to help others and inspired her to follow further studies and a career in humanities.

“I always knew I wanted to do something in the humanitarian sector and the opportunity came up in year 11 and I decided to take it,” said Maddi.

“It opened my eyes on how an organisation can be sustainable. RAW Impact was something different.”

So impressed Maddi was in RAW Impact that she devoted her year 12 research project to humanitarian initiatives, and how organisations can be sustainable in the long run.

It was through this experience that the chance to volunteer again was raised and Maddi jumped at the opportunity to spend four months in Cambodia in 2017.

As a growth intern, Maddi’s job was to share the story of RAW in Australia from Cambodia and gathered family stories and testimonials which would be used to update the website and donors.

Titled Every Piece Matters, the campaign helps to champion more than 100 at-risk families in Cambodia.

“I loved that I got to spend time with the people and share their story,” said Maddi.

Maddi was given another opportunity to help co-ordinate the Barossa trips and her role since then has evolved and the location of the new office has also helped Maddi to liaise with the strong Barossa presence of RAW participants.

As she reflects proudly of the work of RAW Impact, Maddi said they operate on the principle that if, for some reason, they had to leave, the Cambodian community carry it on.

“We operate under three spheres – educate, protect, sustain,” said Maddi.

“Protect is to provide safe housing and work with families to build a house with bamboo; sustainable livelihoods through our bamboo farm north of Cambodia where the bamboo is harvested and brought to the project site to build the houses.”

Maddi said already more than 30 bamboo houses have been built and there are more than 100 families they are working with to create a community.

“It is one of my favourite things about working with RAW, you see students who perhaps are aware of poverty and what it means but for them to be able to come to Cambodia and experience that themselves. Then to walk away not feeling pity but they learnt so much from these people,” said Maddi.

“You can expect them to be unhappy and have no hope but they have hope and their hope inspires the team and helps them to strive to enrich.”

Among her role with RAW Impact, Maddi is also continuing her studies at Tabor College and will finish a Bachelor of Intercultural Studies in 2020.

“I love the fact that this degree prepares me for any role in the humanitarian sector which is so broad but has exciting opportunities,” said Maddi.

“I love the work I am doing with RAW and I am grateful that RAW believes in the power of young people and takes them seriously and trusts young people to work with them.”