As life returned to ‘normal’ in early 2021 in Melbourne, the Life Matters team sprang into action.
The lockdown of 2020 meant that our Australia-Pacific Centre, Armagh, had to close its doors to many regular events. Among the casualties were the popular Life Matters workshops, which give participants the tools and inspiration to make positive change in their lives.
With restrictions easing in Victoria at the beginning of 2021, the IofCA Life Matters team began putting the word out. ‘It was a test of faith in terms of whether we would find enough people to take part, and an act of confidence in our capacity to ensure the environment was Covid-safe. A lot of extra work was done to make that happen,’ said Rob Wood, facilitator and long-term member of the organising team.
With fingers crossed, in January the Life Matters team sent out flyers and personal invitations, and posted the news on social media. Sure enough, the applications began coming in.
A Weekend of Change
Friday 5 March arrived, and in through the doors of Armagh walked 10 participants ready for an action-packed, thought-provoking long weekend ‘to reignite the fire in my belly to make actionable change,’ as one participant put it. The group comprised seven different national backgrounds – Mexican, Indian, Sri Lankan, Ethiopian, Ugandan, South Sudanese, Afghan. The number at Armagh swelled with a 21-strong team of facilitators and helpers. All were volunteers, and many of them are alumni of previous Life Matters workshops, who give their time to supporting others on their own personal journeys. The stage was set for an exciting weekend!
The presentations in the different panels were powerful and personal. Essan Dileri spoke about his part in developing the saffron industry in Afghanistan as an alternative to the production of opium. Tom Duncan, founder and CEO of Earthbanc, highlighted its work in enabling the financial transactions that underpin key environmental initiatives around the world. Viv Nguyen, Chair of the Victorian Multi-Cultural Commission, spoke of the influence an aunt had in helping her develop a passion for freedom, and her opportunities as a teenager to begin taking on leadership roles through IofC.
Collaboration and trust
Personal story sharing is a key part of the weekend program, and participants meet in ‘family groups’ to do so. ‘It was wonderful to witness the level of trust reached in the family groups following their story sharing, when they had only met each other the night before,’ reflected Rob Wood.
A Life Matters workshop isn't all seriousness and the Sunday evening Entertainment Night was a team collaboration, with group and solo items on offer. ‘It was amazing in the way it came together and the quality of what was on offer. It was like a professional production,’ said Cheryl Wood, a member of the organising team.
A concluding session of the weekend involved looking at ‘Goals, Choices and Decisions’, in which participants had the opportunity to share what they had gained from their time together. Forgiveness and mending family relationships emerged as a key theme.
This year, thanks to people's generosity, the organising team was able to provide six full or partial scholarships to those who needed financial support to take part.
At the close of the workshop, one of the facilitators wrote this feedback: ‘Thank you all for your hard work, passion and commitment towards changing lives. I was impressed by how much the course has evolved from the last time…You all are doing God's work. Forever grateful to Life Matters and the team.’
- For more information about Life Matters workshops, see our program page