Epic Journeys and Families Meant to Be

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Image courtesy of Mel Irvine

My friend Mel is on an epic journey to become a full time mum who is able to live in the country she chooses with her currently, foster, but hopefully to one day be adopted son.

This journey actually began as a reaching out to voluntarily help people in the Philippines after a typhoon, this was motivated by  the experience she had of Cyclone Yasi, something we  share.  Mel and I  met at a song writing workshop provided to help locals process their cyclone experiences and find healing through music.  Mel went to the Philippines to use her skills in music, and business to support the rebuilding after the typhoon.

Mel has shared the journey of meeting Jerry and his personal story on her website. From their first meeting, where  she didn’t know anything about him except that, “He had cut, bleeding feet and no shoes and was crying. He had been following a group of kids she was taking to the beach and couldn’t keep up.”

To the moments where she learnt the full extent of his family, fractured and spread out, and that he had lost his own mother. Very early on Jerry just seemed to know that he wanted Mel to be his mum.

But for Mel it was a slightly longer realization, and not something she took on lightly and when he first asked to live with her she said ‘no.’  She was concerned about her ability to stay in the country with limited personal resources and didn’t want to assume he would not be better off with his own people and country. She did background research to see what his needs were and realized she could do a lot to assist him, but that the biggest assistance of all would to be a continual presence in his life.

Over time, she realized that both she and Jerry truly needed to be a family and she could make a big difference to him in his life by having a long term connection and commitment, and began to be his foster mother.

So despite the many challenges they will face, and already have had to overcome, Mel has given her heart, time and resources to make a difference in someone’s life.  She is doing her best to create a sustainable situation and enable Jerry’s healing of his experiences in his life as well as to educate him.

Importantly she has the support of her family and of Jerry’s that remain (as his mother and father have both passed away) as well as many friends.

Mel is incredibly committed to this goal:

“In order to adopt Jerry I need to live in the Philippines until such time as our expatriate adoption application is accepted, reviewed and processed. Once that happens I can then apply to the Australian government for Jerry to become an Australian citizen. As you can imagine it’s a long and expensive process and is going to take up the next few years of our lives. Being only 8 years old, this is a critical stage of his development and I will not abandon Jerry.”

What can I say but that every time I am able to catch up with my friend Mel, I go away with a sense of the difference I can also make in the world.  She teaches me so much about what to focus on, and is a mentor.

To love someone, who was once a stranger with cut feet, as her own child and to have the commitment to raise that child to have the best of opportunities is something Mel feels she has been called to.  She has gone about this process sensitively and with respect.

I hope that if you feel moved by Mel and Jerry’s story YOU too might find as much as you can to help them become a full time family. Mel is in the process of also setting up sustainable ways of earning an income that are not tied to which country she lives in, and I am sure she will achieve this.  She also spends time assisting with community development of both women and children often on a completely voluntary basis when she is in the Philippines.

The link for their crowd funding campaign is  https://chuffed.org/project/jerry-needs-a-mum#/supporters  and there are just 17 days to go.

For now there is an immediate need for assistance to lessen the time Mel often has to spend away from Jerry to raise more funds back in Australia to sustain living in the Philippines.

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Image – Courtesy of Mel Irvine.

“Mel Irvine is an Australian writer, poet and musician living between the Philippine Western Visayas and Australia. Adopted/Foster mother to Jerry, an 8 year old boy whose parents died tragically, Mel spends her time in the Philippines helping the women and children of Jerry’s home purok (district): a fishing community deeply affected by poverty and seasonal typhoons. She provides free creative activities, art and craft supplies, music lessons and school tuition as time and resources permit. Mel is a freelance copywriter, daily blogger, busker and regular contributor to ABC Open.”

The link for their crowd funding campaign is  https://chuffed.org/project/jerry-needs-a-mum#/supporters  and there are just 17 days to go.

Please share  this post with anyone you think would like to help!

 

Operation Bath Time for the Guinea Pig Crew

hiding in the towels - Soot and Misty1
hiding in the towels – Soot and Misty1 – taken by my daughter

 

Mouse’s ‘A Story of a Tree’ and Michael Lloyd’s family ritual tales remind me that often family life is made up of small rituals that over time become richly significant.

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One of the small rituals of our family’s life is bath time for our champion guinea pig crew; champion because they survived Cyclone Yasi as calm as could be. Animals amaze me with their resilience.

Before bath time with – Soot, Calico, Chocolate and Misty – the children make them a warm, comfy and portable home – a plastic tub generously equipped with pet towels.

They lay out pet towels for afterwards – ready to dry and warm them.

Their cage is normally cleaned by the children not involved in the bathing, so they can return there when the whole operation is finished, newly washed, lovely to smell, and glossy.  They rotate this less enjoyable task because it can get mighty smelly in the cage.

The children have made bath time a precision operation, littered with a huge number of comforting cuddles, as not all the guinea pigs like water.  Misty needs the least amount of cuddles because he loves bath time. He still receives plenty!

Prebath - set up
Prebath – set up – June Perkins

There are three main stages to the bathing phase; stage one – place the crew in a box with carrots, their favourite food.  There they wait to be washed.

Stage two – a patient child gives each one a dip in the low run bath (most often my daughter or our eldest), and then lastly one by one they go into the warming area to wait for their other guinea pig chums.

Calico in the bath
Calico in the bath – June Perkins

Once all the guinea pigs are together the children swaddle them for a while in towels to warm them, and then take the time to cuddle and chat with each one of them.  They take great joy in the guinea pigs hiding in the towels.

Then there is a thorough clean of the bath – for the humans who must follow the guinea pigs to use it.

But Soot, Calico, Chocolate and Misty won’t make it back to their cage for a while, as now they are so clean they are especially enjoyable to play with.

One of my favourite memories from when we first had the guinea pigs is the children placing soft toys all around them. They discovered that the guinea pigs loved snuggling into bears.  They’d run around in a circle if a ring of toys was put around them and ‘popcorn’, that is a little guinea pig jig.

They are not quite as playful as that now, but they are just as cute and interesting to observe.

It’s hard to imagine family life without the guinea pig crew – Soot, Calico, Chocolate and Misty.

after the bath pampering - Chocolate2
After the bath pampering – Chocolate2 – June Perkins

 

If you liked this blog, you might enjoy reading  these  Family Ritual Stories featuring pets.

One of the Family – a dog that believes his place is in church but he also has a few religious arguments and creates a classic embarrassing moment for his family.

Woman’s Best Friend – a dachshund, with personality, who can never catch the pet cat, except in his dreams

Missing the Bus: A ritual – just what you need if you want to miss Sunday school, a loyal pet dog to walk with in all seasons.

For more on the Guinea Pigs check out their very own blog Adventures with Our Pets.
 
To submit your Family Ritual Story  to this awesome project head over to ABC Open 500 Words.  

Eternal Spirit on Mortal Paper

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Eternal Spirit on Mortal Paper – By June Perkins

A house full of sick kids and constant calls for Mum to please by nearby, snatched moments to rest and build energy for another round of vomiting from youngest and a complete ignoring of deadlines – that’s been my week.

Now any dedicated parent will tell you in a house full of illness you need to  take care of everyone and build a road to recovery.  There’s not much else you can do when your kids are sick.  Luckily for us one parent is still flexible enough to be at home when needed, unluckily for us all our extended family live thousands of kilometres away and can only send virtual foot rubs to their grandkids.

I work from home so you’ve probably guessed it’s me that’s been the carer of the week.  This week I have been giving foot rubs, telling stories, saying prayers and tending to tired and ill children.  Now Saturday is here things are looking up, and youngest is able to eat again.  This is such a relief after dealing with him having cramped crab hands, which needed lots of massaging to make normal again.  Poor little mite.

In the midst of this my dear hubby is in marking chaos, and in our very tiny house for five people has taken over the living room with piles of marking.  It is like negotiating a minefield.  I will not touch anything as it’s all just the way he needs it to be.  I dream of a day when the poor man can have an office, and me a studio.  A few weeks ago it was me with art materials everywhere just before my exhibition so really it’s a matter of needing to one day have a bigger space for us.

Last week I went to look after an Exhibition – of the Hinchenbrook Regional Art Prize, that my daughter, son and I had all put work into.  We went to the launch.  My daughter received a highly commended for her guinea pig painting, complete with collaged straw.  It was titled ‘All Together 1.’  She explained to me that she paints and draws the pets all together, as it brings her happiness, even the ones that are gone, get painted with the living ones so that their memory lives on.  She painted a bird picture with both our alive birds and our lost quails and also entered it too.

I took some photographs of the artists with their works.  It was a vibrant exhibition, with hints of memories of the looming cyclone in the clouds and a few broken trees but also green horses,  birds made by geometic shapes, moons over mountains and people -including the snake catcher Les, captured on canvas.  There were sculptures of cassowaries, and dear little pots with feathers, photographs of rocks, culture and natures, abstract paintings of cane burning, a coach without horses, and my dragonfly as well.

Now weeks like this are hard to set goals in, as you are driven from moment to moment by the needs of the family and they have to be the priority, so instead when I have a moment to myself I’ve been doing some digital play with my photographs and remembering Nell Arnold, whose funeral is this weekend.  During this week a few pieces on mortality and eternity have come into being in my arty breaks from the caring for kids.

Nell was such a mentor with my digital art photography and it was startling to hear of her sudden passing, although I knew she had not been well for a while.  I wonder if she can see these works from wherever she is in the next worlds beyond this one.

I wonder what Nell would say to me right now about setting goals for the future.  She would probably say believe in your work, move forward and realize you can do anything you set your mind to, and then she would send me some emails of people to get in touch with and make some practical suggestions.  Her emails are very precious and yet I never met her in person.  I would have loved to tell her about my daughter and the art entry as she mentored her with creativity as well.

I think of Nell especially today, but have two other friends who are farewelling brothers at funerals this weekend.  I know this feeling too, having been to my brother’s funeral when he was only young.

Life is short, and there is little time to write the eternal spirit on mortal paper.  It is probably little wonder that this week I created several art pieces all to do with the fleeting nature of life, words, stories, and belongings.

(c) June Perkins, all rights, reserved.