Giving to others
Giving generously to support others in our community is, without a doubt, one of the great privileges of being financially secure. When clients Ray and Jenny Pietsch told First Financial Principal Ben Rossi about The Cold Frog Challenge, a charity sleep out they were organising to raise funds and awareness for homelessness in their local area, Ben didn’t hesitate with his support.
In fact, the team at First Financial have been so moved by Ray and Jenny’s dedication to help their community that we wanted to tell their story. We spoke to Ray and asked him to tell us all about The Cold Frog Challenge.
Photo: Cold Frog Campers Jenny, Penny and Ray.
A frosty sleepout
It was a cold but clear Friday night when a group of members from Ray and Jenny’s local church camped out on a property in nearby Croydon for the inaugural Cold Frog Challenge.
“It was the brainchild of our pastor,” says Ray.
“That’s where the cold frog idea came from. Let’s do a sleep-out, let’s experience – probably not to the degree the homeless do – but some not so comfortable situations to sleep in and share a meal around a campfire, both morning and night.”
Over a decade of giving
But the genesis of The Cold Frog Challenge started many years earlier. Ray and Jenny are members of the Lutheran Church from the two-point Moorabbin/Dandenong parish, an area where a great number of refugees have settled over the past decade.
“Jenny and I have been involved with helping Sudanese refugees probably for the last 12, going on 13 years,” says Ray. “We know from experience of a number of families have become homeless, purely and simply because they can’t afford the rent – and it’s very tough on them. The system itself really doesn’t cater for families.”
Photo: Ray and the kids having lunch
Young refugees suffer
The Lutheran Church became instrumental in supporting the local refugees but as Ray explains it has been the children who often find it the toughest. Struggling to keep up in school, many have become disengaged with the community and with their families, and many are sleeping rough. Ray and Jenny have seen this happening first-hand and like many in their congregation were motivated to help.
“Although they’ve got a family,” explains Ray, “quite often there’s only a mother because the husband is dead or is missing, and the young people are sort of wandering around lost. They’ve gone astray because the education system doesn’t cater for them.”
Ray and Jenny have been inspired by the local Sudanese community, who often have very little themselves, but find the means to help the local kids.
“They’re Sudanese ladies from our own congregation. They struggle themselves but they’re very community conscious and want to help their people who are in trouble.
These ladies go out at night, mainly to Dandenong railway station and Noble Park, trying to engage with the kids who are sleeping rough. They’ve been paying out of their own pockets to this point, buying food and that sort of thing, so we’ve been supporting them in their work.
I know one lady who has six children herself, has taken young people to doctors and to the hospital and spent most of the night with them, trying to get them to go home and this type of thing.
Until you see it first-hand you don’t realise the difficulties that some of these people face and the efforts of their community to try and make a better life for them as well.”
So how was the sleepout?
“We were blessed,” says Ray. “Although it was cold, it was calm, so we were able to sit around the fire and talk and have a bit of fun and socialise. It was probably after 12am before we all staggered off to our tents and went to bed.
And while they had the luxury of a campfire and good company, the campers felt the effects of a night sleeping rough.
“We woke up with white frost on the ground and at my age, there were stiff joints trying to get mobile! But no, it was good fun all the same. And it was for a worthy cause.”
For Ray and Jenny, the most important part of The Cold Frog Challenge was raising awareness in the community. The couple were blown away by the amount of support they received.
“It was great,” says Ray. “We just sent out an email to our friends and we were amazed by the support we got. It’s nice to see we’ve got friends who, when asked to support people in need, do respond. So, we give thanks to all the people who supported us through this exercise.”
Then of course there’s the burning question – Will they be back next year?
“I can’t say we’re going to do it again,” laughs Ray. “The body is aging! The mind might be willing, but the body isn’t.”
Thanks to Ray and Jenny for sharing their story with us. With their wonderful track record, we have no doubt they will continue to find ways of supporting their local community – just not one that involves tents!
At First Financial we are passionate about giving back to our community and actively support wonderful initiatives like the Biggest Morning Tea and Foodbank Victoria. Read our Community News to catch up on our latest charity and fundraising activities. Read more First Financial articles.