How Barbara Quinn Changed the Lives of Orphans in Lesotho
Barbara Quinn is not your typical country housewife! As well as being a very hard working, giving soul who won’t take no for an answer. She’s also passionate about fundraising for Beautiful Gate, an orphanage in Lesotho, Southern Africa. Barbara’s the type of person who underestimates the impact she is having and she would prefer to fly under the radar. But she’s agreed for me to share her story of success as part of my series: ‘Stories from the pot of gold’! Everyday people, doing everyday things that are extraordinary for them!
Barbara set up her own charity, Southern Cross Charities, to manage her fundraising efforts. She did this to ensure that 100% of the money raised goes directly to the orphans in need. This decision was influenced by her disillusionment with the amount of money that larger charities use to cover administration costs. Diluting the amount that actually gets through to where it’s needed.
Barbara fundraises by holding annual car events and rock ‘n’ roll themed dances, and it all culminates in an annual charity dinner. This dinner has been held at the Miner’s Restaurant at TAFE Bundamba for the last couple of years. A place where Barbara studied to gain valuable insight into hospitality and hosting events.
When I asked Barbara, what inspired her to get involved with Beautiful Gate, she said; “I always wanted to go to Africa and help, but it just didn’t happen. I then got married and was focused on my kids. It wasn’t until they finished school that it became a possibility.” It’s at this point, Barbara had a chance meeting with someone that had worked at the orphanage. His conversation was so inspiring she made a decision that night to make a difference and planned a trip to Africa.
Barbara started raising money immediately. This is where a funny twist enters Barbara’s story. She decided to raise money to buy shoes for the orphans. Unknown to her one of Beautiful Gates staff had written a blog saying he had never had shoes. His goal was to buy shoes for himself and the kids. A few months later Barbara arrives in Lesotho with her son, daughter and a friend. They were laden with shoes and the staff incorrectly thought Barbara had read the blog … it was almost as if the orphanages prayers had been answered!
The following year Barbara returned with her daughter and this time they arrived with a plentiful supply of milk and nappies. During that visit, they both worked in the houses which look after the orphans.
I asked Barbara if she set out with a fundraising goal in mind and she said; “Yeah! When we go over, we ask the orphanage what they need. Then we raise money based on those wants and we keep fundraising until we reach that figure!” Barbara’s fundraising efforts have been put to good use. Last year they raised $6,000 and started the job of replacing all the cots. They bought the timber from a hardware store similar to Bunnings. That store cut the timber and also supplied everything needed to assemble them. The cots are being built as an on ongoing project by the maintenance man at Beautiful Gate, plus visiting teams of helpers, including volunteers from America. This year’s project is to completely upgrade the bathrooms to better cater for babies and young children. Modifications will cost $4,000 and will include raising the bath and shower so the ladies don't have to get on their hands and knees all the time.
Beautiful Gate do a great job looking after the orphans, but the quality of food is not always there. They simply don't have the money to spend on nutritional ingredients. But the orphans there are the lucky ones! Things can get pretty scarce in other orphanages. Barbara recounted the time she was helping at another orphanage, which caters for 6 – 18 year old’s. She said; “I went in to the kitchen and asked, where's the food? Where's your store room? The staff member pointed at two flour bags. I said, well how long will that last? And she replied: it depends on how many meals a day we have.” Barbara continued; “Milk is also a scarce commodity in Lesotho and some kids outside of the orphanages will grow up never tasting it. In fact, most children get something to eat, but it's not substantial. It doesn't have the proteins, vitamins and minerals in it. It's just something to fill their bellies.”
There are so many stories I could tell of Barbara giving plentifully in both time and money to Beautiful Gate and the people of Lesotho. Including the time, she bought bags of cement and gravel for a woman so she could make bricks to extend her tiny two room house. But it’s the generosity of others that overwhelms her at times. There’re the ladies who help make quilts to send over to the orphanage. A lovely benefactor who donated $300 for a sewing machine to be bought in Lesotho. And there’s the generous supporter who gave $1,000. Barbara said; “That donation was passed on to the Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF), an organisation that flies supplies and doctors up in to the mountainous regions of Lesotho. They used the money to buy Christian tracts. Many people in Lesotho cannot read or write and the tracts not only help with peoples learning in this area, but it also has a huge flow on effect in breaking down barriers, bringing different villages and MAF staff together.”
I asked Barbara who has inspired her and she said; “My Dad! When I was young, he was given the opportunity to migrate to South Africa. The plan was to take us all over there and manage a farm. He wouldn't go because his Mum and Dad were still alive. In hindsight it's a good thing that we didn't because of what's happening now in South Africa. But he always said to me, go out and see the world! See how other people live!”
Barbara admits to having had some doubt at times. This isn’t surprising given the obstacles she had to overcome in setting the charity up. Fundraising can be a difficult, thankless task as well. But her determination to help the orphans’ kicks in. She also admits to being headstrong! Barbara said; “I don't like failure, so I’m pretty sure I will succeed before I do anything. But whether I’m going down the right road or not I push on unless somebody says, hey! You know that's not gonna work!“
Barbara would not be able to do what she does without the total support of her friends and family, especially her husband of 26 years, Josh! She said; “He says he doesn’t want to go to Africa. He says you can go! Someone has to look after the dog!” That support and dedication means Barbara can focus her efforts on making the lives of Beautiful Gates orphans better.
Barbara has two key goals for the future. She wants to purchase a shipping container. Fill it with clothes and supplies, and ship it to Lesotho. The orphanage can then use the empty container for whatever purpose they see fit. Her vision also includes buying a block of land over there, building a facility to cater for kids who roam the streets after school because their parents are working. She wants to feed them and at the same time offer opportunities for them to learn a craft. This goal has been influenced by Barbara’s own upbringing. Her family may not have had a great deal of money, but her Mother was adamant about two things. Barbara and her siblings would never come home to an empty house, and they always had something to eat.
Barbara’s dream for her own charity to build in Lesotho will be a challenge. Foreigners are not allowed to purchase land over there so she will need to find someone she can totally trust to partner with. But I have a sneaky suspicion this won’t stop Barbara. If anybody can make it happen, she will! If you are interested in supporting Barbara and making a donation, then please contact her at email@example.com
Thank you, Barbara for sharing your story! My aim is to keep you all updated on her tireless fundraising efforts and how Beautiful Gate orphanage is progressing. I hope her story has inspired you to strive for your goals and dreams, and to never give up! Please share her story because it may just bring a little inspiration to someone else you know. Also, if you’d like to share your own story of success, then I’d love to hear from you via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Enjoy your journey until next time!