When Sister of Mercy Mollie Wright retired from her job as a headmistress and made the decision to volunteer her time to help others, little did she know she would have a defining impact on a young refugee mother struggling at one of the lowest points of her life.
Sister Mollie, the principal of Mercedes College from 1978 to 1996, has devoted countless hours helping young mothers living at MercyCare’s Coolock Units to further their life skills and education.
“For me volunteering is about giving a helping hand to people who desperately need it,” Sister Mollie, 87, said.
“I’m especially interested in helping refugees because when I was principal at Mercedes College the terrible genocide in Rwanda was taking place and our school ran a fundraising drive for those affected.”
It was that link that drove her to help 24-year-old mother-of-two, Ruby*, a refugee from Rwanda.
Ruby had spent 15 years living in a refugee camp in Rwanda before arriving in Australia with her family three years ago. She was ostracised by her male relatives when she fell pregnant with her second child, suffering brutal domestic violence at the hands of her father and brother and forced to live as an outcast in the garage of the family home.
A year later, she moved with her two children to MercyCare’s Coolock Units which provides accommodation for up to six months to young mothers as they work towards independent living. Having a stable and safe place to live gave Ruby the opportunity to get her life back on track and provide for her children.
As part of her volunteering, Sister Mollie started tutoring Ruby in English. Over time, the pair developed a close bond and now catch up weekly.
Ruby said the support she received from Sister Mollie and MercyCare has helped her to rebuild her life. After successfully completing her certificate III in Aged Care training, Ruby now works full-time at MercyCare’s Residential Aged Care facility in Wembley.
“My life has come a long way, thanks to Sister Mollie and MercyCare,” Ruby said.
“Before I was living at Coolock Units, I felt isolated and could not see any hope for the future. I was suffering and as a result my children were suffering. The only reason I stayed alive was because there was no one to look after my children if I died.
“Sister Mollie helped me so much. I’m so blessed to have her in my life. She’s so good to me.”
While living at Coolock Units, Ruby was supported by one of MercyCare’s case workers who helped her access mental health services, parenting workshops and advice on how to bond and connect with her children.
She was also taught important life skills, including how to navigate the tenancy process, and manage household budgeting while being linked with vital community services.
“Having a stable place to live at Coolock and someone to support and guide me helped me in so many ways,” Ruby said.
“Not only did I learn to be a good mother, but I began to enjoy my children and bond with them. The more I believed in myself, the more confidence I had and the more independence I gained by learning important life skills.
“Without MercyCare and the help of Sister Mollie, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I have to become a good role model and parent for my children.”
*Name has been changed to protect her identity.