by John Kugel
Getting together in person has become an almost novel experience in our post-Covid paradigm; however, getting together is what we do best. And what we must continue to do if we're to be truly resilient and enjoy brighter days ahead.
Like so many incredible charities and not-for-profit organisations - The Shepherd Centre has been unable and/or cautious about regrouping 'face to face' with their key stakeholders and donors over the past 18 months.
It's a real shame... because The Shepherd Centre is an outstanding organisation that exists to enable children with hearing loss develop spoken language, literacy and social skills so they may fully participate in the hearing world, and in so doing reach their full potential. What a mission. What a purpose!
But it had been over a year since The Shepherd Centre had been able to connect in-person with their supporter network and realign around that incredible purpose. The Gala Dinner had yet again been postponed (a staple for so many not-for-profits) and prospects for other key in-person events were still uncertain.
Until one morning, Angela Moffatt, Senior Philanthropy Manager for The Shepherd Centre found herself at a Networking In Nature event with the Gone Bush crew in Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens.
So profoundly moved by the simplicity and richness of connection experienced at the session, Angela was sure that an outdoor setting would be the perfect way to finally reconnect with The Shepherd Centre's supporters in a covid safe and enriching way.
"Especially after last year, we were so isolated. Much of our interaction was either online or over the phone. We really missed meeting with our supporters and building those relationships - which is much more natural and meaningful in person" - Angela Moffatt, The Shepherd Centre
And so, together with the team of outdoor connection specialists from Gone Bush Adventures, The Shepherd Centre created an interactive 'Connection In Nature' experience to regroup, inspirit and realign its core community.
The gathering kicked off with a healthy morning tea and networking followed by a gentle stroll around the Botanic Gardens in which presenters from The Shepherd Centre shared their stories with the group to spark interaction and reflection while showcasing the resilience of the organisation over the past 50 years - and reminding of the important work that's still to be done.
Along the walk, which led the group on a journey through a series of inspiring natural spaces, the group heard from Olivia Andersen, Founder of Hear For You on the challenges of growing up deaf for both herself and her family. Also presenting was Angelika Dalkeith, Director of Clinical Management and Principal Child & Family Counsellor and Dr. Jim Hungerford, Chief Executive Officer - both of whom shared powerful anecdotes of the ways in which The Shepherd Centre supports not only children but also their families on the long and often isolated journey to excel in life despite the challenges of hearing loss and deafness.
Heart-felt, genuine and moving are three words that sum up the experience. It brought together new donors and old alike to refocus on resilience and the impact being achieved as a result of everyone's continued support and efforts.
And so, in a difficult climate for physical gatherings, The Shepherd Centre is proud to be feeling its way back to in-person connection. And the supporter network and organisation as a whole, is better for it. "Thank you for such a lovely event. Everyone I have spoken to enjoyed it so much and got so much out of it. I was certain it was going to be a success any way, but it was so nice to see our supporters sharing my enthusiasm. It really strengthened our relationships. People came back and said they are more committed to The Shepherd Centre. It was inspiring but it was also so relaxing - which they preferred to a stuffy boardroom or a more formal event. It was so different. Our formula is usually quite prescribed with luncheons, keynote speakers etc. But being outdoors just relaxes people and helps them open up and really be themselves - we got so much out of it!" - Angela Moffatt, The Shepherd Centre
Interested in learning just how enriching physical gatherings can be for your community?
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