Ali Clarke: After a tough year, let’s celebrate some unsung locals

Beyond the challenging headlines of 2022, there are so many people who do wonderful things for others. Ali Clarke lists some selfless South Australians who quietly make our community better.

Dec 14, 2022, updated Dec 15, 2022

As I look back on the news this year, it would be easy to think it was nothing but a kaleidoscope of challenge, loss and celebrities behaving badly.

From Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to the Australian housing crisis, we faced supply chain issues and way too much rain.

We elected a new Prime Minister, Premier and plenty of mayors and said goodbye to icons like Shane Warne, Betty White and Angela Lansbury, as well as Her Majesty.

The most Googled search for 2022 was Wordle (well someone had to explain all of those green and yellow boxes all over our social feeds) with Queen Elizabeth, iPhone 14 and Jeffery Dahmer all making the Top Ten.

If I had to read about a Kardashian or Kayne West one more time I think I’d go spare and can we all just decide that Harry and Meghan are two of the most (over)exposed people on the planet and just leave them alone?

So who else should we talk about?  Read about? Support and cheer on?

For my last column for the year, I thought I’d tell you about some of those who have been doing huge things in 2022, but go about it so quietly they’re never likely to end up on the front pages or at the top of your search engine.

These are some of the people doing wonderful things for our communities who deserve the headlines they’d never ask for.

I hope as we head towards 2023, finding out a little about them will bring you joy and remind us that it’s not all doom and gloom in this world.

Let’s start with Stephanie Russell who runs the Play, Gym ‘n Create at the Seaford Community Centre and inspires all of the parents she welcomes to her group.

She fundraises every year for new toys and craft materials and, as one mum says, she has no idea how much of an impact she has had and continues to have on the entire community as she seeks to make a difference in kids’ lives.

Then there’s Wendy who has turned a barren laneway into a paradise in Sheidow park, single-handedly making a community space with a children’s garden, bench and library. Her sister Michelle couldn’t be prouder.

Darren and Hayley live surrounded by rural animals that have been rescued or need to be rehomed. Furever Farm relies entirely on donations and fundraising to provide for these orphaned, abused or unwanted animals. It all started with one lamb and now they look after 80 sheep, goats, ‘bobby calves’, ex-racing horses, ducks, chickens and pigs.

Jonathan Ray has been helping out the Glengowrie Retirement Estate since his beloved mum passed in 2017.  He wanted to stay connected to the ‘village folk’ so spends time helping them with their technology: think smart phones, social media, advising on best practise for online purchasing and educating them about potential scams. He ‘charges’ a gold coin for the service which goes to the local RSPCA.

Then there’s 12-year-old Josh. In and out of the foster system, he was moved plenty of times and never had many things to call his own. Now he is raising money for Hope In A Suitcase which is a program that ensures kids have a case of their own filled with essential items and things like colouring books and comfort toys.

Oh… and he’s doing that by trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp with his dad next year, because in his words, although he didn’t have the best start in life, he had kind and caring people who helped him find his forever family, and now it’s his turn to help others who are less fortunate.

I’ll say again, he’s 12.

Sonia Waters is the Director of Aboriginal Services at Anglicare SA where she is at the frontline of ensuring people can be provided with any service they need.

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As well as that, along with her daughters, she fundraises every December to ensure elders – many of whom may be unwell, isolated or living well below the poverty line – have a roast meal for Christmas which she delivers to them personally.

She’s been described as a quiet driving force who looks out for others first and always.

With one in five people now living with a diagnosed mental health condition in Australia, Leesa Scanlan uses her own lived experiences to help others share their stories through the South Australian podcast High Tide Low Tide.

Diagnosed with depression and anxiety more than 16 years ago, she knows there is power in relating to others and creating a safe space.

As we stare down the barrel of the incoming flood disaster, I just want to take you back a few Christmases ago, when we were facing fire.

Since then Fabrik’s Rene Strohmayer continues to organise activities and programs for those who lost their homes. Art and photos for new walls, she’s started a journalling group and has created badges of honour to help heal the scars left by such traumatic experiences.

One person who lost their family home said she is a real star and doesn’t know the difference she has made in my life and how I feel about myself.

And can I finish up by giving a shout-out to Junior’s Ute and Scrap Removal? With help from his mum and dad, Junior will do pretty much anything that is needed, from painting fences to weeding gardens or just picking up and dropping off stuff in his ute.

His business card proudly declares he is an Autism Business and says if he can find even a small job every day, it is a day to look forward to and he’ll give anything a go if it helps people out.

These are only a handful of the thousands of South Australians making a difference and they’ll never have their own shoe line or reality TV series.

They stand up for others and deserve us to be upstanding for them.

From me, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and in this time of giving, it’s joyous to know that there are so many people who choose to give all year round.

Ali Clarke presents the breakfast show on Mix 102.3. This is her final column for InDaily in 2022 but she will return next year.

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