Bega Valley’s Christine Welsh has been recognised at a state level for her work supporting the community, however she wants to share the accolades around.
Christine, who is the co-founder of Sapphire Community Projects (SCP), along with her husband, Peter Buggy, has been named as a finalist in the 2021 NSW Regional Woman of the Year Awards, which shine a light on the accomplishments of extraordinary women living in regional NSW.
“I feel abashed, incredible, amazed, very proud and surprised – there’s a lot of adjectives there,” she says.
“It was unexpected because the calibre of the women nominated is very, very high so I’m very proud to be counted among their number.”
On the awards’ website, it states Christine made the list of finalists due to her work with Sapphire Community Pantry, run by SCP, which provides a welcoming space for people doing it tough and offers free or affordable groceries, barista training, job coaching and cooking classes.
“The organisation proved its effectiveness during the [2019-2020] bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic,” states the website. “Ms Welsh organised emergency food parcels, sourced donations and a mobile pantry service to fire-affected townships.”
Christine says one of the most devastating cases the pantry supported recently was that of a widowed woman with six children who had been living on a block and building a house before the bushfires came through and destroyed everything.
She says she found out about the woman’s story by chance, and in partnership with online charity GIVIT, the pantry helped provide the family with pods and caravans to live in, as well as a kitchen and furniture donated by IKEA.
“It doesn’t make up for losing your home, but she got set up beautifully,” she says.
But Christine says unfortunately the family’s troubles did not end there. One of the women’s sons had been living in a nearby shack while he was studying, and on one cold day a few weeks ago he got a fire going to keep warm.
After going to the home pod to do his washing, he looked back and saw his shack had caught fire.
“So a year later, he lost everything again,” says Christine.
But the Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast provided the young man with a caravan, and GIVIT gave him vouchers.
“It’s a story of everybody working together,” says Christine.
“Nothing ever revolves around one person so me being a finalist is really on the back of so many other people.”
Christine says the challenges facing women who are building initiatives in regional NSW include having faith in themselves and ignoring naysayers.
“I hate to say it, but I also think having a great husband or somebody who believes in you and supports you is important,” she says.
“Being regional, you also have your community as well. It’s great to have your community around you because you cannot do everything by yourself.”
If you are interested in volunteering with, or donating to, Sapphire Community Pantry, visit its Facebook page.