26 May 2020

Fred is on Facebook helping grandparents raising grandchildren

| Sharon Kelley
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Fred Baxter from Mission Australia's Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program.

Fred Baxter, 84, is a participant in Mission Australia’s Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program. Photo: Supplied.

Mission Australia saluted grandparents who are raising grandchildren during National Families Week from 15-21 May 2020, and acknowledged they have a unique set of circumstances to deal with in the aftermath of the bushfires and COVID-19 restrictions.

The charity organisation has been dropping off care packs outside the family homes of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren participants, including 84-year-old Fred Baxter from Sussex Inlet on the NSW South Coast

“Now our grandson is living life as a young adult, but I have stayed on in the group to encourage and provide wisdom to others who are going through the process,” said Mr Baxter.

“We have good times together, doing activities with all the children and going on excursions and weekends away during the year. There are sometimes tears, but it’s good to share life with each other because we know we are all in the same boat.”

During COVID-19 restrictions, the group has been using Facebook to connect with the community and use craft instruction videos to show children and grandparents how to use the craft items supplied in the Mission Australia care packs.

Many members of the group were not previously familiar with social media, but have become involved with some of the grandchildren teaching their grandparents.

“I had not used Facebook before and was reluctant at first,” said Mr Baxter.

“But since the Mission Australia team has spent a lot of time helping me set it up, taking my photo and making my profile, I have enjoyed being a part of the group, engaging with the others and sometimes making cheeky comments.”

Mission Australia’s regional leader, NSW South Coast, Brett Fahey said, “We know there are many different types of families. Due to a range of challenges faced by families, or the sudden loss of a parent, we know that aunties, uncles and grandparents can be the first port of call to become the primary carers for children.

“All of the grandparents involved in our program are incredibly dedicated to raising the grandchildren in their care, and they continue to persevere with love as new challenges are thrown at them.”

During COVID-19, the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program has seen more families connecting and others re-engage for support through online platforms. The group includes more than 44 families across the South Coast who continue to support each other despite the challenges they face.

“The Mission Australia team has really looked out for me recently after the loss of my wife of 58 years,” said Mr Baxter.

“When the fires were on, some of the staff helped me get things together. They knew I was still grieving and they cleaned the gutters. I am so thankful for that.”

For more information about joining the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program, you can email Natalie Brown or call on 0477 300 259.

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