Though at first glance the grass is long and the grounds are quiet, as Sister Chitra leads the way through to the big shaded play area at the back of the Kora Centre, the sounds of little children happily talking and laughing as they eat a hot, nutritious meal can be heard and four smiling faces beam up at us from around the table.
And as the religious sister opens the door to the newly renovated playroom, a gleaming white wonderland full of toys, books and teaching resources, the love and pride of being engaged in their calling to serve the children of the local community is clear.
The Kora Centre, run by the Servite Sisters, has been delivering a range of health and educational services to those in need since 1977, originally with a specific focus on assisting the indigenous community.
Kora Child Care Centre, based in Bayswater, works to uplift the quality of life of disadvantaged families in the area.
Kora now caters not only for Aboriginal children, but for children from all backgrounds who may experience a greater likelihood of hardship – the centre currently supports a number of children of single parents, migrants and women housed in Women’s Refuges.
And now, with the aftermath of the pandemic, it is time for the community to give back to the Centre.
“It has been quite difficult with the impact of COVID-19,” Sr Chitra shares as she introduces the children.
“With the social distancing restrictions, thorough sanitisation and the need for constant vigilance in terms of personal hygiene for the children – and also the general wariness of the virus that is still evident within the community – our class sizes have dropped down to four or five in attendance.”
“One of the challenges, especially among many of the migrant families, is a lack of understanding about the specifics of the virus and the government’s response and as such, we still are not seeing all of our students return,” she explained.
Kora currently runs a child care service for children aged two to six from 8.30am to 3pm, three days a week at the minuscule cost of $50 per day – the centre is licensed for 19 children.
Children are given a fruit time break in the morning and a hot lunch in the afternoon with, the daily program including both indoor and outdoor activities such as storytelling, singing, art and craft, and nature play.
“Yet there is so much more that we would love to be doing here,” Sr Chitra says, leading the way to a second large outbuilding.
“We used to have a range of after-school services and adult classes on offer but gradually, over time, they have dropped away as we face the dual challenge of age and the constant need to try and secure adequate levels of funding.”
The second door reveals a well-appointed meeting room that was used for these classes and it is with obvious sadness that the story of its desertion is revealed: of how funding challenges have resulted in this room staying largely unused – even though there is a clear need in community to have it back up and operational.
“We would love to have this room running once again and are aiming to work closely with the West Australian Catholic Migrants and Refugee Office (WACMRO) to assist the local community with English and other social support needs.”
But, as Sr Chitra explains, the ability to do so depends on the availability of funding and, be it either from the Government, or the generous donations of individual Catholics and Catholic businesses who support the Sisters’ work, both spiritually and financially.
It also depends on awareness of Kora’s existence, of its mission and of the work that it does within the community – something that has slowly diminished with time as the area has grown and developed.
“As with all social service organisations we are running on the ‘sniff of an oil rag’ so to speak,” says Vince, a long-time volunteer at Kora who helps out with the running and maintenance of the centre.
“We are extremely low on numbers and unfortunately without numbers our organisation will cease to continue its mission work for underprivileged families.”
An increase in the current 13.49 per cent of income that comes from donations would significantly increase the Kora Centre’s ability to not only survive, but to thrive in providing necessary services to the community.
Those wishing to make a donation to support the work of the Kora Centre should visit charitybay.org