Children First has two separate properties that are safe and welcoming environments for our children, families, staff and volunteers. Each might have a unique function, but they are equally regarded as ‘home’.
Children First Miracle sMiles Retreat
Initially known as ‘The Farm’, in April 2016 the property was renamed the Miracle sMiles Retreat to better reflect the spirit of the home which offers children a healing supportive environment as they prepare for and recover from life-changing surgery
Established in 1999 as a home away from home for the children, the Retreat is a sanctuary – calm and nurturing. The rambling homestead is set on 45 hectares of gentle hills and slopes and can house up to 13 children.
In many ways, the Retreat is a mini ‘United Nations’ – a place that embraces the diversity of all who live there – the cultural, ethnic, religious and gender differences of the children who are brought together because of their shared need for transformative surgery.
Under the care of Miracle sMiles Program Manager Deb Pickering and the team, and supported by dedicated volunteers, the children share the many tasks of running a large home, keeping their bedrooms tidy, folding clothes and washing the dishes.
The children’s needs during their stay
Consider for a moment what’s required to care for one sick child, perhaps your own. As they’re preparing for a major operation, they’re anxious, needing your love and emotional support.
They then require around the clock care following the surgery, possibly total bed-rest for weeks afterwards, dressings are changed, physiotherapy is performed, prescribed medication is dispensed. They also need nutritious food, clean clothes, entertainment, pain relief and trips for medical appointments.
Now multiply that many times over for many children. Add in the fact that you may also need to accommodate and support parents or guardians who are also frightened, with little English and experiencing a degree of culture shock. You then have some idea of the enormous challenges the staff and volunteers at the Retreat experience each day.
North Melbourne House
If the Retreat is the heart of Children First, then the North Melbourne House is the nerve centre. It is the administrative hub for everything, which includes:
- arranging each child’s evacuation and transport
- coordinating medical and hospital treatment
- expanding the programs
- developing relationships
- planning events
- liaising with media
- processing donations
- meeting with sponsors and supporters
Being close to surgeons and hospitals in Melbourne, it’s also the place where children can stay overnight before surgery. They can stop in on their way to a medical appointment and visit the staff during this time.