Sixteen years ago, a young Melbourne woman named Moira Kelly dreamed of a world where all children had access to excellent medical care when they needed it. Within a couple of years, Children First Foundation was established to support and expand these dreams.
The early years
While undertaking volunteer work overseas in the early 1990s, Moira Kelly AO saw a need for medical assistance for children injured in conflict in war torn countries. She appealed to hospitals and surgeons in developed countries for assistance and was delighted when surgeons in Australia responded to her call for help.
In the early years, the children were cared for at donated properties in Melbourne and in the township of Kilmore, an hour from Melbourne. But as more and more children were referred for treatment, work began on establishing a Foundation with a formal structure.
1999 – the Foundation is established
Rotarian and Kilmore local Noel Baker along with his wife Janis Baker donated 45 hectares of land to build a home for the children. Completion of this home, which we now know as the Farm, coincided with the formal establishment of Children First Foundation in 1999. The design of The Farm’s homestead enables us to meet the complex needs of the children before and after treatment. It’s a place where the children can be cared for in a comfortable family environment.
Rotary District 9790 was instrumental in building a 100 square home and in November 2001 the Children First Rehabilitation Farm was opened by the then Governor of Victoria John Landy, AC MBE.
The Foundation is extremely grateful for the contributions of generous Rotarians, suppliers, individuals and volunteers who built this special place.
Today the Miracle sMiles program is responsible for transforming the lives of more than 300 children across the globe.
Moira Kelly stepped down from her hands on role with Children First in 2011 and left her role as Director on the Board in 2013.
2008 – a new focus, closer to home
After nearly ten years of important international work, the Foundation recognised that many Australian families faced considerable financial challenges in caring for a sick or disabled child. So in 2008, we established the Between the Gaps program to support the families of disabled or chronically ill Australian children in need of mobility and developmental aids.
2011 – the next generation of caring begins
Having been both the inspiration for and driving force behind Children First, Moira Kelly AO formally stepped aside from her active role with the Foundation in 2011 to invest her energies in caring for formerly conjoined twins Trishna and Krishna. In 2012, as well as continuing as a Director, Moira took on a new role, joining Rebecca Gibney as a Principal Ambassador of Children First.
Our dedicated staff and volunteers now carry on the work of the Foundation. Our international program, Miracle sMiles, continues to change lives, and as our Between the Gaps program expands, we’ll also be improving the lives of Australian children.
Whilst we celebrate the many amazing transformations in the lives of the children we’ve helped, we are ever mindful of the many children who are still waiting for their own life-changing experience.
With this in mind, we will continue to nurture our relationships with our valued program partners and share our vision with our generous donors and sponsors. We will work towards expanding our network of representatives in the home countries of the children who need us, and growing our relationships with leading medical institutions across Australia.
Although our organisation is small, the energy, commitment and hearts of all who are involved are very great indeed. The scrolling updates panel on the home page illustrate just how active our organisation is, and you can also keep up to date by reading our latest News.
Together, we look forward to bringing many more ‘miracle smiles’ to the faces of special children at home and abroad.