A few years ago I bought a goat. In West End. For someone who’d died. Yes, this might sound strange but it makes sense if you know that I bought it through Saint Veronica’s Welfare Committee.  

Saint Veronica’s is a charity that helps the desperately poor — when a colleague’s father died they had a program that provided an Indian rural community with goats. So instead of flowers that would have lasted a week, we gave a community the chance at a new life. This is central to Saint Veronica’s philosophy — 100 per cent of their appeals go directly to those who need it.

In 1956, Mr and Mrs Colin Bennett founded Saint Veronica’s Welfare Committee to assist refugees in Hong Kong. Today the Committee helps people in India, The Philippines, Thailand and Australia. Last year, they distributed more than $137,000. The money comes from special appeals, sponsorships and from the proceeds of their op shop at 89 Hardgrave Street in West End.

Each year, Saint Veronica’s conducts six special appeals. The money goes to a diverse range of projects: rainwater tanks, water wells and toilet blocks, educational materials, and to construct and repair class rooms, for health, hygiene and literacy classes, to orphanages and to people devastated by natural disasters. In this way, they can fulfil their goal of “improving the conditions of impoverished communities in a sustainable way”.

The appeals keep abreast of current charity trends. In 2012, they started offering micro-loans. This gave low interest loans to traders; it was a huge success. The appeal funded 60 traders at the time. A few months later more than 100 benefited, and the scheme continues to grow. Their current appeal aims to provide sole female parents in the fishing villages (Kanyakumari India) with the means to earn a sustainable income.

Saint Veronica’s also has a sponsorship program. For $100 a year, you can sponsor a poor child’s education. The money provides extra tuition, educational equipment and improves classroom conditions. Thus children can complete their education and they are helped to acquire work skills that will enable them to break the poverty cycle.

Sustainability is central to their values. The op shop recycles those items that we no longer need or use. We declutter our houses and the money from sales pays for their administration costs. Often items are distributed to local homeless people. It’s a win-win situation. The proceeds from the op shop pay for their administration costs and any excess goes to their projects.

When we visited the shop, it was busy, even though it was a wet Thursday. People were browsing, buying and dropping off items — keeping unpaid volunteers Lee Duffy, Beverley Marshall and Margaret Kerwin (President of the Committee) flatstrap. There is a wall of teddy bears, loads of costume jewellery, great bric-a-brac, and I couldn’t resist a stylish plain white shirt. So how can you help? Sponsor a child, visit the shop, volunteer, drop off your quality items or donate to an appeal. I know I’ll be back for more of those great white shirts. If you wish to know more about Saint Veronica’s, visit their website

Words by Toni Johnson-Woods | Images by Colin Bushell