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° on Saturday in Mosman

Humans of Mosman: Jacqui Holth

My family has been a part of the Mosman community for generations. My 82-year-old father, Graham Todd, still remembers when he was playing with matches and caught himself on fire at Sunday school back in the 1940’s … he also remembers doing the paper run in the same period, pulling his little cart up and down the endless hills, and more than all, he remembers the true sense of community that the Mosman peninsula provided.

Some things never change. My very first school was Middle Harbour Public School… and there began my journey of growing into the me of today. Little did I know at that time that years later, after living more than 20 years abroad, based in Italy and Saudi Arabia, and travelling to over 60 countries, would I end up back here again, where it all begun.

Since returning I have been so grateful for the support of the locals. It is actually really hard to move ‘home’ after 20 years, having lived my entire adult life overseas, and to try to find where you fit. It was an easy decision where to live, but I underestimated the challenges that re-adjusting to the way of life here would present. We have been back here as a family for five years now, and I can honestly say, the first two were really challenging. I really felt like I knew nobody. When I needed something I was constantly thinking, who can I call? Ghostbusters!!!! It can be uncomfortable for a woman in her 40’s to feel so lost, but then I began to connect with women from the local area and can honestly say they saved me.

Over the past five years I have started a couple of my own businesses, which I run from home, and am very passionate about, and a women in business group supporting women who work from home to have a community. However what has stolen my heart is the Bright Futures of Bardia campaign that I founded and launched in September last year, the success of which to date is in a very large part, thanks to the support of our local community, with members of the community hosting events and donating prizes and money all to raise funds for the campaign. We are incredibly privileged here in Australia, in Sydney, and in Mosman in particular, and I think I can safely say that we have many opportunities that others cannot even dream of, and I have a sneaking suspicion that most of us know that. Yet some of us are not ‘fulfilled’. I personally believe that real fulfilment comes when we are contributing to something much bigger than ourselves and when we realise the impact we can have and the ripple effect that can create, that is when we begin to feel complete. It isn’t from success, its from impact.

Back to the Bright Futures of Bardia campaign…..Little did I know, 22 years ago, when I set out with my new boyfriend to the remote regions of Western Nepal, what the Universe had in store for us. You know those defining moments in life that make you ask ‘why me?’. I was in my early 20’s and pretty naive, and somewhat over-confident, back then. Scenes such as what we faced were reserved for movies. At the time I just got on with dealing with it, but then I got scared, and then I got angry. It took me pretty much 2 decades to understand why it all happened. Now I know.

When we travelled to Bardia National Park in the very remote region of Western Nepal in 1996 my boyfriend almost lost his life. If not for the local villagers he would not have made it back to Kathmandu for life saving surgery.

One person in particular, a young boy with his bicycle, was critical to getting help and assistance. This young boy, Bikram, grew up, and after learning how to teach and learning how to speak English, he started a school for the local children in the living room of his own home which has now become the BBAS (Bardia) Memorial School, and he is the Principal. I went on to marry my boyfriend and we now have a 16 year old son, named Aymon ‘Bardia’, in honour of the community.

This experience, all those years ago, planted a seed, and the Bright Futures of Bardia campaign, launched in September 2018, was born out of a deep desire to express gratitude to a very special community in desperate need of help. Why am I so passionate about these kids? Children in Western Nepal are being trafficked from Nepal into India, Every. Single. Day. The numbers are higher than ever before, in fact child trafficking has increased 500% over the past 5 years. Can you even imagine that being the case in our community? It is just beyond comprehension.

How are we able to help? A fundamental strategy to prevent child trafficking (supported by the UN SDG’s and all reliable research available) is to keep children in schools, protecting their right to education and a safe environment. Offering them educational opportunities creates not only a brighter future, it reduces the chance of these children being lured away from their families and communities

The Bardia Memorial School, which we are supporting, currently offers an English language education to over 550 children from preschool to year 10. The conditions are incredibly basic and the school is bursting at the seams, with some classrooms squeezing in over 50 students at any one time. We are raising funds to build new classrooms and better facilities, conducive to learning, so that children can stay at the school to complete years 11 and 12. The funds will also be used to develop sanitation facilities, allowing girls to stay at school also during menstruation. It is the basic right of any child to have education and basic sanitation available to them. In the April school holidays I am accompanying a group of Australian teenagers to visit the school, some from within the Mosman community. I have no doubt that they will have a very different perspective on what it means to live where we live, and have no doubt that the ripple effect of that amongst our youth will be very powerful. Seeing and experiencing first hand life like exists in Bardia stays in your heart forever. If you have seen the video in which I interview one of the students. At 9 years old she was attacked by a crocodile whilst she was collecting water from the small stream behind her house..her entire family jumped in to the river on top of the crocodile to save her. She survived, and so did all her family members. She wants to be an engineer to help her community. She will do whatever it takes. She needs to stay in school to do so. She is in year 10. Without these new classrooms we cannot expand to year 11 and year 12, and she will have to leave school. Her parents cannot afford to send her to a big city, So she won’t be able to pursue her dream unless we build new classrooms in her school. Just one little story like that, let alone the many other stories of overcoming obstacles to get to where they are are today, are more than enough to keep me moving forward even when it feels ‘hard’. Of course whether it feels hard or not depends on how we define ‘easy’ I guess?

My commitment to helping these children is unshakable. I know a project such as this can impact generations to come and ensure a dignified and valuable future for many children. And..what if WE can change the world one little soul at a time…isn’t it so very worth it?

We are currently raising funds for Phase 2 for the building of 5 new classrooms and the foundations for the Science and Technology block. In Phase 1 we raised over $40,000. Construction has begun in the school already for this phase, Putting the money raised immediately to work. You can see the results on our website.

These results were possible because our community here in Sydney joined forces with us, getting behind us to make this a reality. The power of our community to make a huge generational impact for Bardia is enormous. It is true that many of those who support us may never visit the school or look into the eyes of these children, but, having personally visited the school a number of times, and being there right now as you read this article, I can guarantee you that your impact for them is so very real.

We invite and encourage you to support our fundraising efforts. We also appreciate that your support will take many different forms. So, there are a few ways you can help. We are super keen to put the FUN back into FUNdraising.

Firstly come join us for lots of laughs and some sensational dancing lead by some of our super energetic locals. There are even prizes for the best dressed.

Retro 80’s Night for Bardia on Saturday 30th March @ The Manly Skiff Sailing Club.
Tickets are on sale now.

If you prefer to donate a prize that we can auction on the night that is an awesome way to support the cause. We have had great success raising much needed funds from donated items such as a day sail for 10 on Sydney Harbour, a week in a holiday home in Italy, massages, jewellery and many more. Your generous support will be acknowledged on the night and we would of course love for you to attend too so we can thank you in person!

We are very proud to say that we personally guarantee that every single cent raised goes to the school building project and none of the team involved use any of the raised money to pay for our expenses or time.

For more information, see: