A stable family life is a great cause
Retired Sydney builder Ron Natoli is chair of the board at The Farm. He believes we all have a duty to care for people in need and should respond to opportunities to help. Here, the father of four and grandfather of seven explains his involvement with The Farm.
“I had been a builder for more than 40 years when I learned that a priest friend was having problems building a childcare centre on a dump site on an island in The Philippines.
My wife Maria and I went over to try to help him resolve the issues.
Witnessing the reality of life in a country where poverty has been officially put as affecting 20 per cent of the population was the beginning of an incredible journey for both of us.
We were able to help with the childcare centre, and the work of that priest, Fr. John Iacono, has resulted in thousands of children being given a chance of a normal life through education.
I have found that once we become involved in the Lord’s work, it doesn’t just end with a simple solution to one project.
The success of the childcare centre led to finding solutions for their parents.
Living on a dump is the lowest level a family can reach and results from poverty and lack of work skills. It is often exacerbated by lack of self-esteem which allows usurpers to take advantage of the disadvantaged.
More than 20 years and three villages later, over 2,500 people (comprising 400 families) are all employed and living in comfortable homes. And their children are educated.
While I would like to claim some credit for the work, I am realistic enough to understand that what has happened is beyond human achievement and bears all the signs of the Holy Spirit.
In a similar way, I have seen the Holy Spirit moving in the development of The Farm and I have no doubt that Kate Cleary is following a clear direction she was given by the Lord through the Holy Spirit.
I was aware of the property that Kate now uses and whenever I drove by was saddened to see it deteriorating. The property is unique yet limited in potential due to its location. But when I was introduced to Kate I knew it was perfect for what she wanted to establish.
The Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn was interested in the project as it fills a need in the community and they generously supported Kate. With my involvement as a builder, and the generosity of many Canberra-based organisations and people, the property was refurbished and is now established as a centre for women in need.
The key to any successful venture is bringing the right people together, and Kate’s enthusiasm and philosophy for The Farm seems to have touched many caring people who have contributed time, resources, talent and money.
Australians are by nature generous and caring, as we have seen so often, and so recently with the response to the drought and bushfires. This has been an inspiration to me as I have seen the spontaneous outpouring of energy for The Farm.
Most of the work has been done by volunteers and has involved thousands of hours of effort, but the attitude and devotion of everyone concerned leaves no doubt that we are working with the Lord.
Converting buildings to a post-rehab establishment was wrought with countless difficulties and problems and required the involvement of many people with diverse skills and knowledge.
As with our overseas projects, at every turn the right people seemed to appear. No matter who we needed or what skills were required, someone would appear. Some people may explain this as coincidence, but I learned many years ago that when we pray and work with the Lord, there is no such thing as coincidence.
Working with Kate on The Farm and now with the clients, we can see that many lives will be changed.
More importantly, it is not only the lives of the clients that are changing but the lives of everyone involved are being enhanced.
I am pleased that my family and their children, our grandchildren, have been involved in this project. Their enthusiasm and the concern they show for people in need is not only a learning experience for them, but helps the clients to see that families can work together.
For women who have not known a stable family life, they can see how they can live with, and enjoy their own children, who they are working to be united with.”