Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese REPORT
17 Nov 2011
This year Christmas Eve Mass for the more than 250 members of the Archdiocese of Sydney's Ephpheta Centre will be an open air celebration in the Centre's handsome new garden and outdoor covered area.
"We don't have a church of our own so holding Christmas Eve Mass here will be extra special and will also include a blessing for this wonderful new space," says Liz McDowell, administration assistant at the Centre which provides pastoral care, support, resources and a meeting point for Sydney's deaf Sydney community.
The landscaped garden and outdoor area is an initiative of the Archdiocese of Sydney, and replaces a large rough, overgrown uneven space at the Centre's Punchbowl headquarters.
With its purpose-built design, wide raised garden beds, paving, lawn, wide awning for shade and lush plantings of lilli pilli, Ephpheta's new garden and outdoor space would normally cost between $45,000 to $50,000. But thanks to Bovis Lend Lease project manager, Andrew Murphy and the generosity of tradesmen and Sydney companies, the ultimate cost came in below this figure.
"We knew the Centre had little in the way of funds, but thanks to donations of time, materials and equipment from the builders, tradesmen and consultants who had been involved with Bovis Lend Lease and the Archdiocese as part of the BER (Building the Education Revolution) scheme, we were able to create a new garden area for far less than the going rate," Andrew explains.
Although employees of Bovis Lend Lease give a day each year as volunteers on a wide number of community projects across Australia, work at the Ephpheta Centre was in addition to this, Andrew says, and gives full credit not only to his own team but the many others who helped make the handsome open space and garden at the Centre possible.
In particular he pays tribute to the Onsite group for their contribution with coordination, site management, payment of the pavers and other incidentals. Others who gave their time and skills included Riteway Carpentry, Sam the Paving Man, Nathan from Hanna Bros Plumbing & Excavations and Donna from Green Life Turn.
Sanbeep Amin of Design Inc and Alan Rose of GWA also gave support in terms of concept, structure and design.
"The space has made a huge difference to us and to our members. There has hardly been a day since it was completed we haven't used it," says Liz.
In fact less than 24 hours after the garden and landscaped outdoor area was finally completed Ephpheta was hosting a Wine and Cheese Night for 200 members to celebrate National Deaf Week.
Since then the space has been in non-stop use. Mothers and their kids who are part of the Centre's "Sign-n-Tots" group can now meet outside where the children can play as they learn to sign. The area set up with a big table is where regulars at the Centre's Coffee Club gather each month. Ephpheta's well known craft group also enjoy being outdoors as they create blankets, baby clothes, toys and cards for children's hospitals and for people in need.
"As well as the space, the awning has been fantastic and means no matter how hot, there is always shade and a place to sit," Liz says.
Before the garden and open area was constructed and landscaped, any outdoor function at the Ephpheta Centre had staff rushing to borrow shade cloths from local schools or rustling up chairs and benches.
Previously located at Flemington, the Centre was moved to its current premises at Punchbowl in April 2009.
"We had more room but as with any move, it took a while to settle in. Then we needed another year to work out just how the Centre was being used by members and what sort of improvements might be needed," Liz says.
The project began when the Sydney Archdiocese's Community Investment Program, which seeks to identify projects that provide mutual benefits and long term sustainable links for the Archdiocese, its agencies and corporate partners, met with the Ephpheta Centre.
In turn Stephen Lawlor and his team at the Centre got together with the Archdiocese and project manager for Bovis Lend Lease, Andrew Murphy, to determine what was needed and how best they could help.
Over the next few weeks the project evolved into the design and construction of a proper level outdoor area complete with landscaping, lighting, drip irrigation and an awning to protect those using the space from harsh sun and high temperatures.
"We wanted an outdoor area that could be used for a variety of purposes," says Nicole Clark, Interpreter for the Deaf and Assistant to Stephen Lawlor, Director of the Centre. "Many of our members travel considerable distances and for this reason we usually serve lunch after Mass. There are many other occasions where the outdoor space is particularly useful and we love that on a day to day basis, it provides a peaceful shaded area for members to spend time to sit, chat, share a coffee or cold drink and just be together."
Now with Christmas approaching, and with long summer days ahead, the outdoor space has become a favourite spot not only for members of the Ephpheta Centre but staff as well.
"We love it," says Nicole. "It's a really large area and in a few months when the lilli pilli has grown and softened the edges it will be even more beautiful. We all take turns tending the garden and enjoy all the native birds. But what we enjoy most is seeing the young ones playing in a safe area and riding their bicycles while their mothers enjoy the sunshine. And I particularly love it when there's a whole group outside, sitting around a table, laughing and signing non-stop and having the best time."http://www.sydneycatholic.org/news/latest_news/2011/20111117_1953.shtml