When John and Justine Perkins lost their 8 months old baby girl to a rare disease, life came crashing down with tragedy. The couple immensely sad, wanted to make the world a better and happier place for kids like their daughter Olivia. The time of devastation thus brought a new purpose and meaning in the lives of John and Justine who looked forward to enhance the lives of other families. They founded the charity Touched by Olivia. In the short time that the foundation has been running, Olivia has touched many lives and the parents believe that Olivia will continue to make a difference in the lives of many. The job undertaken by the parents of Olivia has now become her legacy. This is a foundation for people who are disabled in one way or another. The foundation builds playgrounds for people who have disabilities so that they can enjoy and play even though not normally. There is a message by Olivia’s younger sister who now lives to be eight years old, on the website, where she exclaims the family’s wish for people to live a normal life. Had Olivia been alive today, she would have been disabled and show would have had to go to the hospital frequently.
To make the world a healthier and happier place for kids like Olivia
Vascular Birthmarks Research and Support is a Fellowship that was established in 2009. The area of disease that Olivia died from is Vascular Birthmarks and with the help of 1 million Dollars raised by the foundation, the Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick is now a centre of worldwide expertise in the disease. Currently the disease is not curable but the foundation hopes that after awareness, support programs, focus groups and medical experts, cure would come too.
Livvi’s place inclusive playspaces
Playing is a fundamental part of childhood. It is a child’s right to enjoy and play according to the United Nations. Social inclusion through play can be encouraged through designing special playspaces. For this, Touched by Olivia brings together the corporate sector, community and the government together. Based on Universal Design Principles, play areas are designed and made to change the way the Australian society plays. The purpose is to make the disabled children feel worthwhile and an inclusive part of the society. The unique playspace that is created by the foundation is done so for children with all kinds of abilities and ages. Such kind of playspace needed input from the world’s best creative designers, advocates, medical specialists, practitioners, leading academics and NGOs. Touched by Olivia joined with all these in 2012 to give shape to the dreams of the Perkins family. Many playspaces in Australia are unable to meet the needs of kids. In order to make playspaces that are truly inclusive, many factors need to be taken into account.
The play areas are located in many places all over the country. The areas are also being constructed in certain schools like Saint Marks Public School, Auburn Public School and Miranda Public School.
This is another social project taken up by the family. It is a social enterprise in which a cafe is installed at playspaces but people who are employed in these cafes are specifically those with disabilities. This makes them feel socially inclusive and acceptable. They can engage with people that are normal and in the process they gain vocational skills, training and integration with the community. Touch by Olivia works with local operators at each site and every cafe is owned by the foundation itself. For every coffee that is sold, the operators make a donation to Touched by Olivia.
Why Touched by Olivia?
Whilst we know that the death of Olivia in the Perkins family had laid the motivational foundation for the organization, there are many other reasons for the couple to think of the foundation. There is a lot of statistical evidence for what the couple is doing. 24% of Australian children are obese which calls for places where they can burn the calories, or, otherwise die of cholesterol related problems. 62% of families in Australia have kids at home while both parents work. This leaves kids with fast food and burger options as eatables. Over the last two decades the Australian society has experienced 45% increased in living of higher density. New South Wales in Australia sees the lowest spending of per capita income in the name of playgrounds and parks which leaves kids in front of TVs, computers and tablets. One of the leading causes of death in kids below 14 years of age is heart disease. These statistics are alarming and necessitate the importance of parks and playgrounds for kids. Physical activity is utmost important which is why Touched by Olivia is consistent about building new parks and playgrounds. The horrific outcome of the above statistics, if left uncontrolled, can only mean shorter lifespans of kids than their parents. This will have happened for the first time in the history of mankind. Therefore the foundation spends on kids before it is too late. A dollar spent now would be worth 14 Dollars in the future. Before spending in the name of health becomes too expensive, it is important for organizations like Touched by Olivia to play their part.
Donations are accepted by cash and in kind. Other foundations and corporate social responsibility wings of the companies have an excellent opportunity to donate for the good of kids in Australia, in the form of Touched by Olivia. Tered levels of benefits are provided by the foundation for different kinds of sponsorships. Different sponsorships target different areas for example events, playgrounds and projects. National partnerships make it possible for Touched by Olivia to continue to operate. The money raised goes directly towards the intended projects of the foundation. Donations also cover the costs of administration. Livvi’s Place projects across the whole of Australia are supported with the help of donations like these.