The Western Suburbs Haven Inc. exists to support, empower and care for people living with HIV/AIDS, their partners, family and volunteer carers in the Greater West of Sydney.
We hold central the value of confidentiality, respect and the need for a holistic approach to sustain the wellbeing, independence and quality of life of people living with HIV/AIDS.
The Haven History
In 1986 Pat Kennedy became a carer for Community Support Network (CSN). On taking a young man to the HIV clinic at Westmead Hospital she was moved by the number of people, mostly young who arrived at the clinic even when they were not seeing a doctor. She found that these young people were struggling with an illness that little was known about and all expected certain death.
Having too much time to think about their limited future and few people to talk to only helped to increase their fear. Coming to the clinic allowed them to talk freely about those fears and remove themselves from the loneliness of the world they now lived in.
Under Pats guidance a group formed. She began arranging outings and as this proved a great success, she started to hold a regular social day at her home. Soon the group began to fundraise to assist with costs and the stronger ones assisted in the care of those extremely frail and dying.
While in the role of a carer for CSN and coordinating the Western Sydney area in a voluntary capacity, funding for a paid position became available in 1992 but she refused to apply preferring to remain a carer and she continued to manage the HIV positive group.
In 1993 circumstances saw her accepting the position of Coordinator with CSN (ACON) and in 1994 when The Aids Council of NSW (ACON) offered space to HIV/AIDS positive people on Fridays the group took up the offer and became what was known as The Friday Drop-in. By 1997, this space was no longer available and the group was faced with the challenge of trying to obtain a venue from which to continue to function.
Although Pat had ceased working for ACON she was still very much involved with the group. She arranged the hire of a small community hall in Parramatta on Fridays and the group continued to meet there for two years.
Although the space was very limited and they had no funding other than what was raised through raffles etc… they continued to provide a nutritious lunch and therapeutic massage and transport was provided for those unable to drive, or use public transport due to ill health. Information was readily shared about services in Western Sydney for those who did not access clinics or hospitals. Although this service was only available one day a week they met in Pats home on other days to arrange services.
When it became clear many PLWHA were in need of assistance in the home, Pat called a meeting to discuss what could be arranged. In response to carers who attended and were concerned they were not being given work by CSN she agreed to head a separate group. She met with the Friday Drop-in group and advised them she was unable to give the time needed to coordinate two groups. She assured them she would give them as much assistance as possible but felt very strongly that assistance in the home should take preference to the social aspect. The group of PLWHA then insisted they become one with the carers and The Western Suburbs Haven was born. They incorporated including our carers in the membership to ensure this was an organisation of people with HIV/AIDS, their carers and families.
The need for a small office where PLWHA could call in to discuss issues was very apparent. When Bethany, a project of the Catholic Church offering convalescent respite care from a house in Blacktown was closing their doors Pat approached the financial manager. She explained that The Haven had enough funds to rent the premises for six months in the hope a larger HIV organisation would take over and maintain the respite care. She told him they could pay the rent but could not afford to furnish. This conversation resulted in Bethany leaving all the furnishings behind and The Haven moved in.
The Haven is very much a self help organisation. They provide care for the sick and frail, however those in reasonable health needing respite or waiting to be housed must attend to their own physical needs. They encourage PLWHA to care for themselves and each other through education and social interaction. They offer a large range of services.
Pat Kennedy has been given the Order of Australia Medal for her work.
They are real people making a real difference.