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Thursday, January 28, 2021

A year in review: August 2020

In Newcastle Weekly’s latest review of 2020, we’re looking back at the stories we brought to you in August.

Pipe band celebrates 75 years on VP Day

When you meet Val McEwan, you can tell he is a man full of stories and, with a winning grin on his face, he’d tell you them all if he had time.

However, one of the 91-year-old’s favourite memories happened 75 years ago when he, alongside his brother Jock and father Dave, took to the streets of Belmont as a pipe band to celebrate the end of World War II.

It was Victory in the Pacific (VP) Day and, after hearing a radio announcement declaring the end of war, the Clan McEwan Pipe Band and Dancers was born.

“It was Jock, [dad] and myself and about six others and we started the band because the war was finished,” Val said.

Read more about Val’s Pipe Band here.

Val McEwan (front) with Annette McEwan and her granddaughter Shae Harvey. Photo: Peter Stoop

Reena Bilen was open about her experience of motherhood – a period she described as one of the happiest, yet most challenging times of her life.

Newy with Kids
Newy with Kids founder Reena Bilen. Photo: Peter Stoop

Bilen started to research the area for things to do, experienced them with her family, and then wrote down her findings to help others.

That’s how the website Newy with Kids was born.

“At the beginning it was just me and started as a hobby because I’m not from here,” Bilen said.

“I didn’t find out about things until after the fact and I thought: ‘What if there was a website with information for parents about what to do with kids?’”

For more on Newy with Kids’ new direction, see the full story here.

School community rallies behind Mollyjane

It wasn’t your average Jeans for Genes Day at St Therese’s Primary School, New Lambton.

One of the campaign’s national ambassadors, Mollyjane, just so happens to be a student at the school.

Jeans for Genes Day is marked annually, with people from all walks encouraged to don denim in a bid to raise money and awareness for the Children’s Medical Research Institute.

“I felt really confident in myself helping to raise money to save children’s lives,” she said.

For more on Molljane’s campaign, read on.

Family appreciates father’s sacrifices

Charles Gashufi is a dad like no other and, in August, Newcastle Weekly told the story of the father that made sacrifices many of us would find hard to comprehend.

Charles and his wife Christiane had made a life for themselves in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – a war-torn country located in Central Africa.

But, in 2005, the family was forced to disband, with Charles fleeing to Burundi in East Africa with his disabled daughter Llana for treatment, while being faced with the additional task of trying to set up a life free from war for his family.

It left Christiane to manage newborn baby John, daughter Charlotte, and sons Chris and Moses by herself.

To hear about the family’s reunification, read on.

Charles Gashufi, middle, with his son John, wife Christiane, and daughter Charlotte at the family’s home in Fletcher. Photo: Peter Stoop

‘The Altar Boys’ launches amid renewed calls for answers

Survivors and their families joined Greens Senator David Shoebridge outside Sacred Heart Cathedral. Photo: Peter Stoop

The launch of an explosive book in Newcastle marked the start of fresh calls for a police investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of whistle-blowing Hunter priest, Father Glen Walsh.

Two dozen survivors, their families and supporters gathered before the backdrop of Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton, on Thursday afternoon, pledging to continue to fight for what they called “an overdue need for change”.

The crowd was joined by Greens Senator David Shoebridge, who said The Altar Boys, written by Suzanne Smith, had raised questions about the treatment Walsh was subjected to before his suicide.

Walsh took his own life in November 2017, two weeks before he was due to appear as a Crown prosecution witness in the case against Archbishop Philip Wilson, who was, at the time, the highest-ranking Catholic convicted of child sex abuse in the world.

Read about The Altar Boys’ book here.

Grandma writes book to help explain coronavirus

When Janice McKay’s grandchildren started asking her why COVID-19 meant they could no longer have their regular visits, the clinical psychologist decided to write them a book to explain it.

The pair, now aged eight and 10, had been coming to grandma’s Lake Macquarie home on a Monday and Tuesday since they were babies.

However, hearing words like ‘coronavirus’, ‘social-distancing’ and ‘self-quarantine’ meant grandma could only talk via Zoom.

Villony Virus Comes to Town was born out of Janice’s sadness at having to move their regular games of Snakes and Ladders to a screen.

To read more about Janice’s innovation, read on.

Maria’s journey from chef to charity boss

Ann-Maria Martin dreamt of living in a region where everyone feels warm and safe, is clothed and fed, and has a roof over their heads.

For the past three-and-a-half years, the single mother has fought hard to make this dream a reality for hundreds of Hunter residents.

‘Maria’, as she prefers to be known, is the founder of Survivors R Us, a Cardiff-based charity offering support to people fleeing domestic violence, unemployment and homelessness, in fact her not-for-profit charity prides itself on being available to anyone in need.

For the full story, visit our website.

Ann-Maria Martin is offering a range of support through her charity Survivors R Us. Photo: Peter Stoop

Face masks a new challenge for deaf community

In August, the Newcastle Weekly brought to light the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has raised for the Hunter’s deaf community.

For The Deaf Society and Deaf Services Manager Leonie Jackson patience is the best first step when communicating with a deaf person while wearing a face mask.

Her message comes as people have been encouraged to wear face masks where social distancing was not possible, creating new challenges for the state’s deaf community.

While many deaf people rely on more than just sign language to communicate, masking facial expressions can increase anxiety associated with conversation.

Read on about the challenges COVID posed to the deaf community.