Michael Hawthorne’s experiences in East Africa have held him in good stead for the work he’s now doing with South Eastern Community Connect (SECC).

He recently joined our team as the Community Strengthening Team Leader, a role which enables him to support his ageing parents back in Australia.

But Michael leaves behind a legacy in Kenya which continues to impact lives.

A three-year contract with an Australian organisation in the region turned into a 15-year journey he’ll never forget.

And this journey included:

• Training under Dr Stephanie Burns, an expert in adult learning and executive coaching;
• The upskilling of teenage mums and sex workers to support them in finding employment;
• Co-founding Evergreen Plains Farm & Eco Lodge, as well as Friends of Rang’I, the Strategic Empowerment Program, and Happy Villages Organisations.

Michael has been successful in receiving grants from both Australian and international philanthropists, and has designed and implemented a range of projects focused on renewable energy.

Sharing the vision

Through visioning exercises and other proven techniques, Michael has worked to tackle issues surrounding extreme poverty and unemployment, health (such as working to prevent HIV AIDS), and much-needed infrastructure in the region.

Helping people stay alive due to simple changes such as using their medications and leading a healthy lifestyle saw the HIV AIDS infection rate drop from 80 per cent to less than 20 per cent during Michael’s time working in Kenya.

The farm and eco lodge has also been a great location for education and training in such areas as agriculture and micro-enterprise.

The company has even produced its own tea label, jams, chilli sauces, soaps and body lotions.

A growing impact

SECC is looking forward to seeing how Michael’s skill-set can benefit the region of south-east Sydney.

“The core values SECC is founded on are similar to what we founded our organisations on in Kenya,” Michael says.

“Some of the ideas we came up with there could definitely be replicated, especially in areas of micro-finance and entrepreneurial training, along with social impact training.”

Michael, who’s based at The SECC Community Hub in Mascot, is already enjoying taking part in SECC’s Community Gardening Project and The Community Kitchen, among other initiatives.

“It would be great to see more people growing their own produce locally instead of going and buying everything in the supermarket,” he says.

“My passion is for the community and the environment, and I love seeing people become better equipped to make a difference to the world around them.

“I’m really excited about my next chapter.”

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