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Tom’s focus on half the sky
At 76 years of age, married to Cecily for 51 years and with four children and seven grandchildren, Tom Dumaresq has come to the conclusion that “the saviour of the world is women”.
Tom has been a CFA member for 60 years and was the captain of NW Mooroopna for 14 years. He’s still a volunteer on a mission with his sights set on improving the lot of women in Tamil Nadu, southern India.
Thirty years ago he was one of the foundation members of Assisi Aid Projects after learning about a nun in India who set up a dairy farm to ensure babies were fed nutritiously. The organisation’s motto is ‘Empowering change’.
Tom bought his daughter a ticket to India after she completed her nursing studies and he followed not far behind. He has since travelled to India eight times in the intervening years and remains on the board of this registered organisation which has raised about $350,000 a year for Tamil Nadu and Cambodian women’s groups.
“We have 30 widows’ groups in villages running cottage industries such as dress making and pottery and we advise them,” said Tom. “We also educate them and we educate girls so they can get on in life. Other groups of 20 women run little supermarkets, make soap and have cottage gardens. Some also make chimneys because smoke in houses gives them a hell of a lung problem.
“We have 1400 standalone groups down south now with 28,000 women involved.
“I’m very wrapped up in it because we’re getting results.
“We had a wonderful father and he brought us up to do something for somebody,” the ethos which surely lies at the heart of all volunteering.
Tom recommends the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, named for the Mao Zedong quote that “Women hold up half the sky”.
This isn’t the end of volunteering for this retired farmer, however. Tom also drives leukemia patients to Melbourne for treatment every second week and drives a bus for the local retirement village every week. He’s a Justice of the Peace and a member of both Landcare and the Goulburn Valley Tree Group.
Photo by Luke Commisso.