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Mission Champion: Mary Chow

Volunteer Mary in swimming pool leaning on edge

23 May 2018

Take a stroll to Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre on a Friday and you might meet Mary Chow.

Each week, Mary volunteers with the Mission teaching our clients how to swim as part of our Kick Start health and wellbeing program.

Kick Start providers tailored case management support to people to help them participate in sport and recreation while addressing their physical and mental health and their drug and alcohol use.

The program supports our clients to be independent and build positive experiences within the community, from learning about healthy diets to joining the local gym.

Mary's Sacred Heart Mission story

Mary is a lifetime volunteer. She lived in Maryborough for most of her adult life with five kids and now 20 grandkids, but always found time to help with the Parents and Friends Association and the Mothers’ Club in Maryborough.

Her Sacred Heart Mission story started back in 2005, after she moved to Melbourne.

“I had few hours to spare and wanted to give back to the community here, so I signed up to volunteer in the Dining Hall,” she says.

Mary volunteered at the Mission until 2008, when a family illness sadly meant she had to take a short hiatus. Mary’s granddaughter, Leila Rose, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and passed away at 21 months old. Mary dedicated herself to the Leila Rose Foundation based in Warrnambool, which assists families affected by rare childhood cancer, and continues to volunteer there today.

When Mary returned to the Mission, she started volunteering at our Hands on Health clinic. She was there for about four years until last year when she found out about the swimming program.

Since then, Mary has been in the pool each week, teaching clients how to swim. Though most know the basics, she currently has one client who had never swam before.

“It started with teaching her how to float. Now she’s swimming 25 metres!” Mary says.

For Mary, the most important part of the swimming program is that clients can go and enjoy themselves. She loves to see clients improve their confidence - both in and out of the pool.

“It’s great to get in the water and have fun for an hour. Quite a community has gathered around the swimming program, I think it helps people to be more social,” she says.

As for her own swimming journey, Mary learnt in Port Fairy as a child. She has always loved being in the water and the feeling of freedom it brings.

“I don’t have any qualifications - I’ve never won a race, I just like teaching people how to swim,” she says.

The Kick Start program supports a holistic approach to recovery. Better physical health can promote our clients’ sense of self-worth and self-esteem, which leads to improved mental health and engagement in other wellbeing activities.

We rely on dedicated volunteers like Mary, as well as donations from the community, to keep this program running.


Sacred Heart Mission respectfully acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we operate our services. We pay our respects to the ongoing living cultures of Aboriginal peoples, and to Elders past, present and future.
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