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Twenty years at the service of life, Pregnancy Assistance celebrates milestone

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(left to right) Pregnancy Assistance Founding Member Sharon Balsarini; Eugene Wynyard with his wife, Coordinator Lara Wynyard; Chairman Eric Jas; Mercedes College student Jackie Stacey and her daughter Shanice at the Pregnancy Assistance 20th Anniversary Gala Dinner. Photo: Monica Defendi Photography

By Marco Ceccarelli

It was a festive and unifying gala dinner that recently brought together volunteers, founders, counsellors, benefactors, families and friends who in the past 20 years have been involved with, or helped by, Pregnancy Assistance.

An independent Catholic organisation initiated in 1996 by now Emeritus Archbishop Barry Hickey, Pregnancy Assistance has for two decades relentlessly provided compassionate care, as well as emotional, practical and informational support to women in need throughout their pregnancy and post birth.

The organisation’s free and conīŦdential services have been available to all people irrespective of religion, race, demographic or personal values. It is estimated that Pregnancy Assistance helps more than 1000 women and their families every year.

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(left to right) Chairman of Pregnancy Assistance Eric Jas with his wife, Lisette Jas, and Southern River MP Peter Abetz with his wife Jenny Abetz at the Pregnancy Assistance 20th Anniversary Gala Dinner. Photo: Monica Defendi Photography

“The credit for having reached this significant milestone needs to go to those who have worked for this remarkable organisation over the past 20 years,” Chairman of Pregnancy Assistance, Eric Jas, said in a recent interview with The eRecord.

“I was only made Chair in December 2014 and sometimes feel like I am receiving credit that I don’t deserve,” he added.

Mr Jas gave the opening speech at the 20th Anniversary Gala Dinner, held at Perth’s Historic Pagoda Ballroom on Saturday, 17 September and attended by 130 people.

His words were followed by those of Founding Chairman, Brian Peachey, current Coordinator, Lara Wynyard and Secretary of the Board, Laura Craig. Two video clips were introduced: one of Initiator of Pregnancy Assistance, Emeritus Archbishop Hickey sending his greetings (while on travel) and another of five women whose lives have been positively impacted by Pregnancy Assistance.

The evening, which Mr Jas said had a very unifying quality for volunteers who, due to alternating shifts, may not see each other on a regular basis, also featured a silent auction that saw more than 50 donated items up for sale.

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Grateful beneficiary of Pregnancy Assistance Juliana George (mother of Amayiah), Pregnancy Assistance volunteers Camille O’Brien holding baby Amayiah and Board Secretary Laura Craig. Photo: Monica Defendi Photography

All proceeds from the auction, alongside monetary donations, went to support Pregnancy Assistance achieve its principal objective – to provide relief of poverty, suffering, distress, misfortune, destitution, or helplessness for pregnant women of all sections of the public.

“Pregnancy Assistance is a great organisation because it is life-affirming, focussing on the well-being of mother, baby and any partners/parents involved. It is an organisation that, I believe, aims at continuing the mission of Christ when He was here on earth in its particular field,” Mr Jas said.

“The essence of our mission is not to lecture people, nor is it about suggesting what decision they should make. It is more about providing independent and honest information, a listening ear and an understanding heart. ….it is about conveying the truth with love, which is what Jesus did, and doing that in a non-judgmental manner.”

“I find it important for people to know that Pregnancy Assistance also provides counselling to women and men who have lost their baby, either by miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion. Whether it happened recently or years ago, it may be worth visiting Elizabeth’s House and talk with one of our professional counsellors.”

The father of five, whose wife Lisette also volunteers as a professional counsellor at Pregnancy Assistance three days a week, often referred the organisation as an instrument that facilitates God’s work and emphasised its primary objective as one of touching people’s hearts.

“When people come with problems, they need to speak to someone, and there are many women that have to make very hard decisions. We are there to not judge them or force them into any decision but to support them, tune into their problems and give them independent information.

“It’s a spiritual battle which comes with a lot of prayer and trust. Ultimately every volunteer at Pregnancy Assistance is an instrument of God.”

Looking ahead, Mr Jas is aware of Pregnancy Assistance’s need for growth in an evolving and changing society. To describe his vision, he borrowed the Second Vatican Council term “aggiornamento” – Italian for “bringing up to date”.

“Aggiornamento is essential. It is just like the wind changing direction from time to time. A sailing boat then needs to adjust its sails in order to maintain the same direction while making progress,” he said.

“We are currently formulating a vision statement which will assist in creating a clear direction. We feel that Pregnancy Assistance is led by the Holy Spirit in this regard. We follow His direction and adjust our sails accordingly.”

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Baby Amayiah was born thanks to the care and support his mother received from Pregnancy Assistance. Photo: Monica Defendi Photography

Pregnancy Assistance receives between 100 and 170 client contacts per month. The organisation is non-profit and relies solely on donations for its survival.

For more information and to donate please visit www.pregnancyassist.com.au/donate