When Alan Toohey received a call for help from Volunteers for Isolated Students’ Education (VISE), he imagined a commitment that might last two years. Twenty years on, the retired accountant is still making it possible for the charity to reach students in far-flung rural areas.
This year, his work was recognised with a Medal of the Order of Australia. The citation reads: “For service to the community, and to the education of children in rural and regional areas.”
“It is such an inspirational organisation,” says Toohey, who lives with wife Robyn also a retired accountant and now a milliner their two dogs, Gypsy and Chloe, and five alpacas on a rural property just outside Queanbeyan, New South Wales. “When I hear how brilliantly these kids improve their education I can’t help but be uplifted by it.”
As honorary treasurer it’s Toohey’s job to manage finances and provide VISE with advice on financial matters. Among these is how to pay for communications with executive members and the local area coordinators who manage family placements and ensure there are enough funds to subsidise the travel of volunteer tutors.
“I don’t think I do anything out of the ordinary,” he says. “I do it because it is close to my heart.”
VISE is a nationally registered, not-for-profit charitable organisation formed 21 years ago with the aim of providing educational assistance to students and families living in outer rural and remote areas. As well as volunteer teachers, it provides “angels” who help run properties so parents have time to get more involved in their child’s education.
I do it because it is close to my heart. Alan Toohey
VISE works mainly in conjunction with the Schools of the Air in New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory, says Toohey,
“Apart from receiving an annual contribution towards operating costs from the Queensland and Northern Territory governments’ education departments, currently A$8000 each, VISE relies on private and corporate donations to continue its operations,” he says. “Its primary source of funding over the past seven or so years has been from the Rural Education Program, the founding donors of which are Tim and Gina Fairfax, Baillieu and Sarah Myers and John and Janet Calvert-Jones.
“From a professional viewpoint, I have only had to apply my knowledge as a CPA and, at the same time, try to make our financial operations as simple as possible.”
To Toohey, that may not seem a formidable contribution, but to VISE and the children who ultimately benefit from its services, it is absolutely essential to keep the charity running successfully.
Tax-deductible donations can be made to VISE through the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal. VISE is always looking for new volunteers. If CPAs are interested in becoming a volunteer tutor, or angel, they can register on the website.