Let’s Recap on 2020!

Dan Ferguson
Oct 23 · 5 min read
Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

January, named for the two-faced Roman god Janus, is a time to look back on the year that has been, and ahead at the year to come. In the wake of a tumultuous twelve months, the team at Helping Group are taking a moment to reflect on the good things, the milestones we reached, the ways in which we flourished and will continue doing so. This is our 2020 in review.

Founded by childhood friends Daniel Ferguson and Kasenya Turner in response to the catastrophic bush fires at the beginning of the year, Helping Homes partnered evacuees with Good Samaritans able to offer shelter. A straightforward and free web platform, it found quick success, far exceeding this small organisation’s aspirations. We hoped it might help 100 evacuees; it found refuge for 4000.

In March, the fires were burning out. As the smoke cleared, the devastation became more measurable, more stark. We made a trip to the front lines, to distribute supplies, and to talk with locals about what they were going through. Daniel spoke to The Courier, Stock & Land, and StudentEdge. By these means, word of Helping Homes grew, and we felt encouraged to do more, to find more ways to give back to our communities.

When the coronavirus pandemic took hold, isolation stoked the coals of our creativity. Two new initiatives took form: Support Them and Our Move. The first, a digital marketplace to showcase the best of rural Australia; its products as well as its stories. Support Them’s central ambition: to keep small sellers in business after the havoc of the fires, and during the ongoing lock downs of a pandemic year. Our Move, in this early stage, was earmarked for COVID-19 relief and response, though it would become something different in later stages of planning. With these new initiatives in mind, Helping Homes became Helping Group, an organisation creating digital solutions to local problems. Helping Homes, then, was the first initiative of many.

New ideas meant more work, and necessitated more helpers. In the following months, Helping Group brought onboard volunteers for Communications and Social Media, Business, Graphic Design, Tech, and more. We put our heads together — virtually, of course — to make improvements to Helping Homes, and to create Support Them. Meanwhile, a felicitous connection was made with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and an invitation extended for Helping Group to present at the Momentum Series, a conference showcasing young Aussie innovators. After more than a month of intensive preparation, we presented Helping Group’s hopes and dreams, neatly packaged. Not only was our talk a hit, it piqued the interest of potential financial partners, and so brought our dreams closer to reality.

In the elated afterglow of our success at Momentum, we dove back into the nitty gritty work, finalizing the establishment of Helping Group as a multi-initiative organisation. Our first website launched, our first recruitment drive was underway, and we continued to make media appearances.

We also restructured. Our Move was too late to the coronavirus relief party; we could not bring anything new to the table. So in its final stage of planning, Our Move became a bush fire preparedness and response network. Working similarly to Helping Homes, Our Move would be a noticeboard-style website connecting people who need help with bush fire preparation and cleanup tasks to people offering their time, and the right skills. Work began on the foundations of an exciting new platform. The culmination of our restructure occurred at the end of July, when a vote decided that Helping Group would incorporate, and become a charity.

In response to our recruitment drive, which reached out to student organisations and ethical job boards, more than 30 applicants interviewed with us in late August. Many bright talents were welcomed aboard, bolstering the Media and Communications and Graphic Design teams. Just in time, too, as more new initiatives were in the works. What’s My Impact: a service providing clear, unbiased information about where banks, super funds, and insurance companies put our money. And our Trapeze project, flashcards to teach tech skills to the very young and to the elderly, keeping in mind those living in low or no internet environments. Helping Group’s initiatives run digitally; we hope never to exclude anyone without digital access or ability.

In September, we elected our first board, and continued welcoming new volunteers, doubling in size in less than two months. With Helping Homes hibernating in the bush fire off-season, and many new projects working steadily towards their launch, our larger-than-ever team hunkered down and took care of business (and design, social media, research, marketing… you get the idea).

Support Them formed partnerships with regional tourism departments, and began reaching out to small businesses, guiding them through selling on our platform. And looking beyond our borders, we conferred with a Papua New Guinean local to look into taking Support Them to PNG and the wider Pacific. Our Move was getting prepared too, to launch in the new year. And yet another new project: Rainbow Restorations, a set of trading cards featuring historical LGBTQ+ figures, to be distributed at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival in the new year. Meanwhile, Helping Homes was launching its pre-registration campaign, which meant ramping up its social media presence, and contacting the previous year’s members to remind them to sign up again. Things were bearing fruit, and new ideas kept sprouting, finding room.

Toward the end of a surreal year, there was one final excitement in store for us: DFAT, enthusiastic about Helping Group’s work, invited us to make a presentation to diplomats and business leaders at a New Colombo Plan Scholars event. There, we unveiled our plan to roll out Support Them in Papua New Guinea, and we could not have hoped for a better reception. With the support of so many significant community figures, we found ourselves on an invariably upward trajectory, with seemingly no limit to the positive change we can make.

With more volunteers than could fit on the team page of the Helping Group website, we concluded the year with a digital upgrade. Beautiful new design. Our mission, vision, values, set out in detail. A list of our vacant positions, the door is always open. And a team page featuring every one of our fantastic helpers. We are transitioning into 2021 as a team: well-choreographed, passionate, skilled; committed to the betterment of our communities and of ourselves. 2021 will be a busy year. We couldn’t be more ready, and we can’t wait to see you there.

Helping Group

Combating current events with digital solutions so we can connect and thrive together.

Helping Group

Combating social change with technological solutions. Helping Group started with one problem and one idea for a solution. Now we are an organisation committed to developing initiatives to unite us all for whatever we may face.

Dan Ferguson

Written by

A solutions architect and software developer with an understanding of holistic design; seeking to create digitally enabled change for good.

Helping Group

Combating social change with technological solutions. Helping Group started with one problem and one idea for a solution. Now we are an organisation committed to developing initiatives to unite us all for whatever we may face.