Aside from the first four letters, long-term supporter Kevin Welsh saw the potential to merge his passions, and has been putting his green thumb to good use for the last 17 years, growing his garden to raise funds for Plan International’s work around the globe.
Kevin first crossed paths with Plan International in 1976, while attending an APEX club conference in Grafton, where a Plan International staff member presented. Kevin was so inspired by our organisation’s mission that he signed up to sponsor a child then and there, much to his wife Jan’s surprise. “When I came home and said to Jan, ‘I’ve just sponsored a child’ she was a bit taken aback, but when I explained it to her she was really supportive.”
44 years on, and Kevin and Jan have sponsored 10 children through Plan International. They’ve signed petitions, donated to appeals and, quite incredibly, have raised over $200,000 through community fundraising.I would like girls to get access to education. That is the key to doing well in life, having a good education — from that they can learn so much in other areas that will help them to help their communities.
“It all happened pretty much by accident,” explains Kevin, “I was always interested in plants and had quite a variety of plants here in the garden.”
It was Jan, concerned by his multiplying collection of cacti, that inspired him to get involved in community fundraising. Kevin decided to sell his cacti at the local market, and donate any profits to Plan International. “So I went off to a market at Scotts Head and sold quite a few,” he says. “I also had some succulents and sold some of those. So instead of getting rid of plants, I started to get more!” (we’re sure Jan was thrilled!). “I started to do other markets and it just gradually grew from there.”
That market in Scotts Head back in 2003 was the first of 450 markets that Kevin attended over the next 17 years. Rain or shine, he’d be there. “I always saw a need. At 4.30am I’d be out of bed and by 5.30am I’d be leaving home. I’d have the truck packed the day before.”
And though Kevin’s well-tended plants were the draw card — orchids were his best-seller — he made sure his customers knew where their money was going. “In the early years, nearly every plant had a Plan International brochure tucked into the bag with it. A lot of people got to know the money was going to charity and made a point of supporting my stand rather than another one. People often asked me about Plan International and what they did, and it generated quite a bit of support. I think I probably recruited quite a few people over the years!”
Aside from being a natural at fundraising, Kevin has worn many hats during his lifetime, from working as a banana grower, to owning a storage unit business, and he even did a stint as an insurance salesman in between! He and his wife Jan have always been very active in their community and Kevin has won awards for his Rotary and APEX Club work. Kevin was even named Australia Day Citizen of the Year in 2002.
A large portion of Kevin’s garden has been dedicated to what he calls his ‘Plan plants’. “I had about five shade houses, and the plants that can grow in the sun were out on stands,” he explains. And though his wife supports his pursuits, unfortunately she doesn’t share his green thumb, something Kevin found out the hard way. “She decided to help in the garden and pulled out all this grass, and it turned out to be my freesias!”
With the physical demands of 4.30am starts and market stall setups becoming increasingly difficult, Kevin recently retired from the markets, but not without reaching his (ever-growing) target. “[Before the first market] I thought I’d probably get a $1000 dollars to send off to Plan International, and then, having done that, I thought I could probably raise $10,000 dollars. The goal kept going ahead of me, I could never catch up to it.”
But catch up he did, and a recent donation of $9,000 was the final instalment in Kevin’s goal to fundraise an astounding $200,000 for Plan International. “I had no idea I’d raise this sort of money when I started,” he admits.
Though his weekends are now market-free, Kevin and Jan still sponsor two children through Plan International (one in Peru and one in Bolivia) and after all these years, we wondered why they are still so passionate about supporting our work around the globe.
“I believe in what you are doing” says Kevin simply. “I would like girls to get access to education. That is the key to doing well in life, having a good education — from that they can learn so much in other areas that will help them to help their communities.”
And when asked if he has any advice for budding community fundraisers, Kevin says it’s all about ‘stick-ability’. “Just stick at it. Keep your goals in mind and carry on. There are all sorts of ideas people can come up with, it just means following them and persevering with them.”
We’d like to add that finding something you are already passionate about helps too. In Kevin’s case, his penchant for plants grew much more than just his garden.
It’s thanks to the contribution of amazing supporters like Kevin and Jan that we are able to continue our work towards building a more equal world, where children can live healthy and happy lives and where girls can take their place as equals.