Join Good Omen Goodeze (GOG) at Kambri for a ‘darn’ good time!

Want to be part of a community needlecraft group making comfort ‘goodies’ for hospital patients? Read on!

We spoke to Canberra resident Mary Liondi-Barlow who founded the charity Good Omen Goodeze (affectionately known as ‘GOG’), and Melanie Greenhalgh who manages ANU Thrive, about an exciting partnership that benefits a wide range of people across the Canberra community …

Mary, how did Good Omen Goodeze grow from a one-woman initiative?

“After knitting a beanie for a loved one undergoing chemotherapy, I began gifting my creations to patients and their families at the Canberra Hospital in about May 2017. A lot of my friends and colleagues and then people from the broader community started to join me. In October 2017 we decided we should give ourselves a name and form as an actual group. So it happened organically – I certainly didn’t set out to do anything like this!”

Melanie, how did Kambri at ANU become involved with GOG?

“I manage ANU Thrive which is within the wellbeing portfolio at ANU. GOG contacted us in September 2020 when they had received a small grant from the ACT government to provide knitting and crocheting workshops, specifically targeting university students. Then it got accelerated as we began to understand more about COVID and the fact that, particularly our international students, weren’t going to be able to leave campus. Traditionally, campus empties in November until February but suddenly we realised we were going to have quite a large cohort of people that were staying on campus and also in Canberra!”

Mary, how has the partnership with Kambri helped GOG?

“A great benefit has been Kambri’s support with the room we’ve been given to use for our meetings there. Prior to that we’d been meeting at the Canberra Hospital, but in May 2020 during COVID everything shut down, particularly volunteer services. People weren’t allowed in the hospital anymore so we ended up going online for a while, trying to keep our members connected with each other, and connected with GOG itself.”

“Then through a chance meeting of one of the ANU+ members at a different event, we found out about ANU Thrive, so it rolled on from there and they were able to support us with a space to hold the workshop. The workshops were so successful that Kambri offered us a larger room for the members to meet in, as well as for the students to join in. Having it on campus has been a fantastic opportunity because we had the students attending workshops but we also wanted to include them within GOG itself. The joy that our members get from passing on their skill and creativity – it’s an amazing experience.”

Melanie, how has the partnership with GOG helped Kambri?

“GOG was supported by the ACT Health Directorate which helped them supply 25 ‘Starter Packs’ for students that included knitting needles, crochet hooks, yarn, and patterns. The participants were able to keep them, which allowed them to continue to work on their project. We now have GOG conducting their regular working bees in the Marie Reay Teaching Centre, which Kambri at ANU have been so kind to offer as a free space.” 

“Holding these working bees gives students an opportunity to step away from study, to go and connect with other people that live in Canberra, and particularly older people as well. What’s really beautiful about it is the students are able to complete a project that is then used to support people who are in hospital. We know it’s good for the mental health and social aspects for the students, but then something concrete comes out of it as well.”

Mary, how many people usually attend the working bees at Kambri and what sort of items do volunteers make?

“Usually there’s up to 50 people, and they range in age from university students right through to ladies in their 90s!”

“Initially we mainly made beanies and blankets, but with so many people with so many different skills and ideas joining, it’s grown and I can’t tell you the number of different things that we actually make now! But we generally start beginners off with squares to knit together to make a blanket, so most of the new students who joined they’ve produced a square that we will eventually join together with everybody else’s square to create one large blanket to gift from the project to the ICU at Canberra Hospital.”

Melanie, what are some other benefits for ANU students involved with GOG?

“We’ve registered GOG as a volunteer organisation so any students that are participating in the project can also get acknowledgement of their volunteer hours, and if they do a certain amount that then goes on to their ANU transcript. More people are looking for the ‘whole person’, so students can say ‘This is also what I did to contribute to community’ and hopefully they’ll continue volunteering through their life beyond the campus.”

“During that period of time over summer we had so many international students come along, and it was just pure joy. Learning about each other, and we saw them swapping details and social media, so they could connect in other ways across the summer. That was for us, one of the major outcomes – we wanted to make sure people didn’t feel isolated and that they could talk with others that were experiencing similar type of feelings and emotions about not being able to go home. So, it was a very positive project!”

“The collaboration on this project was really lovely. Each party was saying ‘Let’s make this happen!’. There was a really beautiful, positive energy and willingness to make it work. It’s a brilliant example of community development which is supported by ANU Thrive, Kambri and GOG’s vision.”

Mary, what’s the key to the success of GOG? 

“I think it’s the fact that we created a community. The community that grew when I started it was important to my wellbeing and my mental health, and I can see that as we’ve moved along that’s still the main gift – we bring people together, all ages, all nationalities, from every walk of life. We have the local community and, obviously, our GOG members but we’ve got the university students at ANU, and they all come together. The joy that I get seeing all these people mix, having the time of their lives being creative and caring. For me, that’s one of the most important things, secondary to the beautiful items we make for patients and families who need them. It’s kind of twofold I think.”

Melanie, how can members of the Kambri community get involved?

One of the easiest ways is to jump on to the ANU Thrive social media pages: @ThriveANU on Facebook and @thrive_anu on Instagram.

Or you can email [email protected] or visit the website https://www.anu.edu.au/students/contacts/anu-thrive

For information on how you can become involved with the Good Omen Goodeze Community Threads Project, visit https://goodomengoodeze.org.au/community-threads-project/

For general information about Good Omen Goodeze visit their website https://goodomengoodeze.org.au or follow them on Facebook @GoGoodeze