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NECLP: A heartwarming story from Ballarat

15 February 2017 By LV


Constantine Oscuchukwa doesn’t lack leadership. He’s the Anglican priest at St Paul’s Bakery Hill Ballarat after all.

But Constantine sought mentorship through the New and Emerging Communities Leadership Program because he says leaders “never stop learning”. Specifically, he wanted to improve his business skills. 

Leadership Victoria paired him with local businessman Mike McCaw, a connection crucial to the establishment of the inspiring One Humanity Shower Bus project.

The bus offers homeless people a secure, comfortable place to wash themselves and their clothes. The resulting sense of dignity is vital, says Constantine. From dignity comes opportunity and connections. “We want to be able help learn what their needs are and refer them to the relevant services.

“That’s why we called it One Humanity. If one person is homeless in Ballarat everyone is diminished. We need to encounter people as human beings, not as ‘homeless’.”

Constantine says Mike helped "translate the dream into a reality".

“He broke the project down into a five-step process. Mike made the process clear, he set timelines, he explained and he encouraged me. We became a team then we became friends.”

Mike, Chairman of professional management business Five Pillars Consulting, calls it “converting a vision into a strategic plan”. He says Constantine had some leadership attributes from his church work, but he needed to learn some “harsh realities” about the wider world.

“The project was needed, it was worthwhile, but we also used it to develop Constantine’s leadership skills.”

It was part of a process to shift Constantine’s focus from the church to a “total community process.”

“You have to be prepared to put yourself out front. You have to have the confidence in yourself to approach people.” 

Next: communication. “Leaders must always have a compelling message and tell that story,” Mike says. One Humanity pointed out that a homeless person dies on Ballarat streets every two weeks. Then they told shocked citizens that there was something they could do about it via their project.

After that: planning, project management, finances, marketing, human resources… An effective leader must know a little about each area.

Mike and Constantine leveraged local businesses, who donated their time and expertise, reducing the total cost of the project to less than $10,000. The project’s city role model cost ten times that.

“At the start we had nothing but a bus,” Mike says. “No money, no people. Now we have 80 volunteers, $50,000 in the bank and the bus is built.”

Mike says that LV mentorship programs need commitment from both parties to succeed.

“Mentorship has to be a genuine partnership. You have to be learning from each other. None of us know it all. If it is one-sided, it will never work.”

Constantine urges anyone considering the NECL course to “go for it”.

“It's not just the good content of the course, it’s the people I met from all over the world, the stories of resilience... the generosity. The people of vision and influence with a commitment to making Australia a better place.”