Tell us about you?
I’m Francine Thomas (the one in yellow) and I have lived in Macau SAR China for last 13 years originally from Melbourne, Australia. I am a Board member of the Cradle of Hope Association Macau. A charitable organisation which cares for 80 abandoned or abused babies and children in its two “homes”.
Cradle of Hope, Home for babies and children 0 to 6 years and Fountain of Hope, Home which cares for children 6 years to 18 years.
How did you get to where you are?
In Australia I started my career as a pediatric nurse and over time progressed through to becoming CEO of a small hospital in Melbourne, Cliveden Hill Private Hospital. During that time I had a 2 year stint working in the Public sector working on an Aged Care Assessment Team before moving back into hospitals. After a move interstate, I again went back into the Public Sector working for the then Department of Health and Ageing in Quality and Accountability.
Little did I realize that those different jobs prepared me so well for the next stage of my life living in another country. When I moved to Macau, I was unable to get a work visa so I decided to do volunteer work. I joined the International Ladies club of Macau (ILCM ) a group of women that supports new expats assimilate into Macau and support local charities. There they told me about Cradle of Hope the only Home in Macau for abandoned babies. I finally found it, knocked on the door and the Director Marjory Vendramini said “Oh you are a nurse, I am desperate, my babies and the kids are getting sick all the time – can you help with Infection Control?”…and I never left.……… So much work to do, all my Australian working experience was invaluable. Working with the staff we developed policies, procedures, and clinical outcomes. Marjory is a wonderful visionary and many hours are spent planning and trying to develop the Homes to accommodate the changing needs and number of our children.
Cradle of Hope Association started 21 years ago when, Marjory, the Director and her husband Jorge Vendramini moved to Macau from Brazil where they had looked after street kids and wanted to continue their work here. After 6 months there appeared to be no street kids. Just as they thought they would return to Brazil a photo appeared in the paper of a baby who had been thrown away and found by a cleaner in a rubbish bin in one of the parks. He was wrapped in plastic and was being eaten by the rats. They had started to eat his elbow and the cleaner heard the crying. At that time there were no Homes for babies in Macau. Marjory saw this photo, rang the social welfare and 9 days later that little baby came home to Marjory and Jorge.
Today she has 80 babies and children. I have been privileged to share 13 years of this, at times heart breaking, many times joyful but always hard work with Marjory and all her staff.
What is the best thing that has happened to your on your journey with the Homes?
For years it was so very tough to raise funds to keep the children’s Homes going and to give the kids what they need to heal. We could barely survive and it was a continual nightmare of worry. In the mean time we were getting more children in need. Then 5 years ago we had a visit from Nikolas the baby who had been thrown away . His adopted parents are Swedish and he has lived there all his life. We had a welcome lunch along with his parents and all those people involved in his care 15 years previously. There was the doctor who operated on his elbow, the nurse who looked after him, the physiotherapist, the social worker who arranged the inter-country adoption, the lawyer, Marjory her staff and friends who helped care for him. Marjory welcomed him and his family and Nikolas this Chinese young man whose first language is Swedish, stood up to speak to us all. He glanced around, turned to Marjory, looked at her for a moment and in English said “Thank you for giving me a second chance at my life.”
All of us were overwhelmed at this simple statement…….
Unanimously we declared never again would we think of giving up. The fight to survive, the fight to give our kids what they needed would never cease. Here was living proof of why.
What’s next for Fran and Cradle of Hope?
Our next step is to make sure our kids who are 18 years old and have to leave our Home, their Home, are supported either in further education, or job training so they can secure their own future and live a happy productive life.
Favourite holiday is to spend a month in January at our holiday house at Cape Woolamai on Phillip Island. It takes me 5 minutes to get to a stunning surf beach and I can surf every day or fossick in the rock pools or sit on the balcony and relax with great local food and wine, family and friends.
Cradle of Hope Association