Cana Communities Farm helps wounded heal

By Jordan Grantham, 17 August 2018
Cana Farm, Orchard Hills. Photo: Cana Communities

The welcoming Cana Communities Farm is set in Sydney’s sleepy Orchard Hills. The farm provides a safe space where people from all walks of life are able to spend meaningful time together, share a meal and develop friendships.

“Our special care at the Farm is to provide hope, love and support for people who have suffered significant traumas,” Danielle Seisun, farm manager, said.

“Our simple belief is when we know we are liked and have a support base, we are able to make better choices. In community, we are able to develop greater understandings of one another and ourselves.”

“It is a place of warmth and belonging where we are all able to develop a greater sense of self and humanity.”

Last year 33 people were in transitional employment at the farm, who may have experienced significant traumas including homelessness, addiction, mental illness, incarceration and displacement.

The farm is both a community space and a transitional workspace for some of the Cana community. The employment model provides a gentle transitional pathway to employment, providing hope and empowerment, while attending to the entire needs of the person.

Soon a general care nurse will join the farm each week from St Vincent’s Hospital, Darlinghurst, further improving the health of community members with an ongoing medical care relationship.

700 volunteers, no paid staff and a whole lot of heart make this unique charity possible.

“That’s why I love it so much, it means every cent goes to support those who need it most,” Danielle said.

The Cana Communities began as De Porres House, Surry Hills in 1975, founded by Brother Mark Brereton, caring for people experiencing homelessness. Sr Anne Jordan, a Presentation Sister and current Spiritual Director, led the community for some 35 years, followed by Julie Sneddon as CEO in 2015.

Developing relationships, and sharing a space around a table was the essence of its beginning and this continues to this day in every part of the Cana Communities.

This short presentation made for the Opus Prize captures the spirit of Cana Communities.

The clear spirit of hope and celebration of each individual made Cana Communities shine out in the prestigious competition for charities with a spirit of faith, winning $100,000 for their works.

Cana Communities will soon celebrate Sr Anne’s Jubilee with the Presentation Sisters on Saturday 29 September at Cana Farm.

The Cana Farm will have Mass next to the Dam or in the Farm Shed at 11.30am, said by Fr Peter Carroll, a well-known prison chaplain in the Archdiocese of Sydney.

Cana Communities is a faith based community, and is supported by many religious groups. Cana has strong affiliations with Christ Church St Laurence and Waterloo Uniting Church, who provide their premises of an evening as Crisis Accommodation shelters. Cana also has strong links with a number of schools in Sydney.

“Companionship is the essence of the farm. We work alongside one another in each of the areas, in the timber workshop, candle making, in our sensory or production garden and a shared meal space. We are fortunate to be donated commercial kitchens by Tafe and St Ignatius’ College to produce the Cana Farm products.”

Each of these products and the garden provide employment for people within the  community. The vegetables, hampers, chutneys and jams are highly prized by locals, cafes and social enterprises. Cana has a product range that suits all buyers, and are very grateful always for support of Corporations who purchase Christmas Cakes and Hampers as gifts.

“A wonderful recognition of our staff’s achievements”, Danielle said.

Cana partners with training organisations to provide the education required for people to develop a greater sense of self worth and the confidence to move forward. “Our staff are very clever and courageous people, embracing significant changes in their lives”, Danielle said.

Through education and employment, people are able to recognise their talents and they have a greater understanding of their dignity and worth.

The farm’s animals include former racehorses as part of a rehabilitation program, and while the community does not work directly with the horses, their very presence can be highly therapeutic.

Daryl Anderson formed a special bond with some of the horses, aiding a beautiful story of personal recovery.

“Daryl’s story is the epitome of what Cana’s all about,” Danielle said. He has now worked for the farm for several years.

“Cana is all about that sense of family and belonging.”

It’s a striking example of people working together in a community initially inspired by Christ’s love and compassion.

“Cana is a call to celebration and forgiveness,” Danielle said.

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