Fundraisers, Mary Lou and Therese wear UNHCR shirts
© Australia for UNHCR
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Rocky road for refugees

How two friends are changing lives by doing something they love.

It all started 20 years ago when Mary Lou Byrne visited Villawood Immigration Detention Centre with her church group and met refugees who had fled their homes. She heard about their journeys to safety and the loved ones they left behind.

Ms Byrne enlisted her friend Therese Briggs and together they started organising trivia and film nights to raise money for UNHCR’s work with displaced people. They were serving their own sweets at the events when they hit on a new fundraising idea – selling Ms Byrne’s signature rocky road.

“The refugee situation has gotten worse since we first started,” she said. “It’s only something small that we’re doing but you feel that money being raised hopefully makes a difference.” 

Fundraisers, Mary Lou and Therese wear UNHCR shirts
© Australia for UNHCR
Mary Lou Byrne and Therese Briggs sell homemade rocky road to fundraise for refugees. © Australia for UNHCR

Their efforts have certainly had an impact. In the five years they’ve been selling rocky road for refugees, the women have raised $34,000. 

Ms Byrne said they chose to fundraise for Australia for UNHCR because of the UN Refugee Agency’s strong presence on the ground during humanitarian emergencies.

“You always see the UNHCR tents when you see any clip on the news. I read recently that UNHCR come in first and they’re the last ones to leave. They’re good at coming in immediately and they stay,” she said.

“If you want to fundraise for UNHCR, I’d suggest looking at something you already do... You just need to do a little bit more of that and put it towards a good cause.”

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The majority of funds raised by Australia for UNHCR are directed to UNHCR’s emergency operations, providing the ready funds and resources to respond quickly and effectively in situations of crisis and disaster.

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