by Louise Shannon
INSPIRATIONAL is one word to describe Emerald woman Alison Ray. Generous, humble, kind and compassionate are others.
Mrs Ray, who is a finalist in this year's Inspirational Women 65 plus category of the Queensland Rural Regional and Remote Women's Network Strong Women Leadership Awards, said her charity work as director of Our Rainbow House was "a privilege”.
"But I don't do this on my own,” she said.
"I've got this far because of a lot of other people.”
Mrs Ray founded Our Rainbow House five years ago in an effort to give 51 children living in a community near Lusaka, Zambia, a chance to go to school and improve their lives.
She said the awards were a positive way of highlighting the "good things” happening in the world.
"I just felt a real calling to do this because I felt these children needed help to get them off the street.
"I always love seeing people be recognised, especially on a volunteer basis, but when it's yourself you feel a bit humble about it all.”
Mrs Ray said she had initially volunteered at the School of St Jude, Tanzania, and then travelled to Zambia to visit her son's sponsored child where she visited an impoverished compound of 55,600 people living on five hectares.
She said 7800 children were orphans.
"It is not for the faint-hearted.”
In 2012, after forming a committee of a small group of friends in Emerald, Mrs Ray opened a school for 51 orphans and "vulnerable” children employing teachers, guards and cooks.
"It is hugely rewarding to see the students, who, through sadness, loss, hunger, extreme poverty, or sickness still come in the school gates, smiling and thankful to have an education.”
Last year, Mrs Ray said, the school's first class of Year 7 students passed their national high school entrance exam.
"Considering the students had completed seven years of education in only four years, it is a tremendous achievement.
"One student has the chance to gain a scholarship to attend a prestigious boarding school in Lusaka.”
She said that regular volunteers to the school gave invaluable support to the charity and ensured every cent raised was directly spent to support the children.
The winner of the Inspirational Women 65 plus category will be announced on October 19, with the remainder of the awards winners to be announced on October 20.
The annual conference from October 19-21 will include keynote speakers, a welcome function, business breakfast, a youth stream program, workshops, gala dinner, wind-up dinner and community prayer breakfast.
For more information about the event visit qrrrwn.org.au.