Good Samaritan Oblate Margaret Pirotta has received a national award for her work with Tree of Hope, a Sydney-based program that provides emotional and practical outreach support to people living with HIV, their families and supporters.
Margaret received the Perkins Award for Excellence in Service during Catholic Social Services Australia’s annual awards night last month. The award is presented to an individual who has shown “outstanding commitment to service”.
For nearly eight years, Margaret has worked to ensure that Tree of Hope provides a confidential, non-judgemental environment for people living with HIV, their families and supporters, to connect with other people who understand the challenges and issues they experience.
“The Tree of Hope is a place of hospitality and welcome,” said Margaret.
“It offers a space for reflection, support and friendship, which is vital in a life often marked by isolation and loneliness.”
Founded in 1996 by Sister of Charity Margaret Mines, Tree of Hope draws on the support of CatholicCare Sydney and the Archdiocese of Sydney.
Margaret said she was “chuffed” to be nominated for the award and “really surprised” to receive it. And while the award was presented to her as an individual, she said it was an acknowledgement of all those involved in Tree of Hope.
“Without them there is no award,” she reflected.
Margaret said that while there has been dramatic scientific advancement, sadly the same cannot be said for the stigma and discrimination that people living with HIV-AIDS experience.
“The attitudes of many at a global level have remained somewhere between archaic and ignorant.
“This award of recognition by Catholic Social Services Australia is an encouraging step toward affirming people living with the virus, and reducing stigma and discrimination, therefore bringing about change,” said Margaret.
Margaret also expressed “deep gratitude to the Sisters of the Good Samaritan” for “their genuine and authentic formation and support”. She thinks that being a Good Samaritan Oblate is “what keeps me balanced in the work”.
“One of the big issues that I might have been worried about when I started [at Tree of Hope] is burnout. But I think that this balanced practice in my life [being an oblate] has still got me as energetic as I was in the beginning,” she explained.
The twelfth annual Catholic Social Services Australia Awards were announced on October 21 at Parliament House, Canberra in the presence of Senators and Members of Federal Parliament.
Catholic Social Services Australia is the Catholic Church’s peak national body for social service agencies across the country. For over 50 years it has assisted its member agencies to promote a fairer, more inclusive society that reflects and supports dignity, equality and participation for all people.
World AIDS Day is celebrated on December 1.