By David Anderson
Barbara Polus may be fearful of facing large waves in the ocean, but she does not cower from her challenges as the CEO of Hands on Health Australia (HoHA).
Established by Dr Dein Vindigni and inspired by none other than Mother Theresa, Barbara has assumed the enormous responsibility of an organisation offering health services to the disadvantaged Australia –wide as well as operations in India, Philippines, Cambodia and Timor- Leste.
Upon the commencement of our chat, Barbara apologises that her ‘head is still full of numbers’ from the task of bookkeeping. Despite her qualifications as an Associate Professor in Chiropractic Neuroscience, the broader duties of Barbara’s role can remain testing.
‘Neuroscience is easy by comparison!’ she confesses.
What also came naturally to Barbara was her ability to inspire others and gain funding. In establishing the RMIT chiropractic clinic at the Sacred Heart Mission in St Kilda, Barbara galvanised a team of students willing to donate their time for the betterment of the underprivileged in the community. In attaining financial support from the Chiropractic Association of Australia (Vic branch) she also demonstrated unique methods:
‘I gave this really soppy presentation with lots of pictures and Jonathan Livingston-Seagull playing in the background and at the end, asked for money. This drew some tears, a round of applause and secured the funds to pay for rents etc!.’
Away from HoHA, Barbara seeks the relative serenity and solitude of the ocean. Only 10 minutes’ walk from her home on the Mornington peninsula, she loves nothing more than paddling out for a few waves on the bodyboard although, by her own admission, ‘the big waves are a little scary’. On land, Barbara continues her affection for the outdoors as a regular camper with her caravan often becoming the ‘mobile admin office for HoHA’
Returning to HoHA however, the current welfare environment is much less relaxing. Threatened with closure at one point, Barbara now recognises the increasing importance of social enterprise- where those that can afford it are charged a small fee for services- to ensure the organisation’s sustainability. According to Barb, ‘the threat of closure was gut-wrenching; that experience provided the impetus to move to a more sustainable model to protect both our volunteers and clients’. Helping in this process of course is One Health Organisation. Barbara was highly complementary about the special type of support that OHO can offer.
‘We’re so busy working we have no time to tell our story from the grassroots. OHO comes to the rescue each time and says ‘we can do this’ and to me that’s gold.’
Despite all the tough times and hard work though, Barbara is adamant about the personal satisfaction she has gained from helping to improve the lives of many both in Australia and overseas.
‘It’s been my life’s commitment. You receive more than you give, it’s very fulfilling. And I learned Bookkeeping!