Tree of Hope wins the Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA) Annual Awards

Excellence in Service by an Individual

Margaret Pirotta, the Coordinator of CatholicCare Sydney’s Tree of Hope program, was announced as the 2014 Catholic Social Services Australia Award winner of the Perkins Award for Excellence in Service by an Individual.

Across Sydney, Tree of Hope provides emotional and practical outreach support to people living with HIV, their family and supporters.

Margaret Pirotta has worked to ensure that Tree of Hope, based in Lewisham in Sydney with outreach in Surry Hills, provides a confidential, non-judgemental environment for people living with HIV, their family and support person, 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.”

Margaret Pirotta from CatholicCare Sydney, winner of the 2014 Perkins Award for Excellence in Service by an Individual

Founded in 1996 by Sr Margaret Mines RSC, Tree of Hope draws on the support of CatholicCare Sydney and the Archdiocese of Sydney.

In accepting the award, Margaret spoke warmly of what it will mean to the volunteers and clients of Tree of Hope. “I know how acknowledged they will feel in receiving this Award. They’ve often said that it was the Catholics who were among the first to help in the AIDS epidemic – and Sr Margaret certainly was a pioneer in that area,” said Margaret.

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 ignorance.

“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.

The space at Tree of Hope has become like a family. We are not meant to be alone, we are meant to be in community, and this space provides that.”