Vale Gary Johnston

Operation Restore Hope is mourning the loss of a great man without whom the charity would not be what it is today. Gary Johnston, Renaissance man: entrepreneur, philanthropist, sports fan, art lover, family man and friend recently lost his short battle with mesothelioma. His passing has left a void in the many people who knew and loved him and in the innumerable institutions he built and supported.

Gary was a self-made man. It was his endless curiosity and desire to understand, explore and create coupled with an incredible energy and work ethic that made him into the success story that he was. Gary was best known as the Founder and Managing Director of Jaycar Electronics but was the creator or a pivotal part of many other organisations and ventures.

Throughout his life, no amount of success or accolades made Gary lose his humility, work ethic, love of life or inherent generosity. Gary was as thrilled for the achievements of others as he was of his own and equally as sympathetic to the needs of others. Gary was also fiercely loyal and never forgot a true friend.

In the early days of Operation Restore Hope when donations were not tax deductible it was very difficult to raise the sums of money needed for the missions. Gary and his soon to be wife and love of his life Kerry were always there with a cheque that was more than enough to realise our needs for the missions planned that year. Their selfless belief in and support of the charity’s work spurred us not only to carry on but to continue to grow and reach out to more children and create programs that would not have been possible without their ongoing support over more than twenty years. As our programs grew, so too did their commitment; their overwhelming generosity always keeping in step or one step ahead of our vision and capacity.

Gary and Kerry have supported and continue to support many other great charities and institutions both as individuals and through the Bayard Foundation, their private family fund. That Operation Restore Hope Australia stands among these wonderful causes is an honour that ORHA never has and never will take for granted.

Gary’s passing is an immeasurable loss not only to so many institutions and people but to our nation. He was that once in a generation person who enabled great things to happen.

Our deepest sympathies to his Gary’s greatest supporter, his wife Kerry and their son Robbie as well as Gary’s other children Chris, Tim and Jeni and their families.

We carry our dear friends the Johnstons close in our hearts and prayers as we move forward with the challenge not only of facing a world without Gary but facing the world as Gary would have wanted us to.

“We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly!” (Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull)

Gary didn’t just fly; he soared.

Donating PPE to Make Surgery Safe for Our Volunteers, Patients & Their Families

ORHA Donates PPE for Safe Surgery

Operation Restore Hope Australia (ORHA) has been donating and continues provide much needed PPE for our partners, patients and their families to continue both surgery and care for our special children during the pandemic. Covid-19 has highlighted the extent of the support network each little patient has within both Operation Restore Hope Australia (ORHA), our partner organisations and their families. To continue to care for our little patients, we have required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) not only for the surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses but also for our patients and their families both pre and post operatively.

The charity began our PPE donations with face shields sourced from the US by Director Ben Mead. These were distributed to our partner medical practitioners at Las Pinas City Medical Center, Ugnayan ng Pahinungod at Philippine General Hospital and The Mijares Gurango Craniofacial Foundation operating at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center. It became clear, however, that with brave health care practitioners becoming infected and in tragic cases perishing that if surgery were to resume that much more than a face shield would be required and that we would have to safeguard not only the medicos but the patient and their support network as well.

ORHA is now funding comprehensive PPE to our partner Dr Taps Gurango and her team so that they can continue to treat and operate on our little patients as safely as possible. This includes masks, face shields, bunny suits and ventilators. This has made it possible for us to continue to collaborate and provide care to our little cleft and craniofacial patients with complex needs for ongoing care whilst maintaining the safety of our frontline healthcare workers, our patients and their families and support networks.

We applaud Dra Taps and team for their commitment, compassion and courage.

Working together we can continue to make little miracles happen.

ORHA Patients are Never Forgotten – “Hope” Packages Delivered to More than 100 Families!

Operation Restore Hope has delivered more than 100 “Hope” packages this past Christmas to families whose children were waiting for cleft lip or palate surgery in 2020.

ORHA volunteers were saddened that our 2020 Mission had to be cancelled due to Covid-19 safety precautions and of course closed borders. If we were saddened, many of our patients and their families were devastated.

Our Filipino Plastic Surgeon volunteers had already held our pre-mission screening of both new and existing patients and had more than 70 cases approved for surgery and 50 more for further review. When the mission was cancelled, many of them, especially those new to the ORHA family felt that their one hope had been lost. Hope, however, is never lost. Where there is life; there is hope.

What makes Operation Restore Hope Australia unique among overseas charities performing cleft lip and palate surgeries in the Philippines is that we maintain contact with our patients throughout the year as well as having other programs that run throughout the year. Contact with our patients is maintained in various ways: directly with our ORHA contacts in Manila, via social media and messaging apps and via email & cell phone. In reaching out to them and in their sharing their struggles and triumphs with ORHA, the charity is better able to respond to and hopefully anticipate their needs.

These year round programs meant that even during the pandemic, ORHA directors and volunteers on the ground in Manila have been able to provide appropriate follow up for our patients. Contact during the lockdowns caused by the pandemic with our patients, their families and community workers highlighted the complex and worsening situations many were facing and the increasing want and need they were facing. Those who were already living hand to mouth were suffering and a lack of work and funds was causing hunger and a deterioration in the ability to maintain decent levels of hygiene.

In response to this need, ORHA funded Christmas Hope Packages to over 100 families who were a part of our 2019 mission and families who were scheduled and missed out on the cancelled 2020 mission. These packs contained food (rice, tinned meat & fish, beans, etc) hygiene products (hand sanitiser, masks, soap, shampoo etc) and school supplies (notebooks, pencils etc) as well as some ORHA bags and of course a cuddly kangaroo for the little patient!

Thanks to all the volunteers who spent days ordering, receiving and repacking over a thousand kilos of rice, hundreds of boxes of groceries and supplies and for putting these packages together. Thanks to Director Ben Mead & for being a part of the impetus of this project and allowing The Mead Foundation offices to be the logistical headquarters. Special thanks to Jobelle Yap for coordinating all the processes, communications and volunteers and thanks to Ed Tibayan and Don Don Bautista of Lyrwin Tours for delivering this much needed aid to our families.

Take a moment to look at the many pictures of comfort and joy in the YouTube link below that came from knowing that there would be food on the table for weeks to come , that they themselves and their surroundings could be cleaned and that their child had a toy at Christmas.

ORHA will never forget you!