When Nellie Doueihi noticed that half of the elderly residents in a local nursing home were never getting visitors, she arranged for some children to visit regularly.
When Nellie Doueihi noticed the elderly in her community were struggling with technology, she introduced a student program to assist them on how to navigate their mobile phones and iPad’s.
Make no mistake, Nellie Doueihi is a “doer” and a devout Catholic. She is also a creative innovator whose search for a deeper faith and discipleship have taken her on a journey that now sees her changing the lives of the discarded and forgotten.
As the coordinator of ministries to the sick and elderly at St Declan’s Catholic Church in Penshurst, Nellie provides 130 volunteers with an opportunity to impact the daily lives of 300 elderly people.
“Bringing the children to our nursing home visit program has brought a vibrancy and cross generational richness to both the younger and the elderly,” Nellie said.
“To witness the exchange and impact of intergenerational initiatives reinforces the belief that simple acts of kindness can make a difference. It’s about connecting and building meaningful relationships by bringing generations together.
“My hope is we enrich lives, by reaching out in love and service to others in our community especially the sick and the elderly and bringing God’s love to life in people.”
Last week her efforts in bringing that love to her community won her the 2023 Westfield Local Hero Award and a $20k grant to continue her work. But Nellie is hearing none of the hero accolades.
“It’s nice to be able to share and bring awareness to what a whole lot of great people do to help others who are often forgotten,” she said.
“As Catholics we are called to affirm the dignity of all members of society, especially those who are most vulnerable, and this often extends to the elderly members of our community. The elderly are the real heroes!”
Nellie’s journey as a community leader began with popular evangelisation program, Alpha.
“I have always had faith; however, it was in September 2018 I participated in Alpha, a course that encouraged me to go deeper into my faith,” she said.
“Alpha became the turning point in my faith journey. It opened my mind, and heart to be a part of something where I could give back to the community.”
Seven months later, fate would intercede to put those intentions to work, when Nellie noticed a job ad for her local parish of St Declan’s.
“I believe it was God’s plan for me when the role of the coordinator of the ministry to the sick and elderly was advertised, as it gave me the opportunity to do this,” she said.
“It has really enriched my faith, helping me continually learn more about myself. “
Fast forward to 2023 and her Parish mission has seen the introduction of many life-changing initiatives including her Tech Savvy Seniors program—featured in The Catholic Weekly in April this year—where senior Marist College students assist seniors to unlock the mysteries of technology.
“The aim is to bring the older and younger people together to help grow connections that make people feel valued,” she said.
Nellie’s quest to deepen her discipleship continues.She has responded to the archdiocese’s vision to “Go Make Disciples” vision and is undertaking the Arete program, a missionary leadership program offered by its Sydney Centre for Evangelisation.
“My work has shown me, we are all on a journey, our legacy will live on in how we touch the lives of others. To be able to share God’s love with others when they are vulnerable is humbling and fulfilling.”