Executive Director, The Children First Foundation
Captivated by the work of Mother Theresa, Moira Kelly stuck to her childhood vow to work with the revered nun and was inspired to begin her own journey of humanitarian aid. In 1999 Moira opened the doors on The Children First Foundation, an organisation run to connect children the world over with the medical treatment needed to live. From Bosnia to the Bronx Moira has given hope and life to hundreds of families, facilitating the treatment of their children, and overseeing their after care on her farm outside Melbourne. Moira is driven by her philosophy, "Wherever there is the greatest evil, the greatest good can be achieved."
Moira Kelly is the Executive Director of The Children First Foundation, which was established in July 1999 to support Moira’s humanitarian work.
Moira was just eight years old when she watched a documentary at school about the life and work of the late Mother Theresa. Arriving home, she vowed to her mother that one day, she would work with the Calcutta saint.
Many years later, Moira did indeed work with the celebrated nun and it was then the seeds of her own personal philosophy were sown. "Wherever there is the greatest evil, the greatest good can be achieved." Coupled with her own inner determination, the lessons Moira learned from the diminutive sister set the foundation for a lifetime of charity work.
After working with crack-addicted babies in the Bronx, with children in remote aboriginal communities, with Romania's heartbreaking AIDS orphans, and in Bosnia and Kosovo during the 90’s crisis, Moira Kelly's own path became clear. While working in a Bosnian refugee camp, a mother with a seriously ill child, who could not be assisted with basic medicines available, asked the simple question: "Wouldn't the doctors and people in your country, Australia, help my child if someone told them what was happening in this country?"
And there began Moira's own unique mission. She began finding children in third world countries, who are struggling with life threatening physical conditions that would be completely operable in the Western world. She offered them hope, and the chance to access medical attention they would otherwise be deprived of.
Moira, who doesn't know the meaning of no, slowly developed a wide network of hospitals and doctors in Australia, New York, London, Boston, Toronto and Ireland. She then travelled to countries like Albania and Somalia, collected sick children, and flew them to those western countries where they could undergo life saving medical treatment. For some it's meant heart surgery. Others have been given prosthetic arms and legs, or had plastic surgery to address terrible facial deformities.
For many children it can mean months of recuperation and when they leave hospital, these children are cared for at Moira's "Children First Rotary Farm" outside Melbourne. When the children are well enough to travel they go home to their own countries and to the mothers and fathers who have parted with them for so long.
Moira says, "It is a funny world we live in really, where what passport you own determines whether you live or die, so someone really has to change that ... we really are not born equal."
Community awards and achievements for Moira have included:
* The inaugural Sir Edward Dunlop Award for humanitarian service in 1994
* A meeting with The Queen at Buckingham Palace in 1995 to honour her efforts in Bosnia.
* In 1989 she was awarded a Queen' Trust Achiever Award and the Victorian Young Achiever Award for Community Service.
* In 1992, then aged 28, she coordinated the Romanian Children's Appeal of Ireland and was responsible for the well being of 80 abandoned children infected with HIV at The Victor Babes Hospital in Bucharest. Many will remember seeing the terrible plight of these children shown in television documentaries.
* In June 1999, Moira received a standing ovation after her keynote address to the World Conference of Rotary International, attended by 19,000 delegates.
* Film Australia has produced a documentary on Moira's work and so powerful is it that it has been entered in the Melbourne Film Festival. It has been sold to the ABC, BBC and CNN and was televised nation-wide on 14th February 2002.
* In 1999 a member of Rotary donated a 40 acre block of land in Kilmore in Victoria and since then Rotary District 9790 has built a magnificent 100 square farmhouse for the care and rehabilitation of children.
* In 1999 Children First Foundation was established to maintain the Children First Rotary Farm. The Foundation is a registered Charity under the Act. Moira moved to the Farm in September 2001 and manages its operation. Moira has made her home in Kilmore and will continue send children from third-world countries around the world for life saving/changing operations.
* In 2001 Moira was awarded the White Flame Award given by Save the Children to recognise outstanding service to disadvantaged children
* In 2001 Moira was awarded the Prime Minister's Award for outstanding community service.
* In 2001 Moira was one of 10 people recognised internationally for their contribution to the world. Junior Chamber International presented this award at its international conference in Spain.
* In June 2001 Moira was made an Officer (AO) in the General Division of the Order of Australia in recognition of her "outstanding service to the Australian community through the provision of social support and service for disadvantaged people, and to the international community through the provision of humanitarian relief and assistance and the organisation of medical treatment for those affect by war or insurrection".
* In 2003, Moira was voted Victorian of the Year.
Many regard Moira Kelly as saint-like. She would not agree but believes she is just trying to make a difference and help those less fortunate.
I've heard a lot of top speakers and Moira Kelly is amongst them. A natural speaker, she held me absolutely riveted by her story and sent me home both moved and totally inspired. Moira is a woman of passion and compassion, a woman of action, yet simple and authentic. Her story is both compelling and immediately relevant in today's world situation.
Moira Kelly is an outstanding woman with a heart of gold and an enthusiastic down-to-earth manner. Her very genuine soul shines through her presentation, which is full of enthusiasm and very voluble. She held the audience spellbound and we could hear a pin drop as she told wonderful stories of the deprived children and families she has helped. I would have no hesitation in recommending Moira as an inspirational speaker to any age group or organisation.
Excellent. Moira’s natural charm, passion and commitment to ‘her path’ was and is, inspirational.
As a Keynote speaker particularly at the conclusion of a full and exciting day for delegates Moira was everything we could have hoped for and more. Moira’s clear and focused love for ‘her children’ touched the hearts and minds of all 997 people in the audience. She has a great capacity to reach in and unlock the deeper compassion of her audience, which she does with such enthusiasm and humility. A ‘not to be missed’ speaker.