An outreach center in a leafy suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, is reaching out to university students and neighbors and providing them with tools for better physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and social health.
The weExplore Wellness Centre, a donor-based initiative of Gateway Adventist Centre, a nonprofit community center in Melbourne, has been helping hundreds of students attending nearby Monash University and others in the community to receive food assistance and enroll in free courses that cover topics from mental resilience and effective habits to diabetes prevention.
“[The] weExplore center works as a sowing program, creating awareness in the community because we want to reach out to the community,” volunteer Gordon Chau explained on the sidelines of the 2024 Adventist Youth Conference (AYC) in Melbourne in January. “We want to support people, help them, and of course, ultimately, bring them to Christ.”
The program, Chau says, goes from friendship to church services to Bible study to conversion to nurturing. “Some of our volunteers once walked past our center and said, ‘What is this?’ ” he shared. Chau told the story of Kavitha, a separated mother of twin boys who once stopped out of curiosity. Kavitha felt treated with kindness and eventually requested a Bible. Some time later, she enrolled in Bible studies, eventually got baptized, and is now volunteering to train others. “It’s kind of a loop,” Chau explained. “Those who were ministered to are now ministering to others.”
An Outreach Center in the City
The idea for opening weExplore Wellness Centre was initiated in April 2018 as a result of a prayer and planning session of Gateway Adventist Centre. “Initially, we had Global Mission funds, and they helped us to establish the center,” Leanne Tilson, association vice president and program coordinator of the ministry, said. “We had been praying about it as a church, as we dreamed of establishing a center of influence within three years. But in less than six months, the Lord provided these funds. He opened the door for us, even when we were not prepared and were thinking more long term,” Tilson said.
According to the center’s website, weExplore is a volunteer-led, not-for-profit organization composed of health professionals and health advocates, including physicians, registered nurses, health educators, and lay people who are enthusiastic about promoting better health. “We are a ministry supported by Gateway Adventist Centre and other donors,” the site reads. “Since the establishment of weExplore, our calendar has been filled with exciting events as supported by grants and donations. Doctors and other health professionals volunteer their precious time.… We see many in our community as well as university students drop by the centre and … [they are] expressing their needs for better wholistic health.”
The site also explains that due to the impact of COVID-19, the world and society experienced a paradigm shift, and the center was also affected. “Mental health and emotional wellness are paramount subjects at this time,” the site says. “We have been using the online platform to provide support and care for our community along with the in-person services.”
Strategic Location, Wellness-focused Initiatives
The center is strategically located within walking distance of Monash University, which has a student population of more than 85,000. Thanks to an agreement with the government of Victoria, the center is providing food bags to around 300 students per week. Recently, a supporter of the initiative decided to donate a van to transport food from the Student Foodbank at the weExplore center. The donor even provided additional funds to rebrand the vehicle to match the outside of the center.
The center enlists around 75 volunteers from four Adventist congregations in Melbourne and the community. The programs on physical and mental health, including a weekly Pilates class, are highly popular. The center is also used as a venue for social events. A few months ago, the center organized a Korean Culture Night, which included singing by a visiting group of Korean young people, Korean street food, games, and fundraising for the Gateway East teen group mission trip to the Philippines. “It was a packed house and enjoyed by all,” organizers said.
And what about Kavitha, the woman who stopped by the center and eventually became an Adventist church member and center volunteer? “I wish I had listened earlier,” Kavitha recently said. “Finding Jesus and giving my life to Him has made all the difference.”