Welcome to 2020!

It’s a new decade and the team at Mara is back! We’re pumped and ready to take on 2020.  We’re looking forward to creating vibrant communities and projects together.

It’s been a tough start to the year for many affected by horrendous bushfires. The outpouring of community support shows the strength of our humanity at a time when people need help the most. Selfless acts of kindness are seen everywhere. But there is still more to do.

#TeamMara is back!
Our drone operator Tadd

New services – aerial photography and drone photography and video

Adding a bit of flair to our visual impact and design services, Mara now offers a range of aerial photography and video services to support our projects.

Drones are great for giving a different perspective to a project, whether it’s to help communicate a complex message through images or to create a fly-through of what a project will look like.

Our urban design guru, landscape architect and environmental planner can now also boast that he’s a pilot! (We’re not quite sure how that is all going to fit on his business card).

  • Aerial photography, video filming services
  • 2D and 3D aerial photography mapping survey
  • Inspections of construction sites, mines, roofs and hard to reach areas
  • Traffic counts and footage for transport studies
  • Urban tree canopy and aerial tree imagery
  • Images for renders and urban design projects.

To find out more, contact Mara on 02 49654317 or email tadd@maraconsulting.com.au for more information.

Do you have 2020 vision? Maybe a LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop is what you need.

Here at Mara, we’re all about doing things differently. Bold, Different, Playful!

LEGO ticks that box.

The new year is a great time to plan the year ahead and bring some different thinking to your workplace. A  LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop is great for business strategy, encouraging innovation at work, planning, team communication and engagement.

A facilitated workshop will help you to:

  • Develop strategic goals and objectives
  • Create a corporate mission, vision and values
  • Get input when leaders don't have all the answers
  • Identify ways to lead not follow
  • Build teamwork and collaboration
  • Encourage different, creative and innovative thinking
  • Break bad thinking habits - "We've always done it this way..."
  • Encourage better communication with your team.

The LEGO Serious Play method helps you think more creatively and tackle challenges or situation in a new and fun way.

Book your workshop today – call 02 49654317. Or visit the Mara office for a great coffee and a LEGO sampler!

International Year of Plant Health

Did you know it’s international year of plant health?

Here’s to all the awesome landscape architects, urban designers, arborists and horticulturalists in our team. They are tree-mendous.

The gift of education

Giving back to the community is good for Mara’s soul and it was one of the primary goals our MD/founder Kel set out to achieve when she started the company in 2014.

With a special connection to Kenya (4 generations of family from Kenya and the inspiration behind our company name), Mara has been financially supporting some of the most vulnerable in an urban slum area of Mombasa through the Mustard Seed Project. The family-run charity is supporting an entire community by providing essential services, food, education, health care, adult education, skills for women, and community outreach to provide the skills to help community members out of poverty.

It’s a hand up, not a hand out!

Our MD Kel learning to count in Swahili while visiting the school in 2012.
Our MD Kel learning to count in Swahili while visiting the school in 2012.
Tadd (fourth generation Kenyan) visiting the nursery school in 2012.

Tadd (fourth generation Kenyan) visiting the nursery school in 2012.

Helping a community out of poverty

Mustard Seed works in an urban area on the north coast of Mombasa. This area is very poor and overcrowded. Most families live in Swahili houses in a single room and share a toilet with five other families. Almost all of the community are malnourished, eating only maize-meal, but some often go without any food are starving. From the very beginning, the aim of Mustard Seed Project has been to give people education and skills to enable them to escape the poverty.

Growing a better future

In 2008, the Mustard Seed Project rented a small building with two classrooms and two teachers, supporting a deprived community and 17 children. Since then the school has grown, bigger premises were rented but quickly reached capacity.

On Christmas day 2015, stage one of the new Miche Bora Nursery and Primary School was completed, and now provides education for 275 children aged between 3 to 14 years of age across two buildings.

But there is still more to be done!

Since then Mustard Seed with supporters, have been busy raising money to complete the school, giving more room, better facilities and opportunities to take on additional students.

The ground floor of Miche Bora Nursery and Primary School was completed in 2015

What the new school building will look like when completed.

What the new school building will look like when completed.

Our Christmas gift to Mustard Seed

Each year, Mara Consulting chooses not to send gifts and cards to our supporters and clients. Instead, we put the money towards completing the school. Kel and hubby Tadd have been personal supporters too, providing monthly donations for more than 10 years.

This year, our Christmas donation helped to push the fundraising to the target amount, meaning the school will be completed. Construction will soon begin on the upper storey with six more classrooms to bring all 275 children together in one building and room for more. Once complete, the school will have 12 classrooms, offices, a clinic, staff room, toilets, kitchen and a hall.

When the school started, we didn't have a clear plan of what to do. We saw children needing help, we had skills to offer but no knowledge of Africa or its culture."

Rita Fowler, Mustard Seed founder.

Quality education outcomes

The standard of education in Kenya for poor children is very low. Only 30% of 14-year old's have reached the level expected of an 8-year-old (UWEZO 2017). According to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, quality education is the foundation to creating sustainable development, improve quality of life and equip them with skills to solve problems.

In impoverished areas like Mgongeni, without access to education, skilled teachers and resources, these children will be forced into inter-generational poverty and suffering.

For Mustard Seed, this was a challenge and the first goal of the school – to provide a quality education to all that come. In 2019, the oldest students at the school sat their KCPE (Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education) exam. The results = AMAZING with the mean score B-.

Children at the school are selected according to poverty. All children got the grade necessary to go to secondary school and several achieved results necessary to go to the very best selective schools in Kenya. Better still, two of the girls have sponsors which have allowed them to go to one of these schools.

Miche Bora’s students celebrate the news that their school has raised enough money to build six classrooms on the upper storey.
Miche Bora’s students celebrate the news that their school has raised enough money to build six classrooms on the upper storey.
Computers are now being used in class for teaching purposes.
Computers are now being used in class for teaching purposes.

Find out more about Mustard Seed

Mustard Seed was set up by Rita and Geoff Fowler, a retired couple who set out to help improve the education, health and lifestyles of the Mgongeni community.

Head to the project’s website to learn more about their work and how they are growing a better future for the local community.

Christmas is a time for giving

Together we can achieve great things!

Each year, instead of sending Christmas cards and gifts to our clients and supporters, we support several charities. These include Mustard Seed Project (Kenya), the Samaritans Giving Trees in Newcastle and Singleton and Soul Café food appeal.

Since 2014 we have been giving back to amazing projects and charities doing awesome work in our community. We are all about supporting vibrant communities, social change and well, just being good humans! #TeamMara

Not a bad effort by #TeamMara! Our Christmas gift haul for the Samaritans and Soul Café
Not a bad effort by #TeamMara! Our Christmas gift haul for the Samaritans and Soul Café

Messages from the team adorned our pink Christmas tree (of course!).

What's Christmas without a bit of pink!?

This year we’ve decorated and donated a very Mara pink Christmas tree for the Samaritans Christmas lunch in Singleton. We're very proud of our very own Kim-Cherie (pictured below) who organises the charity lunch.

The lunch, which is also hosted in Newcastle and Wyong, provides a wonderful opportunity for the disadvantaged and those without family to come together and celebrate. As well as the great food, there is entertainment, activities and, we hear, a visit from Santa!

Great work Kim-Cherie!

Fingers crossed, Singleton likes pink!

The Mara pink tree will be part of the 12 Trees of Christmas competition to help raise funds and awareness for the lunch. The community gets to vote for their favourite.

 

Christmas is all about sharing

We’re grateful to be able to help make a difference. We’re especially appreciative of the wonderful staff and volunteers at the Mustard Seed Project, the Samaritans and Soul Café who give so much of themselves to help others.

The whole Mara team has donated gifts, food and essential items to the Samaritans and Soul Café. These will be distributed to those doing it tough at this time of year.  YAY #TeamMara

In addition to the employee contributions, the company provided $3000 in cash, food and gifts to support our three corporate charities.

Kim-Cherie with our Mara Christmas tree for the Samaritans’ Singleton lunch

Our Christmas tree for the Samaritans' Singleton lunch and gift haul for the Samaritans and Soul Café. 

Miche Bora’s students celebrate the news that their school has raised enough money to build six classrooms on the upper storey.

Some of the students at Miche Bora nursery and primary school

Our charity partners

The Mustard Seed Project (Kenya) is a family-run charity, building a school in an urban slum area of Mombasa, Kenya. The project provides education and a feeding program for poor children in the Mgongeni community. Read Mustard Seed’s Christmas milestone on our blog.

The Samaritans are providing Christmas lunches in Newcastle, Central Coast and Singleton this year, providing guests will a free lunch, entertainment and friendship. The Samaritans Giving Trees provide an opportunity for businesses and their staff and clients to donate Christmas gifts for local families and individuals who are experiencing hardship.

 

Soul Café is a Newcastle-based charity that provides hundreds of free meals each week to highly disadvantaged members of our community, many of whom are homeless, have a mental illness, substance abuse issue or live in poverty. Soul Café’s meals are a medium to be able to work with people in a greater way.

If you’re keen to get involved, click on the links above to find out how you can help.

Mara MD, Kel delivering the goodies to Soul Cafe

A day in the life of a Mara intern

Hello! My name is Jen

This past month I became the Communications and Engagement Intern at Mara Consulting. I’ve had my fair share of internships in the past; some were great, and some were far from. As a current postgraduate student, I wanted to be a bit more picky when it came to landing an internship. This time around I was looking for a position that would expand on my existing skills and challenge me to break out of my comfort zone while also giving me room to grow as I complete my master’s degrees. I found just what I was looking for (and more) at Mara.

Photo of Mara intern Jenny Hanson

Bold, different, playful

I knew as soon as I walked out of my interview that Mara is anything but ordinary.  The final component of the interview process was an interactive LEGO® Serious Play® session where I was instructed to answer the question: ‘where do you see yourself in five years’ using LEGO building materials. This exercise demonstrated what Mara is all about: being bold, different and playful as well as illustrating Mara’s fantastic company culture.

My visual representation of ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ using LEGO building materials. My piece shows me (in the hardhat) working my way up the corporate ladder while breaking down barriers that exist for women in business. The various components in the ladder show me completing my master’s degrees (gaining knowledge, represented by the owl), finding a rewarding career path that does not solely focus on money (represented by the cash near the bottom), my keen interest in sustainability and climate action (represented by the green grass), and never losing my sense of wonder and creativity (represented by the elephant at the end of the ladder).

Not your typical internship

Jen letterboxing with Mara's MD
Aiding Mara's MD Kelly with a letterboxing campaign.

Mara is a unique workplace that encompasses a broad range of services that are inherently intertwined, employing a diverse team with varied backgrounds. Over the first three weeks of my internship I have worked on a range of different projects with various members of the Mara team. These have included assisting with focus groups for community housing strategies, helping to create content for social media and website platforms, and even aiding the MD Kelly with letterboxing campaigns and intercept interviews for upcoming development applications. Of equal importance are the duties I am NOT doing as an intern: running errands, answering the phone and fetching coffees. (We have our own Barista/Lead Landscape Architect, Urban Designer and Environmental Planner, Tadd)!

Real-world experience

So far being an intern in the Mara team has exceeded my expectations in nearly every way. Unlike some of my past internships, no two days are ever the same. I get to play a supporting role in projects benefiting the local community.

By exposing me to these large-scale projects firsthand, I am learning how to apply what I learn in the classroom to the complex, real-world issues affecting our surrounding communities.

I am so grateful to the entire Mara team for working with me (around my busy Uni schedule) to support my goals in a supportive, collaborative environment!