Pink Waves

A chance email from the Cancer Council which asked the question “What are YOU doing to help raise funds and awareness?” that Courtney had her “ah-ha” moment and knew she what she could do.

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It was a magical day down at Dixon Park Beach today – friendly crowds, artisan markets and men wearing bright pink bras, while competing with each other for the best ridden wave.
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Orchestrating all this is Courtney Bower, calmly keeping the day running smoothly all with a big smile and a cheerful hello.

Courtney is a regular at surfing competitions – her partner Marlenn Guihot is a keen longboarder. While they love attending competitions they always found themselves imagining the things they would do differently if they were to run an event.

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Courtney and Marlenn

Courtney’s mother, at 47, was diagnosed with breast cancer and this motivated Courtney to get involved.

But it wasn’t until one day, while reading an email from the Cancer Council that asked the question What are YOU doing to help raise funds and awareness? that Courtney had her “ah-ha” moment and knew what she could do to help.

Courtney and Marlenn have created an annual surfing event to raise awareness about breast cancer and generate funds and support for Cancer Council’s Pink Ribbon.
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They were actually on their way back from that same long boarding competition in 2015 when they came up with the name of the event – Tubes 4 Boobs!

“Its a fun name, but not in away to be taken as a joke,” Courtney tells us. “It’s all about raising awareness and starting the conversation.”

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Volunteer Ann and Courtney

The event runs for two days, with short board comp on Saturday and the Long Board comp on Sunday. A fun crowd favorite is the lunchtime session where all competitors have to wear bras whilst surfing.

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Tubes 4 Boobs target fundraising goal for 2015 was $10,000 – but incredibly that target was doubled with the event raising just over $20,000.

The target for 2016 was $20,000 and Courtney is hoping this target will be met today as well.

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The boys all in their gear!


Ted Bassingthwaighte is the Toobs 4 Boobs top fundraiser and also the Digital Media Manager for the event, but he tells us, “Courtney is the spear head of everything for the day!” Courtney laughs, “Well you’re the feathers. Can’t shoot straight without feathers!”

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Courtney and Ted before the presentation today.


“Its such a great day to bring the community together. All while raising funds and having a laugh,” Courtney tells us.

“And how is your mother doing these days?” We ask.

“She’s fine… She kicked Cancer’s butt!” Courtney happily replies.

This fun, popular and successful event is such an inspirational feat and the Newcastle couple are hoping to form a committee for 2017 to make the event even “bigger and better.”

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In Sofia’s Kitchen

“We all have differences, but hey, lets embrace them! ” Sophie says in her bubbly tone.

Writing and Education are a large part of Sophie’s calling, but true to her own heritage – so is excellent food.

From the time Sophie Stokes was 7 years old, she was in the kitchen with her Greek-Australian relatives preparing treats to serve to her large family and many friends.

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For Sophie, this inclusive and vibrant environment ignited a passion for both food and learning, a passion she still follows boldly today.

We were lucky to be invited when Sophie recently held a large get together at her home showcasing her cultural culinary prowess; Sophie hosts with a broad, engaging smile and a warmth to her welcome as though you are family.

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With a background in Early Childhood education, when it came time to send her own girls off to school – Sophie elected to home school them.

“My thing is creative education, I call it Imagination Activation!” Sophie explains. This took the family around the world, making travel journals, discovering new cultures…  with a fair dose of learning in the kitchen too.

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8 years ago the family moved to Newcastle for work and university opportunities for the children, and have found the city so versatile, multicultural and beautiful that they absolutely love living here. Not to mention the great foodie options for Sophie!

Recently, Sophie’s children completed their homeschooling and it was time for a new chapter.

“It was time for me to have a new impact on the world,” she tells us.

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Source: Exousia Publishing

In 2015 Sophie donated some resource books to Mebaya Orphanage in Tanzania, to help them establish their education programs and the orphanage invited her to come to Tanzania to assist.

While in Africa, Sophie was speaking with Elina Karamelina and was discussing the resources the Tanzanian children had – often donated books in English about Santa and snowy winters.

After this talk an idea was born.

“It was a spur of the moment conversation with Elina really and 8 months later we were publishing our own children’s book,” says Sophie.

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Kula Chakula is Hungry! was created to honor the cultures of the children in Africa and also as a celebration of the languages spoken locally and in surrounding countries. The book is written in Swahili, as well as English and Greek.

The book has had a wonderful response with African educators loving their new resource.

“Actually, I just shipped a whole box of books to Athens for an art conference there and I am so excited that Greek children will be learning about the Swahili language and African Culture too,” Sophie tells us excitedly, “and I have been honored to do a few readings of the book in local Newcastle preschools too.”

“We all have differences, but hey – lets embrace them!” Sophie says in her bubbly tone.

Writing and education are a large part of Sophie’s calling but, true to her own heritage, so is excellent food.

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This led Sophie to start food blogging at In Sofia’s Kitchen, a journey of hospitality written through recipes and adventures. The success of this blog has led to a cookbook, In Sofia’s Kitchen: Mediterranean Flavours Down Under, which is launching in Newcastle on November 26th, in true Sofia’s Kitchen Style – with lots of friends, food, culture and celebration.

Sophie would like all to feel welcome to attend the launch if you would like to pick up a copy and enjoy some of the tasty samples like these on offer.

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And what is next for Sophie? So much!

A new multicultural children’s book is underway being published in both English and Norwegian (thanks to her Norwegian illustrator) and Sophie will be working on another cookbook and cooking workshops.

“I’m looking forward to the continued journey – delighting families and friends through food and hospitality,” Sophie tells us.

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Served up to you by Villager Property – because Home Begins Here.

 

Strawberries and Cells

“At times it would get hard,” Raewyn admits, “And sometimes I would feel disheartened – but my Aunt Jenny who was battling cancer at the time had said to me “You have to do this!” And I knew I could.”

This week we caught up with local Newcastle Scientist Raewyn Billings.

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Raewyn specializes in molecular biology, genetics and cancer research and is currently working at the John Hunter Hospital as a Translational Scientist.

Seeing as we had arrived to write a blog on this interesting local, we needed a little more clarification. “So what exactly does a Translational Scientist do?” We ask.


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“I develop new testing and techniques that will be validated and put into clinical testing, which helps speed up turn around times for certain genetic tests. I look at DNA all day!”

As we share a delicious fruit platter, Raewyn tells us about the long spiraling ladder that is DNA, “It’s the recipe for every living thing,” she tells us excitedly.

“DNA and RNA are used to create proteins and give instructions for the shape and formation of proteins – they’re like a secret code.”

After further conversation about exome sequencing, clinical diagnostics and genomes, Raewyn decides to break things down for us more simply… and deliciously.

“I’ll show you,” she laughs. “Lets extract some DNA from these strawberries.”

Sure, why not!

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So as we got to work extracting from the berries in the lab, we also got to work extracting the story of Raewyn’s journey into genetics.

“I have always been the girl who had to figure things out,” Raewyn tells us while cutting up berries and pureeing them.

“I had a dream to work in forensics. When I was in Year 10 I started a petition so that our science classes would include forensic lessons. Mr Cook was the teacher and he eventually gave in – we did some fingerprinting and some other things.”

After school, Raewyn followed her passion for science and gained her Biotech – Medical Forensics degree working in Anatomical Pathology and Molecular Genetics.

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It was in 2006 that Raewyn’s dream of being a forensic scientist would become a reality, as she was successful in gaining a role as a Scene of Crime Officer based in Gosford.

For almost 6 years Raewyn attended high volume crime scenes, gathering and examining evidence.

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“I loved my job but something was missing. I missed the lab work and started to realise that my real passion was genetics.”
Through close personal family and friends being affected by cancer, Raewyn felt the push to further her study into medical genetics.

“I applied to the UBC – one of the top medical science universities in the world – and was so excited to get in! I had to leave my family here in Newcastle and move to Vancouver and spend my life savings to do it. But I knew it was my calling.”

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Raewyn scoops out a long piece of white string (DNA) from the strawberry goop with an aura of fascination that can only come from someone who is passionate and engaged with their work.

We talk about Raewyn’s time in Vancouver, Canada while studying her Masters of Science, Medical Genetics.

“At times it would get hard,” Raewyn admits, “and sometimes I would feel disheartened – but my Aunt Jenny who was battling cancer at the time had said to me “You have to do this” and I knew I could.”

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Her Thesis on simulating the human tumour heterogenteity using cancer cell line mixtures sits proudly in front of us as proof that she could – and she did.

An impressive undertaking on the understanding of the evolution of a tumor and a revelation on finding the culprit cell that is driving any one particular tumor, so that the correct treatment can be administered.

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Another passion formed in Canada for Raewyn and that was photography and the online social community of Instagram.

“I find photography an amazing outlet for creativity and to use another part of my brain away from all the pressures of science,” Raewyn says. “I’m an avid adventurer, so I utilised my time in Vancouver to make the most of the amazing hikes and scenery there.”

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Raewyns Canadian adventures became quite popular on Instagram gaining over 50,000  followers, however she now gladly shares her adventures back home in Newcastle.

“I am glad to be back home in Newy, it’s such an amazing place to live: the beaches, the opportunities and of course the wonderful community,” Raewyn tells us.

She is now contemplating her next move: a PHD with the University of Newcastle while simultaneously working in the lab to help produce results for cancer patients, all while enjoying Novocastrian life back home.

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Newcastle is a thriving and supportive community, and from what we learned from Raewyn about the spiraling ladder of DNA (that tells proteins how to form in the right shape), we are happy to know that our community is an amazing building block that supports it’s villagers, creating an abundance of vibrant life.

Visit us to discuss your next move in our vibrant city of Newcaslte, NSW