Rolling up: Jake Sbardella was able to donate supplies for people sleeping rough to Uniting Care last week with money he raised by selling happiness advent calendars. Photos: ALISTAIR FINLAY

Search for happiness leads to helping others

January 18, 2020 BY

A SIMPLE desire for a happy lead up to Christmas has once again culminated in a young man raising enough money to donate eleven tents, sleeping bags and camp rolls for people sleeping rough.

Jake Sbardella’s happiness advent calendars, sold at markets across the region in the six months before Christmas, meant he was able to hand the much-needed supplies over to Uniting Care on Friday along with large cash donations to other welfare agencies.

“It started out because I wasn’t able to help out on the frontlines with the homeless because I was too young,” Jake said. “We raised $4200 this year from the calendars and overall we’ve raised $15,200 over four years.”

Jake’s mum, Emma Sbardella, said that calendars came out of their personal experience.

“When Jake was 10 we were going through a bit of a rough time as family and I asked him if he wanted a chocolate advent calendar for Christmas and he said, ‘no, I want a happiness advent calendar’,” she said. “So I made him one.”

The idea behind the calendrers is simple, rather than a sweet treat or little gift, between 1 and 24 December, the happiness advent calendars gives an inspirational, positive and uplifting quote.

The calendars will be on sale again this year.

After Emma made the first one for Jake, the idea took off from there.

“A few of our close friends said, ‘Awww, this is great’,” Ms Sbardella said. “They wanted them, and I said to Jake, ‘Well maybe this is a way you could raise some money for a cause that you are really passionate about’.”

Producing the calendars is a team effort. Jake chooses the quotes – saving the best one for Christmas Eve – and his mum does the design work, creating the layout and images that wrap around the words.

“We got them printed up for free by Revolution Print the first year. They thought it was a good idea,” Jake said. “We weren’t expecting to sell many, I think we were expecting to raise $70 and it went crazy overnight.

Uniting Care Ballarat’s Street to Home coordinator, Adam Liversage, received the handover of supplies for rough sleepers from Jake.

Before Jake and his mum dropped off the equipment, they spoke to Mr Liversage to make sure they were able to supply just what the organisation needed.

“It’s fantastic to see young people investing their time and interest into something like helping the homeless,” Mr Liversage said.

“We battle financially and have budget constraints, so this contribution helps us an awful lot. We go though a lot of tents, mattresses and sleeping bags, especially at this time of year when we get an influx of rough sleepers into the region.”

Along with the supplies Jake was also able to make significant donations to the One Humanity Shower Bus, St Vincent De Paul, the Ballarat Soup Bus and Anglicare Ballarat.

2019 wasn’t the first time Jake, who’s in year 9 at Damascus College, has raised money selling the happiness advent calendars.

In between 2016 and 2018 he was able to donate almost $10,000 worth of money and supplies to organisations across the city, including 24 backpack beds to Anglicare.