Putting accounting skills to work at Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission

Above left: Frank Barta with students in a music class. Above: Frank and Rosey Barta with Maya (centre), one of the students they support.

When Frank Barta FCPA and his wife Rosey called into an orphanage during a visit to India, he had no idea it would change his life. This is their story.

By Katie Langmore

In 2012, Tasmanians Frank and Rosey Barta were staying in Delhi and were invited on a drive to a orphanage run by the India-based Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission.

“We expected to stay a few hours and ended up staying two days,” Frank Barta recalls.

The couple has since returned five times. Rosey spends much of her time in the orphanage kitchen, cooking large meals or making food with the orphans. 

“To have someone from the other side of the world sit and make chapatti with the kids makes them feel valued – that their tasks are meaningful and worthwhile,” says Barta, who spends his time there putting his accounting knowledge to use with the financial administration.

“My other specialty has actually been recording the kids singing. I do that while I’m there and then back in Australia I put some backing tracks behind them and make them sound like rock stars. You should see the look on their faces when they hear it for the first time!”

Over the years he has seen the children bloom. 

“Most of the kids have been left because their parents can’t afford to look after them and they certainly have abandonment issues. But watching twin baby girls who have literally been dumped blossom into happy, intelligent little girls, or struggling teenagers grow into confident young adults with good jobs, is amazing.”

Part of the drive to keep returning to the mission is an awareness of the children’s abandonment issues and a desire to provide some constancy in their lives.

“One of the things we’ve had to think about as visitors and volunteers is that we’ll visit and build up relationships with the kids, then leave again. So, we always let them know we’ll come back and they know they can email and Skype us while we’re away,” says Barta, adding that the mission is teaching the children to read and write in English and Hindi. 

“They even have a computer lab.”

Another issue the Bartas have grappled with is whether the money they spend on flights could be better used as a donation.

“We questioned whether we were being self-indulgent, but then realised there is such [great] value to the social connection with the kids. The staff can only give so much direct attention to each child, and to just sit with the kids and read and cook with them makes them feel valued and special. I think that’s something money can’t buy.”

Frank Barta recently finished up as CFO of Clarence City Council after 30 years. “I used to joke at work that I’m not retiring – just changing my business model,” he says.

With a position on boards, including Tasplan Super and Tasmanian Community Fund, not to mention his input into the mission’s financial paperwork, Barta indeed seems to have transitioned to a great new business model.

The Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission

The Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission is set on 60 acres at the foothills of the Himalayas and houses an orphanage, school and farm. The school for the orphanage and local children has 700 students. To find out more visit http://indianorphanage.com/

Read next: Penelope James CPA puts her accounting skills to work in Kenyan permaculture project


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June 2019
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