By making, we see that we are in control

Making a Difference

Our Origins

The Cuppacumbalong Foundation enables people to grow through making things and creating objects that initially may seem difficult or challenging. Founding directors, Karim Haddad and Ali Wass both have backgrounds in providing participants with challenging yet rewarding, and at times life changing situations.

Their combined passion for enabling people to grow through doing and creating, combining with the notion of giving something back to the community, lead to the formation of The Cuppacumbalong Foundation.

In 2003, with Karim as the principal teacher and business director, Tharwa Valley Forge commenced knife making courses as a part time operation. In 2020, the business employees over 14 staff in varying capacities and roles, and delivers around 250 courses a year to over 1000 participants.

The Tharwa Valley Forge has a strong history of delivering courses for disadvantaged groups and through establishment of The Cuppacumbalong Foundation it will allow greater access to these important courses.

By making, we see that we are in control

Over years of bladesmithing and blacksmithing, the power of making became self-evident to Karim. He recognised that the courses he was providing to the public were creating profound changes in peoples' lives. Former students would email, call, and even drop by to tell Karim about the impact attending a course had on them.

In particular, Karim heard from a lot of contemporary Defence Force Veterans. These were people who were currently serving or had recently separated from Defence. Most of these veterans had seen multiple deployments on active service and some were living with the profound impact of these experiences.

The multitude of veterans Karim spoke with encouraged him to approach the Department of Veterans' Affairs to find a way to provide this type of meaningful engagement to even more Veterans.

Nothing ever happens just because it's a good idea

Through this growth period, The Forge recruited a former serving member of the Australian Army, Mark Toogood. As a result of his experiences from numerous deployments, Mark was medically discharged. After a long journey of recovery, he enrolled on a knife making course. From this, his passion grew and is now a highly valued and integral member of the team. Karim, Mark and Ali developed a pilot program for Canberra region veterans and their families and approached Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) for funding.

Veterans' and Families Maker Program

In 2017/2018 Tharwa Valley Forge received the funding to support 64 contemporary Canberra region veterans and families to attend a course.

Whilst not having DGR status, The Forge was the only non-service, for-profit organisation to receive funding from DVA.

Demand was such that the program was completed three months into the twelve month grant window

A few months after the conclusion of the program, The Forge held a family day at Cuppacumbalong Homestead for course attendees.

Here is some of what they said:

  • I actually found that it changed my perspective a little bit. I mean, I’ve always known that I can do these sort of things . . . it’s just something that’s fallen off from my life over the past six or seven years that I’ve been in Defence. It’s nice to get that little push back into that creative space again. (veteran)
  • A shared experience . . . there’s nothing that we can do together. This [Veteran's and Families Maker Program] is the only thing that’s been offered . . . we’ve always been left out as partners in anything that goes on. It’s always just been for the serving member and that’s it. (Partner of a wounded veteran)
  • At the end of it, you’ve physically got something to take away, to go . . . “Look, I’ve made something” . . . Not something that just looks good, but something that is there, that’s used, that has value. Not just a shiny thing on the shelf. (veteran)
  • I saw a change in [veteran] after the course, that he could become more interpersonal with other people, rather than just be isolated, which seems to be a tendency with PTSD, that they stay isolated and don’t want to talk to people. But this gives them something to talk generally about, and in a positive way. (Partner of a veteran living with PTSD)

Independent Evaluation

When researching their grant application, Karim and Mark discovered there was a paucity of information regarding projects like theirs. With this in mind, they engaged researchers from the University of Canberra to independently evaluate their program and to conduct original research.

They found that the maker courses at Tharwa Valley Forge had a significant and lasting impact on the lives of attendees in conjunction with a profound effect on participant self-worth and the quality of their interpersonal relationships.

Research Summary

Contemporary Australian Veterans in Transition - Interventions for Enhancing Well-Being

An Ongoing Effort

The researcher's literature review showed that the program undertaken by Tharwa Valley Forge was the first of its kind ever conducted in Australia.

This brought home the need for action. Karim conducted a donation campaign that raised enough money to fund a years worth of maker-based school holiday courses for veterans with younger children.

These donations, however, were not tax deductible. Many donors commented that they would love to give more if that were the case.

While the team at Tharwa Valley Forge continued to deliver courses for veterans with the raised funds, Karim commenced engineering something more sustainable. Realising the value participants gained from the course, and the limitations of not having DGR status for the Tharwa Valley Forge, Karim and Ali established The Cuppacumbalong Foundation in December 2018 with DGR status.

The Cuppacumbalong Foundation offers fully funded making scholarships for disadvantaged people to attend maker courses. The Foundation has no paid staff or directors with all positions voluntary.

Independent Oversight

The Cuppacumbalong Foundation is an ACNC registered charity and public benevolent institution with deductible gift recipient status. Donations and independently received funding is allocated for scholarships for people to attend a fully funded course.

The Board consists of highly motivated, passionate makers and artists some of who are a Judge from the District Court of NSW and a venture capitalist with a history of working with altruistic organisations.

The Cuppacumbalong Foundation began providing courses almost straight away. The ACT Department of Community Services awarded the Foundation a grant to conduct a series of school holiday courses for Canberran veterans and their families.

As had been the case so far, this proved to be a stepping stone towards doing even more good for even more people.

Ongoing Work

The Cuppacumbalong Foundation exists to fund maker-based meaningful engagement courses for a broad spectrum of communities in need. We now deliver programs to veterans and their families, carers, and first responders. In our first year of operation, we provided scholarships to over 60 people.

Our priorities are to extend offerings to seniors and the aboriginal community, and to increase the geographic area our participants are drawn from.

Although The Cuppacumbalong Foundation has it's roots in bladesmithing and blacksmithing, our programs cover a broader gamut. Scholarships will include courses based on sculpture, leatherwork, woodwork, print making, writing and other creative maker avenues.

When you donate, you have the option of choosing which course your money will go towards.

Every single dollar donated to us is used to fund scholarships - donated money is not spent on administration or operational costs.

All donations $2 and over are tax deductible.