A gift of love, hope and freedom from Forbes

Vanessa Knights never gave up on her daughters.

Not when it meant entering the Gulf War zone to collect a traumatised six-month-old, or fronting up to a Sri Lankan court to fight to bring a tiny premature baby back to Australia.

Not when it meant endless research and daily therapies to ensure her daughter with mild cerebral palsy had the best chance of optimal mobility.

This story is about Shuey Brown Co and Love. Hope. Freedom. You might have seen the t-shirts already.

You can buy them here.

But when you ask creator and Forbes local Kaushulya Brown about it, she speaks of her late mum.

Love. Hope. Freedom is a project birthed in tribute to her mother Vanessa Knights to raise funds for an orphanage in Galle, Sri Lanka, probably similar to the one where Shuey was taken as a tiny two-and-a-half pound baby.

The response so far has been incredible and it's already making a difference in Sri Lanka.

In a few short weeks, the response from Forbes and the wider community has been so wonderful that Shuey has already sent off thousands of dollars that will secure formula, staff and medical supplies for the orphanage for months to come.

It's already meant they have been able to have their washing machine and dryer, which haven't worked for 18 months, repaired.

"I am so excited, it's probably come at such a great time for them," Shuey said.

Shuey was only two days old - tiny, premature, and pretty seriously ill - when Bill and Vanessa Knights arrived in Sri Lanka to adopt her to join their family.

They had already brought big sister Shanthi home, and would go back in 1990 to adopt Shari from war-torn Jaffna.

"It was pure hard work and determination," Shuey says in tribute to her mum.

When they arrived to meet baby Shuey it was even more complex than they had anticipated: she was tiny and premature, with no access to an incubator.

The Knights, starting their business here at the time, had saved to spend weeks in Sri Lanka for adoption.

They had to borrow money from family to extend their stay and then plead their case in the courts - Vanessa wasn't allowed to speak - to bring their seriously ill baby back to Australia.

"I was really sick on the plane but (once back in Australia) I got everything I needed and started putting on weight," Shuey said.

As the months passed however, Vanessa noticed her second baby girl wasn't developing - holding her head up, crawling - as expected.

Eventually she was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy, and the Knights were told Shuey may never walk or would at least walk with a limp.

The fact that many of us who know Shuey today would never guess this is, she says, testament to her mum's hard work, research and determination.

"Mum did every type of exercise with me, the doctor worked with me, I had speech pathology and everything," Shuey said.

"Mum didn't want me to feel different, she just wanted me to have the best opportunities.

"The only thing that was really bad was my left arm so when I was 10 and 12 they got a tennis surgeon to operate and now - unless you really know me - you wouldn't know."

Shuey says few in the community would know the lengths Vanessa and Bill went to for their daughters, but it was foremost in her own mind when Vanessa was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.

Vanessa had surgery in Sydney and was there for two-and-a-half months, someone always by her side as they managed the business at home and family commitments.

Vanessa, her family and the medical team fought hard to ensure all treatment options were explored through four-and-a-half years of chemotherapy and everything associated with it.

Eventually they had to acknowledge that the only thing they could do for Vanessa was fulfil her desire to spend her final days at home.

In those days, Shuey was shocked to hear her mum express her regret that she hadn't accomplished anything. She hadn't been to uni, or achieved in sports.

Her family knows what an incredible impact she had on not only them, but all those around her. Even short-term acquaintances.

"We would go to Sydney, walk into the room and everybody would remember us," Shuey said.

"No matter how sick mum was she would have her lipstick and her blush on.

"One time people even thought I was there for treatment and mum was with me!"

It's certain that the Knights family will never forget Vanessa, but as time has passed her daughter has wanted to do more in her mum's honour.

"My mum is amazing," Shuey says now. "I got the best chance in life so we have to give something back."

In 2019 Shuey and husband Phil took their first steps into this venture, travelling to Sri Lanka to volunteer with an orphanage.

It was an extremely confronting trip.

"We could barely bring ourselves to go into the babies' room, they were lying on mattresses with just nappies on, and with flies crawling on them," Shuey said.

Older children mobbed them, Phil constantly had five or six children climbing on him and vying for his attention.

The Browns formed a close bond with the team and when it came time to leave, they asked what they could do to support the work of the orphanage.

"Just keep in contact," they were told.

Such humble expectations floored the Forbes locals and Shuey's mind ticked over the entire flight home with thoughts of what more she could do - how she could offer more children the opportunities that her mum gave her.

And so we come to the birth of Shuey Brown Co.

"The words are love, hope, freedom because that's what it represents," Shuey explains, in a very real and tangible way to children in Sri Lanka.

"The goal is health, education and supporting women with women's hygiene products.

"The boys matter to me of course, but it also really matters to me that these girls know they can have life, they don't need to be in an arranged marriage - some start having children at 13 or 14.

"If there's a kid at that orphanage who wants to go to uni, I want them to be able to do that."

It's all come together with the help and support of a collective right here in Forbes, and thanks are extended to Made of Fridays, Gunn's Menswear, Lauren McConnell Photography, Side Seams and Steele Technology who have all had a hand in the project from the logo to the designs, the stock and the website.

There's a whole team effort right through to seven-year-old nephew Elias who checks out the fabrics for comfort and has his own plans for supporting the cause.

"That's the good thing about living in Forbes, everyone I have spoken to has just done everything to help," Shuey said.

"It just all came together, everyone has been really supportive."

It has taken a little while for Shuey to be ready to actually launch the project to the public, but she eventually decided to begin with a photo shoot on her mum's anniversary.

Friends, family, colleagues all gathered to be part of it and when Shuey saw those photographs she suddenly believed maybe she could do this.

The images of the t-shirts, hoodies, and nighties, from kids through to plus-sizes, hit social media in July.

"We have had such a great response," Shuey said.

"We sold nearly $4000 worth of stock that weekend."

The project is already within reach of raising the $10,000 that seemed like a dream that might be attainable over a few years.

What an incredible testament to our community, to Vanessa and Bill, and to their daughters.

Get involved: go to shueybrownco.com.au/ to learn more and see the range of items.