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Students connect with compassion in WA

Students connect with compassion in WA

Students connect with compassion in WA

18 August 2020

Darren Reynolds, Salvation Army Schools Engagement Manager (WA), with students who are supporting The Salvation Army.

By Jessica Morris

While COVID-19 continues to impact Australia’s south-eastern states, life in Western Australia has almost returned to normal – but the emotional side effects of the pandemic are still present for many people in the community.

The Western Australian Salvos School Team has pivoted its ‘Beyond The Classroom’ experience to meet the emotional needs of students in accordance with COVID-19 regulations in WA.

Enter the Western Australian Salvos Schools team, which runs The Salvation Army’s ‘Beyond the Classroom’ initiative that gives students opportunities to get involved in community service and educational activities.

According to the Beyond the Classroom website, the initiative aims to move students ‘beyond the classroom’ to see the problem of urban poverty in their communities and resolve to become part of the solution for those struggling with life’s challenges.

With COVID-19 adding to life’s challenges, the WA Salvos Schools team recently extended its work to embrace the national Social Connection Project, which aims to assist the most vulnerable people in the community who are being impacted by COVID-19.

Darren Reynolds, The Salvation Army Schools Engagement Manager in WA, said the project fulfilled the purpose of the Beyond the Classroom program.

“Earlier this year the school teams in Melbourne, Hobart and Perth combined to produce the Social Connection Project for schools to use as a response to COVID-19,” he said. “The Melbourne crew, in particular, put together a brilliant education component that aligns with the national curriculum. 

“It included components designed to encourage students to think about the effects of the current crisis on the most vulnerable in our community, to think of practical ways to express concern for the people around us, and to potentially find ways to support the work of The Salvation Army.”

One key component of the Beyond the Classroom program takes students to Salvation Army service centres, but they have strengthened other program components in order to meet the students where they are – whether that be providing free material online, conducting presentations at schools, or acting as guest speakers at camps.

“Whilst schools are reluctant to get involved in the Immersion Tours that we run at the moment, we are continuing to be invited into quite a number of schools this term to run our ABCD, Roughing It and other activities that are designed to raise awareness of homelessness in our city,” said Darren.

“Our Schools Engagement Representative, Peter Vernon, has worked tirelessly during these challenging times to keep delivering our message, and even recently travelled to Fairbridge Village to run sessions for Year 11 camp.”

So, how do you activate students to look beyond themselves during a pandemic? Well, it helps when your presenters are doing the hard yards.

Participation was understandably low during Term 2 when COVID-19 was at its peak in WA. And its Street Outreach program, which invited students to help people doing it tough on the streets of Perth, was put on hold due to council age restrictions.

Students continue to connect with William Booth’s call to “fight to the very end” through the WA Schools Program.

Yet as the team continued to network with schools, they found that students still wanted to give what they could – and often that was canned goods straight from the kitchen cupboard.

“Churchlands Senior High School has been amazing during the pandemic season,” Darren said. “Initially, during the lockdown period, staff at the school brought in food donations to donate to our Winter Appeal. And once the students returned to campus they set about fund-raising for us!”

“Students also started bringing in unwanted clothing to donate to the Salvos Stores Community Partnership program and the money they raised from that effort was used to purchase wool for a knitting program, involving over 200 students, with blankets and scarves they make being donated back to us.”

Another school’s act of generosity equated to more than $3000 worth of non-perishable goods, and an additional $1000 worth from two others during last-minute winter appeals.

Now that schools across WA have reopened, they are also able to cook and donate meals to local Doorways programs, and a handful partner to fill a roster that prepares 100 much-needed meals every week for the Street Outreach program.

“As we continue through Term 3 in WA, we are enjoying the freedom to continue working with schools as they book us in for workshops, talks and pledge their practical support for our work,” said Darren.

How’s that for a hope and a future? The students of WA are in safe hands!

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