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Supporting girls to face life's challenges

Supporting girls to face life's challenges

Supporting girls to face life's challenges

16 June 2016

Judy uses the game Jenga to teach the girls about getting up again after life's challenges knock them down.

By SIMONE WORTHING

Drama, singing, craft, Scripture and “Girls Time” are just some of the tools Judy Schutte uses in her role as The Salvation Army’s Rural Schools and Community Worker in the Riverina region of New South Wales, to support girls facing life’s challenges.
 
Judy’s background in theatre and singing, both as a performer and teacher, as well as her experience as a school chaplain, teaching the Army’s Red Cap anger management program, and in women’s and children’s ministries, enables her to contribute to the lives of girls, and boys, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, in a unique and creative way.

Judy is part of a team of Schools and Community Workers, with her colleagues based at The Salvation Army in Canberra. Her area extends for hundreds of kilometres, from West Wyalong to Wagga Wagga and out to Lockhart and Tumbarumba.

One of the programs Judy runs for girls is a vocal program at The Rock Central School. “It’s a singing group and they sing in concerts, are preparing for the eisteddfod in Wagga, and just enjoy the benefits of song,” Judy said. “I teach them technical skills and harmonies, but really, it’s about the relationships we build – they see me as a ‘safe’ adult and mentor.”

Judy teaches Religious Education at this school, and at Lockhart Central School, a program that encourages students to question, explore and discover the basics of the Christian faith based on the Bible. “Girl Time” is another popular group at these two schools, in both junior and senior high school. “I work with the girls to build social and resilience skills, develop good character, identify their passions and goals, and serve in the community,” Judy explained. “We work together to overcome the differences in our personalities, we look out for each other, and we support each other.”

At a school for children who can’t attend mainstream education, Judy works with the only two female students on self-esteem and social skills. “I use art and role playing with the girls to help them break the cycle and not allow the past to sabotage or create their futures. We also do ‘girlie’ crafts and fun things which the girls, in a school full of boys, really enjoy.”

Team-building games, including dancing and drumming, are also part of Judy’s toolkit with both genders.

Judy’s “Drama and Discovery” group is based on the therapeutic model used by Playback Theatre in Sydney where Judy worked for many years with children, adults, organisations and communities. “Playback Theatre works on the premise of using real life stories, rather than a script,” Judy explained. “It is used in conflict management, prisons, disengaged youth, with those suffering from mental illness. It’s about listening and communication, body language, and expressing yourself through movement, music and metaphor.”

Judy loves her work with students and helping them identify and overcome some of the challenges they face. “It’s so rewarding just to see the change in their demeanour; the sparkle in the eye of a child that the thinks they’re amazing,” she explained. “They choose to come and spend time with me. They know I’m a Christian; that I believe in Jesus, and this leads to some great conversations. I develop as many relationships in the community that I can, and I know that God is blessing this work.”

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