A group of students from six Good Samaritan Colleges spent five days of their holidays last week (July 3-8) getting a glimpse of what life is like for people who are significantly disadvantaged.
The 30 Year 11 students from Mount St Benedict Pennant Hills, St Patrick’s Campbelltown, St Scholastica’s Glebe, Rosebank Five Dock, St Mary’s Wollongong and Mater Christi Belgrave, participated in the annual Good Samaritan Ministry Outreach Program. In fact, they had to apply to be part of the experience.
“We can only take a maximum of five [students] per school,” said Monica Dutton, Program Co-ordinator of the Good Samaritan Education Mission Team.
“It’s become so popular that students are disappointed if their application is unsuccessful.”
Now in its fifteenth year, the ministry outreach program aims to raise awareness among students of the different expressions of disadvantage in our communities, such as homelessness, living with a disability or as a newly-arrived refugee.
During the five days, students break up into small groups and are hosted by community service organisations in Sydney, including St Canice’s Church and the Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross, the Exodus Foundation in Ashfield, Josephite Community Aid in Seven Hills, Allowah Presbyterian Children’s Hospital in Eastwood and the Parramatta Mission.
Each night the students stay at St Scholastica’s College in Glebe where they have the opportunity to reflect on their experiences. A teacher from each of the colleges accompanies the students in the whole process.
For Bria Robertson-Smith and Ashteeka Reddy of St Patrick’s College, last week’s experience was an “extraordinary opportunity to break down the barrier of ‘us and them’”.
“We are all human; we may have been through different experiences, some for the better or for the worse, but all the same, we are human,” they said.
Rosebank College student, Claudia Petrucco said her visit to Allowah Hospital for children with severe disabilities was a confronting but joyful experience that opened her “eyes and heart”.
“Meeting the children, playing with them and helping them to do their recreational activities brought not only them happiness, but also to us.”
Claudia described the people who volunteer and work in places like Allowah as “brave and courageous” because it is so “mentally and physically challenging”.
“I also learnt that the simple act of being a friend to a stranger actually can brighten their day, even just for the time you spend with them,” she said.
Monica Dutton has a particular interest in developing immersion programs for students and staff both here in Australia and overseas. She has accompanied a number of teacher and student groups to destinations where the Good Samaritan Sisters minister and believes the experiences can be very powerful.
“We’ve had a lot of feedback that suggests the experiences significantly change the outlook and even the direction and path that some of the staff and students take,” she said.
This week (July 8-17) Monica and Good Samaritan Sister, Meg Kahler, are accompanying a group of teachers from Good Samaritan colleges to Timor Leste. While there they will visit Good Samaritan Sister Rita Hayes and experience her ministry in Railaco as well as the Baucau Teachers College, and a number of schools and orphanages.
Other immersion experiences to be offered later this year include a trip for Year 11 students to Goodooga, a remote Indigenous community in the north-west of NSW, and an alternative “schoolies” experience for Year 12 students to Tanzania.