Community partnerships a recipe for success

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Service can be a life changing experience for a young person and it can also change a school’s relationship with its community. Putting the community at the forefront of service helps to build powerful support and connection. Here is a profile from the eighth edition of Experiri (Term 4 2014) and was contributed by Matt Hodge who is Service Learning Coordinator at Whitsunday Anglican School.

Experiri is a quarterly newsletter presenting stories of innovation in school ministry from Australia and beyond. Each edition provides two or three profiles of  innovative strategies that have been developed in response to challenges or emerging issues for chaplains or others in Anglican Schools, including Heads and Religious Educators. Until now Experiri was an emailed newsletter but in  the coming months some of the previous profiles will be posted here.

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What was the need or challenge being addressed?

We identified two issues. The first was providing a free‐of‐charge service learning experience for students that could match our international experiences. The second was to enhance some of our community partnerships in the local area.

What was the response to the need?

The Mackay Children’s Holiday Camp was established to address our challenges. The camp, based on the successful Sony Foundation Children’s Holiday Camp Program, is an opportunity for Year 11 students to take of the role of primary carers for local young people with special needs. Significant consultation was undertaken to ensure that we had the community support. We also have established a strong connection with the Churchie Sony Camp to embrace their experience with running these types of camps.

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What was the impact?

The impact of our first Mackay Children’s Holiday Camp was far greater than we could have expected. Our Year 11’s relished with the opportunity to take on the added responsibilities of being the primary carers for our 10 campers. Our Year 12’s and staff volunteers ensured that all of the activities ran smoothly and that all jobs were completed efficiently. All involved in the camp were extremely proud of their efforts in giving back to local community. Most of the people involved cannot wait for the 2015 camp. This is a great indicator of the success of the camp and the impact on all involved.

To ensure success in our community, it was decided to put the local community at the forefront, hence why it was decided to name the camp after the city of Mackay, not our School. This decision was very well received and we are grateful for the large amount of community support.

What were the greatest challenges?

We always had the understanding that establishing the camp would require a lot of work. The greatest challenge was balancing this amount of large amount of work between a small number of staff when we are busy with our daily roles as educators. As a group, the planning team used the mantra that ‘it will be easier next year.’ As the Camp Coordinator, I am extremely thankful to the staff that sacrificed their time to set the camp up. Out of the challenge of getting it all done, it was wonderful to see staff setting a great example to our students that leading with service does require sacrifice.

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