Urban Camp: Influencing a generation of leaders

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How do you get students to interact with and learn about  people living with disadvantage. The Brotherhood of St Laurence runs Urban Camp to do just this. This profile is from the sixth edition  of Experiri (Term 2 2014) and was contributed by Megan Nagy, Schools Engagement Coordinator, Brotherhood of St Laurence.camp

What was the response to the need?

After discussion with schools and trialling of a few different activities, the Urban Camp project was created to allow a practical experience for students to be engaged with the community, and meet people they might not otherwise interact with. Students come and stay at the Brotherhood for four days and become part of the community we work with, from young children at the Breakfast Club program, to young refugees, to sorting at our warehouse, to older people at the Coolibah senior citizens centre and everyone in-between.

What was the impact?

Some students come to camp with a very limited idea about disadvantage. The program shows them that, each person has a unique story to tell, all should be treated with dignity and it is within everyone’s power to help others. After camp students have returned to their schools and continued the work of fundraising but also sharing their new knowledge and helping out in their own communities. We have even had groups organise excursions for people they have met while on camp. The program is helping to grow a culture of volunteering amongst young people and encouraging them to be involved with others. The program has grown over the last five years with new schools signing up each year and new community activities wanting to be involved.

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What was the impact?

Some students come to camp with a very limited idea about disadvantage. The program shows them that, each person has a unique story to tell, all should be treated with dignity and it is within everyone’s power to help others. After camp students have returned to their schools and continued the work of fundraising but also sharing their new knowledge and helping out in their own communities. We have even had groups organise excursions for people they have met while on camp. The program is helping to grow a culture of volunteering amongst young people and encouraging them to be involved with others. The program has grown over the last five years with new schools signing up each year and new community activities wanting to be involved.

What were the greatest challenges?

The majority of our participants from co-ed schools are girls. We are working on ways to secure the interest of young men to help them see that this is a valuable and inspiring experience for them. We work really hard to ensure that Urban Camp is not a token experience for students but a beginning to a future of serving others in their community. Funding this program is difficult – whilst participants pay to come to camp, it pays only for the expenses of camp, not the staff time. Philanthropic trusts don’t see us as a program that they want to support as we might be teaching but we’re not helping disadvantaged youth in a direct kind of way.

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 along with new stories.

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