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At the heart of Wenona lies a commitment to service, which came shining through in our students’ Service Learning in the Community presentations this week.
For Poppy (Year 9), the opportunity to meet older residents through her voluntary work with Mosman Council’s Meals on Wheels and Winter Wonderland Lunch was both heartening and humbling. Social isolation and loneliness can have a huge impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing. They are conditions often associated with older people for whom the effects of retirement, loss of a partner or poor health can be profoundly isolating.
Poppy’s experience of meeting elderly residents and listening to their stories made her realise that for some people, retirement is not always a time of happiness and opportunity. Without community-minded people like her mum, who regularly volunteers for Meals on Wheels, a whole slice of society is cut off from what makes life worth living for the rest of us: friendships, social contact and having fun. Understanding more about older people’s lives and the issues they face has encouraged Poppy to stay involved. She is looking forward to joining local residents at their upcoming Christmas lunch.
Alyssa’s Service Learning in the Community took her to Fisher Road School in Dee Why, which provides education for students from Kindergarten to Year 12 with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities. For Alyssa, it was a chance to learn more about the rewards and challenges of supporting the children in a variety of educational and recreational activities to ensure they were engaged, learning and having fun.
Communication is a basic human need, allowing people to connect with others and feel part of the community they live in. Alyssa enjoyed learning how to use picture cards so that she could communicate with children who are non-verbal. She also went on an excursion to a local park, which caters for children of all abilities. It highlighted to her the importance of inclusive spaces, where children can feel part of the wider community and embrace simple pleasures that many of us take for granted.
Sarah, Grace, Charlotte and Helen (Year 10) shared their experience of volunteering for headspace, which provides help to young people aged 12 to 25 years for mental health, general health, alcohol and drug, and work and study issues. Sophia (Year 10) enjoyed working closely alongside a Woodstock student, helping her with her fine motor skills and giving her the confidence to explore new things.
Rose, Rebecca, Jess and Emily spoke passionately about the work of their Service Groups: Amnesty International; Gender Equity; the Environment Group; and the Pride Alliance Group.
It was fantastic to hear from World Vision’s Mr Ben White at our Principal’s Assembly that the $20,000-plus raised by Wenona for the 40 Hour Famine will fund eight Child Friendly Spaces in refugee camps in Syria and South Sudan. This will provide 1,600 of the world’s most vulnerable children with access to education, counselling and safe places to play.
With so many gloomy headlines in the media about homelessness, poverty and disadvantage, it would be easy to despair. It is inspiring therefore, to see so many Wenonians standing up and embodying our school motto, Ut Prosim, that I may serve. Long may it continue!