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A community of caring at Wenona

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Service at Wenona is not just about fundraising, it’s also about lending a hand, performing small acts of kindness or giving of our time and skills. It was heartening therefore to see our motto, Ut Prosim, that I may serve play out across the School this week.

At Hooke House, Abbey (Year 4) invited the SRC students to support In-visible, a charity supported by her mum that works to bring lasting change to children living in poverty in the Philippines. One of the In-visible initiatives that Abbey has personally taken on is to write Christmas cards to some of the 8,000 children connected to the Holy Spirit School in Quezon City.

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“Receiving a personalised card helps to cheer them up,” said Abbey. “It shows them that a child in another country cares enough about them to send them a card.”

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Abbey has personally handwritten around 200 cards already, but with the help of her Wenona school friends, she is hoping to complete 1,000 by the end of the week and will accompany her mum to the Philippines to distribute them.

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“Altogether, we are hoping to have 8,000 cards – children in other countries are writing them too,” said Abbey. “In-visible hold a Christmas party for about 700 children whose parents can’t afford to feed them every day.

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The personalised Christmas cards are for the rest of the children at the school, so they feel special too. So draw a picture or add a sticker – anything that you think will make them happy.”

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Mr Pomfrett asked the students, who all took to the task with gusto, if on Christmas Day when they were opening their presents or sharing a meal with their loved ones, they could take a moment to think about the children in the Philippines.

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“For some of these children, your card might be the only gift they receive this Christmas, so try to take a moment to reflect on this.”

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In Years 9 and 10, students complete a minimum of 10 hours of Service Learning in the Community (SLIC), which is overseen by Ms Kate Seale, Director of Community and Service Learning. While their contributions vary, they include assisting local community groups or charities, working with the elderly or people with additional needs, or simply supporting children at school who need help with their homework.

At the House and Service Assembly this week, Amirah, Charlotte, Laura, Anna and Safi all spoke with pride about the opportunity to make a positive difference to people’s lives.

Amirah (Year 9) spent three days at Giant Steps School in Gladesville, which caters for children and young adults who live with autism. For Amirah, it’s a cause that is very close to her heart.

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“I have a passion for helping children with autism as my brother is a student at Giant Steps and has been since he was two and a half years old. Everyone learns in different ways, but for me schools such a Giant Steps give children who have autism the chance to be educated, feel loved and safe. A huge highlight of SLIC was when I helped a young boy Rayan, who is very shy and anxious, jump on the trampoline and laugh loudly, things that the teachers informed me they had never seen him do. One of the happiest moments of my life was seeing my brother in the playground. We’ve always gone to different schools so I have never experienced that before. I challenge everyone who completes SLIC to find something they are passionate about and go into SLIC with a positive and can-do attitude because the experience is amazing if you really put your heart into it.”

Meanwhile, Charlotte (Year 9) worked with the FRESH (Food, Recreation, Education, Society and Health) group at Mosman Council Youth Centre, which is a volunteer program partnered with OzHarvest.

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“We prepared meals for single women refugees with children, who have moved to Australia to escape abusive domestic situations overseas. We created economical recipes for them that were achievable on a tight budget. We also designed pamphlets, posters and visual recipes for illiterate people, to educate others about the importance of nutrition. At the end of each term, we ran a food stall at a local community event, highlighting the problem of food waste. Volunteering required good communication skills, initiative, positivity and perseverance. I learned just how much these qualities were needed to work well. I really enjoyed my time with FRESH. I met a lot of interesting people and contributed to the community in a meaningful way. SLIC is definitely worthwhile and I’m very pleased to have been involved.”

Laura and Anna (Year 10) volunteered at the Jesuit Mission, a not-for-profit organisation that works with people suffering from disadvantage, including asylum seekers, refugees and those in crisis.

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“Our job varied from organising fundraisers such as the Indian Bazaar, sorting through surveys, doing data entry, and lugging boxes full of books up three flights of stairs,” said Laura. Anna said, “Moving the boxes from the first floor to the third floor proved to be harder than we originally thought. Getting locked in the store room, narrow stairwells, uneven stairs and boxes that broke just as you reached the top of the stairs made for an eventful afternoon.”

They both found the experience extremely worthwhile. “We would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a SLIC placement. It’s a great opportunity to learn new skills and help support a great cause,” said Laura.

Safi (Year 10), who is of Iranian descent, volunteered with a group of elderly Persian women, participating in outdoor exercise activities with them.

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“I wanted to take advantage of the SLIC opportunity to learn more about where my mother and grandma used to live. I talked to the women about their life now compared to back in Iran. I learned a lot about Iran and its culture. I found it very interesting to listen to their views on Iran’s government and the misrepresentation of Iran on the news. We are all so lucky to have the opportunity to take part in SLIC at Wenona and it is very important that we all take advantage of the opportunity by choosing placements that have meaning and connection to you.”

Students also spoke about the service aspect of some of the clubs that meet up at lunchtime, including the Amnesty Group, the Environment Group, Gender Equity Group and the Pride Alliance Group.

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World Vision’s Ms Philippa Paul presented Dr Scott with an award to acknowledge Wenona’s contribution to the 40 Hour Famine this year, with students raising an incredible $27,000, making Wenona the 2nd highest fundraising school in Australia.

Well done to all our students and a huge thank you to Ms Seale for all her tireless hard work in organising the SLIC opportunities.

Ut Prosim, that I may serve.