Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese REPORT
26 Oct 2011
Along with English, History, Maths, Science and other academic subjects, students at St Vincent's College, Potts Point are committed to helping the less fortunate and reaching out to those in need.
From Year 7 through to Year 12, the school's 620 students participate in the school's wide-ranging social justice program which sees the teenagers volunteering at St Canice's Soup Kitchen, going out on St Vincent de Paul Society's Night Patrol to help provide food, blankets and encouraging words to the city's homeless or packing up Christmas hampers for CatholicCare.
"Founded by the Sisters of Charity, our school has a long history of social justice," says Rachel McLean, Director of Faith Formation and Mission at St Vincent's College. "But in the past year we have rewritten our Outreach portfolio so that students in each year have an opportunity to learn about a specific charity and find ways in which they can help."
The college firmly believes that along with academic and sporting success, a rounded education means learning about the ways students can make a difference to the lives of others, particularly to those who are disadvantaged, poor, lonely and struggling.
"Potts Point and the adjacent Kings Cross are areas of extremes where you see the very rich and the very poor," says Rachel pointing out that there is never a shortage of those in need of help whether they are the elderly, living isolated and alone, or the homeless who rely on St Canice's Soup Kitchen for food as well as shelter, with many bedding down in front of the church's main doors.
The girls at St Vincent's also learn about charity fundraising and in August, an enthusiastic group of 42 headed for Martin Place to sell daffodils, yellow pins and yellow buttons as part of Daffodil Day, the Cancer Council's major annual fundraiser.
The volunteer students collected more than $3000 to support Daffodil Day with another group out in force again on Friday last week, enthusiastically collecting for breast cancer at the Cancer Council's other big fund raiser, Big Ribbon Day.
"The great thing about our Outreach program is that every student is involved and has the opportunity to participate. In the program it is not just the class leaders and standout students who join in, but those who are quieter or more shy and less forthcoming," says Rachel.
Not only does the program teach the students about Christ's love and what it means to follow in His footsteps, but the girls develop emotional maturity and greater capacity to both give love and receive love, as well as a lifelong commitment to helping others.
"When students leave school and do a gap year between their HSC and beginning Uni, rather than tour Europe like many of their peers, they opt to work with the poor in developing countries," Rachel says. "And when they choose careers, the most popular choices seem to be working in the care industry as nurses or doctors, or in the field of medical research, or in social work and social education. We also have quite a few girls going into law to make a difference there."
A key part of the Outreach program at St Vincent's College is how each morning one of the groups from the school's different classes gives an update on their particular charity or project.
One of the reports given by a group of girls aged from 15 to 17 that continues to resonate among students came after the 15 students who joined St Vincent de Paul Society's Night Patrol. During their time with the patrol, where the girls helped organise care packages, they met Ivan, a homeless man who scribbles poetry on scraps of paper.
Among the poems he gave the girls was one called "A Bed of Roses".
"I have slept near
The bed of roses
With the colours of
White, red and blue
I have named the most sensational ones
"The incredible You."