One of the distinguishing features of Catholic education is the focus not only on providing quality education, but also forming the student as a person of integrity, compassion, faith, wisdom, independence and self-conviction. This is achieved by encouraging students to work closely with their local parish, community groups, support local charities and participate in outreach or immersion experiences for the benefit of the whole community and the student’s personal development. By encouraging students to commit to community initiatives at school and outside the school environment, encapsulates two core objectives of Catholic schools: bringing Christ into the lives of the students and providing a learning experience for all students which allows them to grow and thrive.
Each primary and high school determines the work, assistance or outreach opportunities they provide to their local community, usually by looking at the needs of their community, personal stories which connect students to fundraising opportunities or what local organisation or initiative could most benefit from the school’s involvement or assistance.
On top of numerous environmental initiatives, fundraising events and regular visits to aged care facilities in the region, students from a variety of Catholic high schools volunteer at the CatholicCare Food Van, cooking dinner for, serving and connecting with, the homeless community or those in need, each Saturday night at Islington Park. All schools regularly engage in activities to support Catholic Mission with fundraising and awareness-raising initiatives. Many secondary schools also conduct immersion experiences for their students to Cambodia and Papua New Guinea.
Similarly, a large majority of primary schools have ‘Mini-Vinnies’ clubs, where students are invited to coordinate winter appeals and support fundraising requests connected to St Vincent de Paul. Students take on leadership positions as they work on a student-based committee to encourage community involvement. It is through these experiences that students build up an appreciation for all people in the community, especially those in need.
High schools also conduct ‘Junior Vinnies’, with a huge focus on social justice and the environment.
It is because of this hands-on approach where students are encouraged to lead their peers and strive for justice by practically being involved, that they share a true sense of outreach and compassion.
A diocesan approach is taken during Lent, when all 56 Catholic schools work with their local Parish to participate in the major annual awareness and fundraising appeal for Caritas, Project Compassion, which runs during the six weeks of Lent in the lead up to Easter.
Project Compassion aims to educate local communities by providing an enhanced appreciation and awareness of the interrelationship of all peoples and what can be accomplished when people work together in partnership. Caritas Australia educates students by raising awareness of the reality and causes of poverty, hunger, oppression and injustice.
Each school endeavors to ensure school representation at important community events such as ANZAC day, with school leaders and either the principal or a teacher representative attending. Other events such as Armistace Day and the Way of the Cross are also well attended and community groups are encouraged to contact the school directly to invite them to events.
To find out what fundraising or community engagement initiatives a school in your local area is involved in, please contact the school directly.