The Year of Justice at Marian College Ararat.
Theme: The small things matter.
“Be faithful in small things. Because, it is in them that your strength lies.” Mother Teresa.
What an extraordinary year for us all! The best laid-plans… Every so often I feel a curve ball comes our way to reshape our ideas and comfortable road ahead in order to help us reflect upon our place in the world and the important work we undertake. While intentioned and definitely not welcomed, this year of the pandemic has brought to focus the importance of what we do together within our community at Marian College.
I was reminded this week of our work with the Fred Hyde Foundation (Co-Id), when we received an email of thanks from one of the founders. Over the last eight years, Marian College has supported the building and resourcing of a kindergarten in Bhola, Bangladesh. We are not alone in this. Many schools across the country have supported Fred in building and resourcing kindergartens or schools for these very poor communities. This year has been more difficult for many obvious reasons. Despite this, as a college we have still been able to provide our annual funding because of the generosity and creativity of students through the lockdown and over a number of years. This has carried us through.
Like many other countries, schools and kindergartens have been closed for months because of COVID-19. The educational work in these communities has changed dramatically. The difference between Australia and Bhola is the lack of job keeper, job seeker, unemployment benefits or government handouts to support teachers and their families. Despite this, extraordinarily, through the support of the Co-Id Foundations, teachers continue to work, walking door to door and village to village to provide education and support for children at home. We cannot help but admire their resilience.
We realise as a community, that despite the difficulties we all have experienced this year, how fortunate we are to live in a comparatively rich country. It is not a great sacrifice for our community to raise the funds each year for the Fred Hyde Foundation, we actually enjoy the many fundraising activities such as Marian’s Got Talent, Colour Runs, barbeques, Hot Dog day, Year level quizzes and Staff and Students games. But these small events make such a difference to these students who have so little. Since 1991, Fred and his volunteer team have raised funds to educate over 100,000 children who would never have had the opportunity to learn.
Fred passed away about three years ago but he left such an important legacy for the future. More importantly, he helped our community remember the most vulnerable beyond our shores.
We began this Year of Justice with great plans to implement the Principles of Living Justice Framework across the College. Aside from their usual tasks, House leaders were to take on a new role as community and justice leaders. But with the events of this year, the KM framework has emerged perhaps a little more practical than planned in its application.
Lockdown has redefined the needs of our most vulnerable this year. Mental health concerns have become increasingly more prominent over recent months. We learnt a great deal from the first lockdown and the tremendous impact this had on students, staff and families. Leading into the second lockdown, we increased the level of resources and support for staff and students. Our Learning Diversity Team invited the most vulnerable onsite early to provide more intensive support to ensure students stayed connected. One of the key developments this time has been our new Community Wellbeing Hub launched in July. A number of local providers from the Ararat area were invited to create a series of small video clips of meditation, physiotherapy sessions, exercise, yoga, Positive Education and Wellbeing resources for students, their parents and staff.
As we return to school, students have eased back into routines reasonably well. Our Wellbeing team, teachers, Learning Support Officers and counsellors have done an amazing job. The students are smiling once again and enjoying the company of their peers. Staff too are enjoying life at the college once again. There is so much energy we gain from the students around us and the daily interactions, laughs and challenges. As we head towards the VCE exam block next week, safely and at a distance, it is good for our community to keep one small kindergarten in Bhola in the front of mind, and wish them every success as they continue the fight to educate throughout this pandemic.
Take care and all the very best to Year 12 students across our schools.