Last week, the young men of Year 9 had the opportunity to ‘look outside themselves’ and engage in five rotating workshops designed to offer unique experiences spending time with poor and marginalised people living in Brisbane.
St Vincent De Paul staff at their Head Office explained the history of how the organisation started and the good work ‘Vinnies’ accomplishes out in the community. They challenged the boys to understand the social safety net, which ensures that people can afford the basic accommodation, food and health services. The statistics of poverty in Australia are startling and students were given the opportunity to understand poverty by listening to firsthand accounts from people living on less than $40 a day.
Brett Greinke, ATC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Support Officer spoke passionately and honestly about Aboriginal history, enriching and drawing attention to divisions from the past. He is passionate about setting a new tone to embrace each other, acknowledging the past but looking to the future. He challenged our young ATC men to bring forth a change in attitude which will signal hope.
Father Tony spoke about his work and experiences in South East QLD prisons explaining that prison life was not like the movies, but rather a miserable and dangerous place. Chris – an American man who moved here from Hawaii- spoke about his journey from a well-paid job and happy marriage into homelessness. His message was one of compassion. He spoke about the importance of not judging others and asked us to look at all people equally, with dignity and empathy.
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40
Concluding the day was a visit to Blind Eye Ministries. Blind Eye, in South Brisbane, is a drop-in centre, a place that people can get a meal, have a shower, wash their clothes and most importantly connect in conversation with others. Their objective is to not only meet the material needs of the homeless, but the fullness of the individual, mind, body and soul. The boys heard a message of love, hope and compassion and they look forward to continuing to take opportunities to help with work at Blind Eye.
The importance of relationships was a common thread throughout the day. Our students came to understand that forming strong bonds, building friendships and making meaningful connections with others means everyone can feel supported both in the good times and the tough times.
The retreat wasn’t about ‘poverty tourism’, but rather about genuine engagement with people who have fallen into hard times. The Year 9’s were courageous in facing some difficult subjects throughout the day but they walked away with a better understanding of the real world and how they can make an authentic difference. I look forward to seeing how their sign of faith [signum fidei] grows in the coming months.
Head of Year 9