Clancy Catholic College West Hoxton’s student volunteers are bright-eyed when they speak of their experience of a tutoring program for recently arrived refugee children.
Groups of eight to 12 students in Years 10 to 11 have participated in the St Vincent De Paul initiative for the past four years, offering homework help to primary-aged students who have fled countries including Iraq and Syria.
Volunteers from both grades will offer homework help to students with refugee backgrounds at Liverpool West Public School again this term. They will spend an hour each Thursday on Maths and Literacy activities, conversation and games.
Year 11 students Kyle Nelson and Sinead Armstrong, both 16, tutored Syrian refugee siblings last term.
“We mainly did homework,” Kyle said. “It was good seeing him get the questions right and seeing his happy face. After we completed the homework we played games like Uno and Snakes and Ladders. To see their transition from another country to here and how they adapted was really good.”
Sinead worked with three different students. “I worked through Maths questions with a boy who was really intelligent,” she said. “He was doing advanced work. As the time went I got to know him a bit better and he opened up a bit more. I also worked with two girls. Each child was different. They got really excited about us being there. We were able to see the difference we were making.”
Clancy students also raised $3,300 to donate to the program for bilingual books, games and other educational resources to be bought for students to use during the sessions.
Clancy’s Youth Ministry Co-ordinator Marc Ghignone said the time spent as tutors gave students a new appreciation for what they have.
“The students attend a two hour training session where they learn basic tutoring skills and about the refugees’ context – where they’ve come from and some of the experience they go through,” Mr Ghignone said.
“We’ve had a number of students who say ‘I’m doing this because I want to become a teacher and I want to develop skills’, but I think the main thing they get out of it is that they can appreciate what they have here and how privileged they are.
“Not only do they have the resources of a great school around them, they have the literacy levels that accompany that. When they go to see these students, they can appreciate their context a bit better. We help them with reading, Maths problems, just general homework that they have. An Arabic translator is there at times to relay key instructions. The students love it. They get such a positive feeling from helping and the kids don’t want them to leave at the end of the day.”