Friendship seat melds history and kindness

Seat a success: Year 4 students and Men’s Shed volunteers with the Friendship Seat they built for the St Columba’s Leichhardt school community.

Friendship has taken a front seat at St Columba’s Catholic Primary Leichhardt North.

The school unveiled a friendship seat on 22 September with a blessing ceremony attended by teachers, students, parents, carers and the volunteers involved in its making.

Year 4 boys from the school and volunteers from the Haberfield Men’s Shed built the bench out of recycled timber and gates salvaged from a former convent on the corner of Elswick Street.

The convent housed the Sisters of St Joseph who taught at the school from when it first opened in 1989 to 2011, when Sr Elwyn Fogarty retired.

The new seat compliments the program the school will adopt in Term 4 this year to support students to develop and maintain healthy friendships.

I hope it can be a place for people to sit and be friends and just watch the world go by.

– Brian Donnelly

Friendology 101 is an eight-week program designed to give children in Years 1 to 6 the skills to nurture healthy friendships and self-confidence.

Program founder Dana Kerford was a guest at the blessing of the bench and said the program would teach student to become ‘friendship ninjas’.

“Friendship ninjas are kind, caring, and really look out for their friends,” she told students.

Mrs Kerford said the program empowered students with the skills to navigate friendships while helping parents and teachers to support them through a shared language and model of conflict resolution.

“We use a language that resonates with children,” she said.

“For instance, we don’t call a fight with a friend a fight. We call it a ‘friendship fire’ which is less scary, and we give the children lots of strategies to put those fires out.

“They don’t quite know innately that every friendship is different and that friendships change and that’s okay. This gives them realistic expectations in their friendships so they can move forward and make healthy decisions.”

It really is a community effort to bring this seat to life.

– Bernard Ryan

Year 4 student Brian Donnelly said it took two groups of students four weeks to help build the bench.

“We had a lot of fun while we were building it,” he said.

“We got to use all the tools in the creation, which was exciting, and we got to learn about each other and talk. All of those things made it fun.

“The seat looks great and I hope it can be a place for people to sit and be friends and just watch the world go by.”

Principal Bernard Ryan said he was proud to see the friendship seat put together by so many in the community in response to a need identified by parents, who also took part in a workshop with Dana.

“The children will use the same strategies from Kindergarten to Year 6 to solve their friendship fires,” he said.

“This also links in with our evangelizing mission of being the face of Christ to all. Our Family Educator came on board, and the Men’s Shed which is all about mental wellbeing, so there are a lot of great connections. It really is a community effort to bring this seat to life.”

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