Getting comfortable for a few hours with only a cardboard box for warmth has become a popular way to instil in students some empathy for the living conditions of homeless Australians, including the two in every five who are under the age of 25.
At Holy Spirit Catholic Primary School Carnes Hill and others within the Sydney Catholic Schools network, that empathy turned into action at pyjama days and Winter sleep-outs to raise funds and direct school volunteer efforts that support the work of the St Vincent De Paul Society ahead of Homelessness Week.
Mini Vinnies teams of student volunteers in Years 4 to 6 led the initiatives. At Holy Spirit, the group is voluntary and there are 60 students involved. At the beginning of each year, the Year 6 Mini Vinnies present a slideshow to volunteers from the two younger grades about the initiatives scheduled for the year so they are clear about the commitment involved.
The children realised … the significance of the kindness of others.
For the pyjama day, students and staff wore pyjamas and Mini Vinnies students stayed at school until 6pm for a Winter sleepout. They also made and packed food hampers and toiletries bags for the homeless from donations they collected during Term 2 for the St Vincent De Paul Winter Appeal.
The school’s Mini Vinnies co-ordinator Dana Douglas said a ‘choose your own story’ activity on the evening asked students to read different scenarios and make choices based on them.
“This activity challenged the children and provoked great discussion and an appreciation of the support they receive from others,” she said. “The children realised that many homeless people are very limited in their choices in life and the significance of the charity and kindness of others to people in need. It was very inspiring to see how motivated and eager they became while preparing the night’s snack packs, sandwiches, soup and toiletries packs for the homeless.”
Rain on appeal gives empathy
Students in Years 5 and 6 at St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School Kogarah also held a Winter sleepout on 4 July. Through sponsorship, the students raised close to $1,500 to supplement food, toiletries, and time their school community provides to Vinnies initiatives throughout the year.
St Patrick’s Religious Education Co-ordinator Rita Piras said students also packed food items collected for the winter appeal at the event. For dinner, participants were given a cup of soup and bread roll.
The evening enabled them to gain a greater awareness of what some families have to do to survive.
The cold and rainy conditions on the night allowed students to appreciate what it would be like to sleep without adequate shelter for more than a night.
“The experience lasted for only 40 minutes however we impressed upon those taking part that many people in need do this all night, every night,” Ms Piras said. “Students and parents also took part in workshops, prayer and meditation during the evening, which enabled them to gain a greater awareness of what some families have to do to survive.”
Student report: ‘It felt good to be helping those less fortunate than ourselves’
Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Primary School Year 6 students Anjelika Coleman and Nicolas Mouarkesh turned cadet reporters as well as social justice mavens for their school’s Winter sleepout.
Read their article about the event below.
The event was organised by our 75 warm-hearted Mini Vinnies students as a fundraiser for the St Vincent de Paul Winter Appeal.
Mini Vinnies is about providing opportunities for children to reach out to others, help those in need and assist those who are less fortunate than themselves. We are inspired by the example of Saint Vincent de Paul and follow the example of Jesus by serving others.
Organisers were delighted to see the majority of the school arriving in their cosy sleepwear.
“We are proud to be writing a cheque for $897.25 to our local Saint Vincent de Paul Society Chapter,” said Mrs Mary Anne Malone, the Religious Co-ordinator at Our Lady of the Rosary School Fairfield.
“The money will go directly into local homes, to help people in our local communities with a variety of needs, which could include paying bills, providing food and ensuring families can keep warm in our cold winter.”
As we snuggled up in our pyjamas, and enjoyed fun activities, it felt good to be helping those less fortunate than ourselves in such a memorable way.
Homlessness Week is on 4 -10 August.