Over the Easter break students from St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill, left behind their creature comforts to take part in social justice immersion trips to Tanzania or the Philippines.
The students, ranging from Year 10 to Year 12, followed in the footsteps of students from previous years, who have also undertaken the life-changing trips that opened both their hearts and their minds.
In Tanzania the group worked with staff and students from The School of St Jude, a charity-funded school for poverty-stricken children. Founded by Australian Gemma Sisia in 2002, the school’s mission is to educate disadvantaged, bright children from the Arusha District in Tanzania to become moral and intellectual leaders for their nation.
In the Philippines students worked in a home for boys living on the streets or from difficult backgrounds. They also spent time at the Davoa Mental Hospital which, as one 2016 participant described it, was “a confronting and harrowing experience”.
Current Year 11 student Andrew Lawler participated on the Tanzania immersion last year. “After taking part in the trip I now understand the difference between an immersion and a holiday,” he said. “By visiting St Jude’s we became part of the St Jude’s family and, rather than being a tourist looking in, we lived as part of the community and were able to see it from the inside.”
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Director of Mission at St Joseph’s College, Lesley Maher, said these immersion experiences always ask the students to push beyond their comfort zones.
“In the Philippines and Tanzania the boys are faced with living conditions and hardships they have never confronted before. Be seeing this first hand, and by spending time with the people from these regions, their sense of compassion and social justice is deepened and they are driven to genuinely do something to address the issues.”
“The boys return from these immersion trips changed for life,” Mrs Maher said.
“As a Marist school we strive to be of service and to be present, and these trips are one way we teach the boys they truly can make positive changes to the world. Even small acts of kindness can change the world for a person suffering or in need.”
St Joseph’s College also undertakes a number of mission activities closer to home. Each week Year 11 students spend time with residents of a Hunters Hill nursing home and for many years students were regular volunteers at the Matthew Talbot Hostel in Woolloomooloo.