It’s one thing to learn about injustice and disadvantage; it’s another thing to do something. Students at a Queensland Lutheran school are setting that very example.
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Service learning is not just a one-off activity; it’s learning about social justice issues, in a way that engages head (learning), heart (advocacy), and hands (action). It’s about growing partnerships, and meeting needs.
At Lutheran Ormeau Rivers District School (LORDS) our students learn about deeper issues and causes of injustice and disadvantage.
In 2015, we set up a partnership with a local aged-care home, in order for Year 11 students to gain a deeper understanding of social isolation. We combine ‘traditional’ classroom lessons and a ‘buddy’ visiting program with the aged-care home.
Students come to see that people in nursing homes don’t all come from loving families, who visit Nan and Pop every weekend.
The time students spend with their buddy could involve taking them for a walk in the garden, playing bingo with them, or colouring in with them. Students also value listening to and learning from their buddy. They come to learn that everyone has a story be respected and valued.
Year 9 students participate in a ‘street retreat’ organised in partnership with St Vinnies in Brisbane, where they learn firsthand about homelessness.
The young people sleep in the church hall at Nazareth Lutheran Church at Woolloongabba, on the edge of the CBD, for a week.
They go to The Big Issue headquarters and talk with the homeless people who sell the magazine. The vendors tell us their stories and what it means to have a job and restored dignity.
We hear from Mark Vainikka, pastor at St Andrews Lutheran Church at Spring Hill, about his experiences working with homeless people.
Students also go into Queen Street Mall, where they find a spot to sit for about 20 minutes, alone (while we keep an eye on them). Afterwards they reflect on how it would feel if this was their reality every night.
Students learn from St Vinnies that some homeless people have only about $2 a day for food. So we give the students $2 each as their dinner money. They quickly realise it’s pretty difficult.
Our students come out of this experience reflecting on the fact homeless people should better be referred to as people without homes – and that they have innate dignity, just like those of us fortunate enough to have homes.
Service learning is engaging the heads, hearts and hands of our students – which is a very powerful thing.
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