ADVOCACY, SOCIAL JUSTICE & SERVICE-LEARNING PARTNERSHIPS
Developing relationships and learning to engage in the world is fundamental to the growth of any person. At Newman College, our Marist characteristic of Presence calls us to actively engage with each other and grow our sense of community. This is exemplified through our Ministry Plan which is designed to provide our College Community with a framework through which to engage and live-out the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Its outcome may not be measured during the student’s College life. It is our aim that the values of faith, love, hope and service will manifest themselves during the student’s lifetime, and that their Catholic, Marist school experience will be one that transforms and animates them to be people of the Gospel.
Key priorities within our Ministry Plan are advocacy, social justice and service learning partnerships. The aim is to provide a framework for social action that is inspired by Gospel values, which seeks to provide the Newman College community with local opportunities to collaborate in ministries of outreach of the Catholic Church. Over the next week, I will be accompanying sixteen Year 11 students and four staff from our College and St Joseph’s College Northam to the Philippines. This immersion has become an integral component of our College life because it stimulates our students’ sense of social justice and heightens their awareness of the opportunities for service in the community, both now and post school. Pope Francis contends that “the measure of the greatness of society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty.”
The immersion has three components:
- Pre-Immersion – Understanding why: Students and staff complete a program prior to the experience that focuses on learning about the structural injustices that cause poverty and oppression in the Philippines. We learn about the issues that affect young people that include abuse, human trafficking, homelessness and substance abuse. To this end we investigate and learn about the projects undertaken by Catholic Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) such as PREDA, the KUYA Centre, and ERDA Foundation. These projects specifically aim to support communities and develop the dignity of the individual to allow them to live and be afforded the rights that we all should enjoy. To support this understanding, we also focus on Catholic Social Teaching (CST) Principles with particular reference to the Church’s preferential option for the poor and the common good.
- Immersion – On ground experience: The students spend time with our partners (NGOs) to witness their work and walk in solidarity with the young people and communities. Being directly involved in activities encourages them to critically reflect on their experiences, enabling them to integrate the meaning of these experiences into their ongoing journey of faith and life.
- Post Immersion – Growing our Culture: The impact of the individual may not be measured in the short term. However, in an endeavour to raise awareness across PK-12, the immersion participants are called to action through developing a digital reflection of their experience. This is used to support our fundraising for Caritas Australia, Marist Solidarity and these agencies. Students also present to all staff and in classroom visits.
The impact and effect of this advocacy and immersion experience to the Philippines for our community has been extraordinary. Four years of this experience has grown the culture of engagement and service within and outside our school. We have established a partnership with St Joseph’s College Northam that engages students and staff from both Marist schools in this project. Our fundraising efforts have doubled and the awareness raising is now part of our pastoral program. Students have used the experience to develop their skills and capacity for critical reflection. This has enabled many students, post-school, in their application for tertiary study and for securing work in human rights and ministry. The most pleasing aspect is our community recognising the work and mission of the Catholic Church. Our students see how good works, with advocacy and service being a fundamental part of this mission.
We wish our group every blessing for their journey ahead.
Photo 1: ERDA – Sabana community
Photo 2: Simon Martino and John Finneran with children from local streets.
Photo 3: John Finneran with George, Social Worker from KUYA Centre for Street Children, with children from local streets. (Newman students will visit this area on 3 December.)