WITH AMNESTY International groups, Lifeline door knocks, Youngcare support groups and countless other activities in schools, it seems as though young people are passionate and active in supporting those less fortunate than themselves.
Many schools make an effort to support their local community, but some schools are able to take that passion one step further.
After a trip to Tonga with a group of students last year Unity College in Caloundra established a cultural exchange program with a school of the Free Wesley Church of Tonga.
Carmel O’Brien, Assistant to the Principal, Religious Education at Unity College said the experience was about building relationships.
“Amazing relationships were established as the children and families shared their island and culture with the Unity students.
“It was a delight to see our students responding to the different values that confronted them.”
Calvary Christian College on Brisbane’s south side also has a unique relationship with Tonga.
The College has conducted mission trips to Tonga for students since 2005 and from last year students as young as Year 6 were invited to attend.
Trip coordinator Karen Kolope said the experience gives a lot to the students who attend and the communities they visit.
“These trips provide opportu-nity for us who are so blessed materially to give to those who don’t have the same facilities or equipment that we do,” she said.
“In doing this we are able to share the love of God. The trips also provide opportunity for our students to share their faith in Jesus with others.”
Each year the whole school community fundraises for the trip and people donate stationery and other school supplies for the school visited that year.
Organisations such as Antipodeans Abroad specialise in “educational and volunteer travel programs with a purpose”.
Many Uniting Church and PMSA schools participate in the Antipodeans programs.
Michael Ellis is a teacher who has led Antipodeans tours to India, Vietnam and Peru.
The program includes two weeks abroad with one week spent working on a community project like painting a school.
“The opportunity provides young people with a unique experience,” he said.
“They are not simply tourists, but actively contributing to sustainable initiatives that make a real, tangible and long lasting difference.”
Mr Ellis said living in local communities provides a life changing experience for some young people.
“As a teacher, this is such a wonderful experience to be a part of. Young people come home from such trips feeling very humble, having witnessed first-hand just how lucky we are to live in Australia, and they are basking with the glow that comes from having made a difference in another’s life, regardless of how big or small that difference is.”
Photo : Unity College students display Tongan dress during a fundraiser. Photo courtesy of Unity College