Congregational partnerships with UnitingCare are opening opportunities to meet needs and to be known as good news people. To share in relationships and purposes of service brings life to struggling communities, to individuals and families.
In this edition of Journey I highlight what began with a contact, which grew into a connection, which is helping to build community between two of our congregations and our UnitingCare family and disability services creating a difference in people’s lives. I pray you are encouraged, challenged and inspired as Lauren (Client Outcomes Lead–Out of Home Care) shares her story:
“Earlier this year I chatted with Linda Hanson about fundraising for Girls of Courage—a wilderness retreat for young women living in residential care and a collaborative project between UnitingCare Community and Outward Bound. Linda was fabulous, making me aware that there has been pretty limited contact between community programs and congregations and that there was confusion about what residential care means, who lives there and why.
“On the Gold Coast we have nine young people aged 10 to 16 living in residential care with a team of youth workers supporting them around the clock. Each young person has experienced trauma and is unable to live with their family of origin but the shortage of foster carers means that residential care is sometimes the only option for a young person no longer able to remain at home. More importantly, these young people leave care at 18 and often have limited supports, which means that they often have very poor outcomes around homelessness, mental health, addictions and employment. My role is to improve outcomes for young people and I see great potential for linking young people living in out of home care with communities, especially our congregations.
“Linda introduced me to Catherine Solomon at Elanora Uniting Church and Orrell Battersby at Coomera (Uniting North) and both jumped on board with the fundraising for Girls of Courage but so much more came from our conversations!
“We find that young people who come into care often haven’t had a lot of opportunity to play and yet playing is so helpful to nurture relationships and to understand social norms, and we find that our most powerful conversations happen when young people are relaxed and engaged with a youth worker through play. For that reason we are building a Play Library, collecting foosball tables, ping pong tables, pool tables, trampolines, board games and so on. This will mean that we can rotate the equipment throughout the many residential houses in south east Queensland, encouraging play and maintaining the novelty factor of items circulating every few weeks.
“We are in the early stages of this project, particularly still sourcing storage, yet Catherine and the Elanora congregation raided their garages and have already produced a mountain of resources for our Play Library. We raided our own garages and were able to help the Elanora congregation teams with their collection of items for people who have experienced homelessness and need kitchen equipment as they establish their new homes. We also received a fabulous box of nail polishes, evening bags and jewellery which have been shared with another organisation in Logan who assist young people who need a hand to look their best at their school formal. That doesn’t necessarily sound like a very big deal but that program grew from young people dropping out of high school rather than experience shame at being unable to source the necessary clothing for a formal. This one simple intervention helps young people to complete their education.
“Orrell and the team at Uniting North at Coomera are doing some fantastic work planning a community space which will bring people together to share resources, build skills and build relationships. Young people leaving care desperately need resources, skills and relationships so that is especially exciting. We met with a group of community-minded people last weekend to brainstorm a few ideas and create connections to assist the team at Uniting North and the ideas flew thick and fast—a repair café, a transitional housing project, welcome dinners, paddock-to-plate events from a community garden, social enterprises, a sculpture garden (and sculpture classes). The potential is enormous for the Coomera community and I see all of this creating exactly that receptive community bursting with opportunities and connection that we so desperately need for young people who would otherwise be alone leaving care. Uniting North are also establishing a community chaplain program to connect with young people in care.
“The Uniting North team also met our Foster and Kinship Care manager at that meeting; he is now going to connect with the congregation to discuss foster care programs. We are always desperately short of families so it is brilliant to hear that the Uniting North congregation will have the opportunity to hear about how they can be involved in our community programs, whether by donating the old foosball table in the garage or by exploring becoming a foster parent.
“I look at the incredible support and opportunities emerging from conversations with Linda, Catherine and Orrell and can just imagine what can be achieved if we connected all of our congregations and community programs.”
Rev Peter Armstrong
Rev Peter Armstrong is a Uniting Church minister in placement at Uniting Care Queensland in the role of Associate Director of Mission – Community Partnerships. To talk about how you and your congregation can be in community partnership with UnitingCare call 0418 433 193 or email firstname.lastname@example.org