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Local support for Bougainville youth


Sacred Heart College old scholars are helping to give young people in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, a brighter future through their support of Australian Marist Solidarity (AMS).

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A group of old collegians and friends of the college gathered at Sacred Heart on the birthday of Marcellin Champagnat, the founder of the Marists, to hear Br Michael Green talk about how giving has always been part of Marist life and organisations, including the current AMS appeal for Bougainville.

Adelaide businessman Jim Whiting is the South Australian representative on the AMS board and he and Rebecca Bromhead, AMS chief executive, spoke of the impact of past support from Sacred Heart College alumni, in particular Des Saint who was very active in supporting a project in East Timor.

Ms Bromhead said the reality for many students in Bougainville was that they would not finish high school.

There are currently only four upper secondary schools in the region, offering around 500 positions for an estimated age cohort of several thousand. That means just one in four children will reach upper secondary school due to the scarcity of schools.

With the launch of the AMS mid-year appeal, Let Children Learn, the aim is to fund the expansion of St Joseph’s College in Bougainville which currently only caters for students up to Year 10.

“We believe education has the power to change lives and build brighter futures for vulnerable young people and their communities,” Ms Bromhead said.

“Particularly at this crucial time when Bougainville is on the path towards independence from PNG.

“By expanding St Joseph’s to provide upper secondary education plus boarding for young people in Bougainville we will enable them to complete their full education.

“With our supporters’ help, we will change lives. Together, we can provide the young people of this emerging country with the education and skills they need.”

AMS has a strong history of delivering important educational projects in Bougainville. The Marist Brothers first established St Joseph’s College in the village of Rigu in 1949, having been in Bougainville since 1941.

During the Bougainville conflict the school was burnt to the ground along with most buildings on the island. In 1999 the Marist Brothers established a new St Joseph’s College in the village of Mabiri to educate ex-combatants and other young men of the crisis generation.

Marist Brothers were at the forefront of peace and reconciliation efforts in the area, pioneered by Australian Brother Pat Howley who facilitated reconciliation through restorative justice practices.

The latest project involves the construction of a two-storey building with two classrooms on the ground level and a dormitory on the upper level. One classroom will be for 40 Year 11 students, the other classroom for 40 Year 12 students, while the dormitory will have a capacity of 20 students.

This campaign follows on from AMS’s successful 2020 campaign, Vanuatu’s recovery appeal.


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