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Caring tradition continues at McAuley Community School


A parent-driven initiative at McAuley Community School is following the Mercy tradition of kindness and compassion by providing outreach and support to members of the school community in times of change and need.

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McAuley Community Care (MCC) began at St Teresa’s Primary School at Brighton in the mid-90s. In 2019, when St Teresa’s School closed, the care team continued its mission supporting the new and growing members of McAuley Community School, which opened in 2020.

The team enlists parent volunteers and key educators, including school chaplain Emmy Smyk, to help identify members of the community dealing with the loss of a loved one, illness or a time of transition. With close to 300 families and 60 staff at the school, Emmy said this was essential for the successful work of the team as they are often the ‘eyes and ears’ of the community.

With about 25 volunteers preparing meals on a regular basis and a core membership of 19 parents and educators, the group has expanded its outreach.

Newborn babies in the community are given a signed book by renowned children’s author Janeen Brian helping to form connections with families and promote early literacy.

Pocket-sized knitted teddies knitted by volunteers and small wooden crosses made by a local Catholic men’s shed are provided to comfort children and families at times of grief and trauma. MCC also puts together activity packs for children in hospital and the teddies are used within the school’s transition to school program for learners commencing in their first year of formal schooling.

Last year MCC held a fundraising quiz night which raised $11,000 and some of this money has been used to create special book boxes for the younger learners of the school, providing support on topics such as grief, changes in family structures and situations and emotional development. The books can be lent to learners and families.

The team facilitates meal support to members of the community, preparing meals on a regular basis for families who are being supported through the care team. Meal volunteers are reimbursed for their ingredients used in meals.

Lauren Stanley, whose three children attend McAuley Community School, is responsible for organising the meals roster and said there was always a need for more volunteers.

She said the rising cost of food items was sometimes a deterrent and therefore reimbursement for ingredients was important for some families.

Meal volunteers are provided with alfoil trays for the meals which are picked up from the school’s front office.

“It’s all anonymous,” Lauren said.

“Our support varies depending on family’s needs and situations, sometimes it is once off and sometimes it is ongoing over a length of time.”

Assistant Principal (Identity and Mission) Michael Ellul, who is also a member of MCC, said the school was very proud of the outreach work, “though it happens with a great deal of humility and in the background”.

The group’s chairperson and parent within the school community, Emily Bowden, said she first became aware of the group when she received a “lovely call” from the pastoral care group when her children were at St Teresa’s, offering to help on the arrival of her third child.

When the previous chairperson left the school she happily took on the role of chair.

Emily has witnessed firsthand the impact the team makes within the community.

“We often have families who have received support from us in the past sign up as meal volunteers to help others, and now my own children are compassionately letting me know of people they know who might benefit from the help of our team,” she said.

“While the number of families needing meals or other assistance fluctuates, there is always someone to help.

“It goes in waves throughout the year…we are on the phone all the time.”

Emily said it had been exciting to see the book box project develop.

“It’s evolved from gifting families books for specific situations, to providing a sustainable collection of carefully selected books for families to borrow, aligning with the school’s commitment to the environment and ecological awareness,” she said.

“As members of MCC, we all have a similar mindset, caring for the community and living the ethos of the school and leading the way for newer community members.”

We hope that through the work of our team, we continue to spread Catherine McAuley’s message: ‘We should be shining lamps, giving light to all around us.’


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