On Friday 10th March, more than 50 staff and students from Years 7-12 spent the night camped in cramped cardboard boxes.
Taking to their sleeping bags under the full moon, Westside students were asked to imagine: ‘how many of us are just one small step away from homelessness?’ It was a thought that made them shiver.
According to Queensland Council of Social Service, Ipswich makes up 3.2% of Queensland’s homeless population. Many of these people are young.
The student-led social justice advocacy group, Gen-Justice, partnered with Ipswich Assist, a not-for-profit welfare organisation. The goal of Assist the City was to raise over $3000 to provide hygiene packs for those in need. Ministries Co-ordinator, Mr Neville Brown reflects “our senior students already provide food, coffee and conversation each week on the Helping Hands street van. This was a great way to involve our younger students in supporting those doing it tough.”
Troy Wilkins, managing director of Ipswich Assist was amazed by the contribution, “I am overwhelmed by the amount raised! I am so humbled by the hard work involved in organising this and all of the students’ willingness to support our ministry.”
Spearheading the program was College Girls Vice-Captain, Zoe Budden. On the goal of providing more than 60 comprehensive hygiene packs for those in need, she said “We live in a country where even basic hygiene is taken for granted. But for some, it can be a distant last priority. We want to give people some of their dignity back and let them know we care.”
Beginning with a free-dress day, the night under the stars began with students receiving a flat-packed cardboard box. With limited supplies, they had to assist one-another to build suitable shelters for themselves and their belongings. Afterwards, they shared a meal together. Through dramas and games, students were encouraged to be voices for the voiceless and not to overlook people in their own communities.
College Principal, Barry Leverton was impressed by the result of the day “This was a student-led and co-ordinated initiative. I was strongly impressed by their efforts. For 40 years, Westside has been a part of the Ipswich community and that only continues to grow.”
Ipswich Assist provides help, hope and support to the people of Ipswich. The organisation specialises in emergency relief, food parcels, counselling, budgeting and meeting immediate expenses. According to State of the Children and Young Persons’ Report 2014 Ipswich and West Moreton, 30% of children in Ipswich live in low income, welfare dependent families. The same report shows that one in ten families in Ipswich with dependent children have a household income below the poverty line.
For further information regarding Westside Christian College, its social justice programs, student leaders, or the Principal, please contact Sheralyn Anderson, Principal’s Assistant on (07) 3437 9000, or email@example.com