ST Norbert College’s first international immersion to Indonesia was a life-changing experience of selfless deeds for the 11 students who took part.
Armed with 230kg of donations collected at the College throughout the year, the 11 students and five teachers immersed themselves into a side of Bali most West Australians don’t see. Venturing beyond the tourist track they spent two weeks’ school holidays at a children’s refuge, a school purpose-built at a Sanur tip, an orphanage, a foundation for people with craniofacial disabilities, a cancer hospice and other agencies supported by the Helping Hands Across the Sands charity group.
Identified by their navy blue and gold school uniforms, the Year 10s and 11s handed out clothing, toiletries, games, shoes, mops and buckets and fresh food supplies, including Vegemite sandwiches, to impoverished locals young and old. Best of all, they dished out love and compassion to so many less fortunate than themselves.
“It was the most amazing experience of my life,’’ said Year 10 student Sydney Midgley. “It was inspiring to see the children’s happiness, gratitude and presentation at the tip school despite their situation. I have learnt more about myself and made real bonds with people.’’
Fellow student Liam Baxter, 15, added: “Handing out donations at the tip school was fun and a real eye-opener. It made us realise how privileged we are to live the lives we do.’’ Continued …
. . . Immersion organiser Margaret Kyd, co-ordinator of the College’s Student Ministry, said students formed bonds quickly and were selfless in their service.
“The students often said that these people had nothing and they are happy, and we have everything and we complain,’’ Ms Kyd said. “I think it enabled them to appreciate the blessings that they have in their lives and their families. For some students, it reaffirmed what they wanted to do after high school in terms of further education and careers, and I think they also learnt that when you give of yourself 100 per cent, you actually receive so much in return.’’
The Samitania Rescue Home houses children taken from difficult situations and extreme poverty. Some mothers have fled from violence, or had been disowned, leaving their children at the refuge to feel safe, receive regular meals and a basic education.
“Each night the home also feeds many local kids, so usually up to 150 people,’’ Ms Kyd says. “One of our teachers (Head of Mathematics, Colette Miranda) cooked a great meal for all those people one night. On another night we took about 40 children to a local restaurant and bought dinner for them. The rescue home was one of the saddest place I have ever seen, even worse than India. No running water was a huge surprise to us all as was children sleeping in a hot room with not even sheets on their bed . . . about 15 girls in one and 15 boys in another.’’
The Sanur tip school, known as Paud Samitania School 2, services children whose families live at the rubbish dump.
“On the drive in you see little makeshift houses and it is hard to comprehend that the children live there,’’ Ms Kyd says. “However, they take pride in their appearance and come to school beautifully presented. There are three small classrooms with a blackboard in each, about 20 students in each class, and not a lot of resources.’’
The St Norbert students’ reaction to meeting children at the Sidhi Astu Tuka Orphanage, run by the Franciscan sisters, was also overwhelming.
“Seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces warmed my heart,’’ said Janista Naokhunthot, while classmate Ruby D’Castro added: “This has changed the way I view life and I will never forget it.’’
One highlight was the connection made with elderly patients at Cancer House, also in Sanur: “I walked in to see our students massaging the patients’ hands and arms – much to the absolute delight of the patients,’’ Ms Kyd said. “It was so lovely. We played some music and some of the patients danced with some of our students. They really gave these people a lot of joy. In return, our students enjoyed the experience. Our leader, Leon from Helping Hands Across the Sands charity, said on numerous occasions ‘I love your kids, they serve from the heart’. We can’t ask for much more than that.’’
A first for the College, the Indonesian Immersion will now become a biennial tradition for St Norbert students to enable them to carrying out the school motto of being “Prepared for All Good Works’’.