Last Friday 22 November, seven Year 11 students, accompanied by Ms Clancy, attended the St Vincent de Paul Social Justice Forum at the ACU, Strathfield. The day involved a keynote speaker and workshops which discussed social justice issues in our society, such as emergency crisis, mental health and the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, and the work that Vinnies does to support those affected by these issues.
After a prayer and reflection, we learned about Vinnies’ namesake, St Vincent de Paul, and the history of the Vinnies organisation. Vinnies was founded by a group of university students in France, headed by Frederic Ozanam, amidst the social and political turmoil of the early 1800s as a result of the French Revolution. These students were similar in age to us now, and this similarity in age and context prompted us to consider the power individuals and communities have, including the power of young people, to inspire change in society, and how we can exercise our power to advocate for and achieve justice.
After four workshops, we were further stirred to advocate for justice – after learning about the crippling and isolating effects of mental health disorders and the struggles and pain of refugees and asylum seekers stranded on Nauru and Manus Island, we were exposed to the work of Vinnies to help these marginalised, careworn individuals. Through various sources of humanitarian aid such as the Vincentian Refugee Network and affordable services such as Vinnies’ op-shops, Vinnies help to support those who cannot support themselves.
Vinnies relies on our donations, support and thoughtful giving – and they stressed to us the importance of the power of action in affecting lives and communities to make a difference.
It was a day of reflection, consideration and appreciation, and an awesome opportunity to interact with students similarly passionate about social justice from other schools across Sydney. We learned so much and were so inspired to create the change we wish to see in the world, and a big thank you to Ms Clancy for taking us.
In light of this, a reminder to everyone to keep bringing in your items for the Vinnies Christmas Hampers – they are due on Monday!
Stephanie Arnold, Year 1 1