For the past six months, 40-odd St Paul’s Collegiate School students have volunteered their time to the Refugee Orientation Centre Trust, a non-for-profit organisation helping refugees settle into life in New Zealand.
Each week, students volunteer for the Centre’s homework programme which helps primary aged children get up-to-speed with their academics.
“The thing we have really noticed is how far behind the kids are education wise. The refugee centre is doing a lot to help them get up to speed and get ahead,” programme leader Kaenan Ferguson said.
St Paul’s students are involved because of their involvement in the Year 11 service programme which aims to get students out into the community to volunteer their time to make a difference.
Genevieve Scott-Jones and Kaenan Ferguson, who are student leaders of the service programme, say it has helped them grow compassion and has given them a real understanding of how significant the refugee crisis is.
“I was aware of the refugee crisis from seeing it in the news but it is more common to see news countries from the middle east like Syria," explained Genevieve.
"All of the kids who we help through the homework programme are from Congo, so it’s really broadened my understanding of how many people are seeking refuge globally and why we need to be helping."
The students have held a collection of household items and clothing, helped with the homework programme and are hosting a Christmas party at the end of the year for migrant families.
St Paul’s Year 11 service programme is only in its first year but has been a great success so far. Students have been inspired and are willingly returning to the refugee centre or proactively seeking other charities to volunteer their time.
“We found that students who were involved in the homework programme either want to go back again and again or they want to go out to find their own charity where they can make a difference,” Genevieve said.
Students are encouraged to find a charity that interests them and volunteer their time over a long period of time in order to help that charity reach a goal.
“By being involved for a longer set period of time you can do something for them that will make a difference,” said Kaenan.
Kaenan and a small group of students regularly help out at a childcare centre where they are planting a much-needed garden.
The programme is open to all Year 11 students with 40 volunteers of the cohorts 120 students currently enlisted.