Urban Camp, organised and hosted by the Brotherhood of St Laurence ran from Tuesday 28 to Friday 31 May. The School has successfully been involved with this program for a number of years which aims to educate young people on the issues facing disadvantaged Australians.
The program encourages students to approach issues of social justice and poverty with compassion and understanding. This unique opportunity saw a group of Year 10 and 11 students camp out at the Coolibah Community Centre in Fitzroy and venture out, on a daily basis, to different areas of inner city Melbourne to work with different community groups. The week that the camp was held coincided with National Reconciliation Week which enabled students to get involved with some really special reconciliation activities as well. The whole experience not only benefits our students in so many ways but also the community that they interact with.
Three Year11 students reflected on their time at this unique and life-changing camp.
Urban Camp was incredible! The experience completely changed my perspective of refugees and immigrants, breaking the stereotype barrier around people experiencing disadvantage. The 4-day camp made me realise how similar we are to people around the world, but also how fortunate and lucky we are. Throughout the camp, we visited the Fitzroy Adventure Playground CUBBIES where we got the opportunity to play and have fun with kids from Sacred Heart Primary School.
We also got the opportunity to learn about the social enterprises STREAT and Lentil as Anything. As well as take part in the YAMEC program (Young Adult Migration Education Courses) where we helped refugees who were the same age as us learn English. One of the groups even got the pleasure of attending Blakwiz, which is an annual trivia quiz show during reconciliation week where we realised how little knowledge we had of Indigenous Australians. We even got the chance to do 300 blankets with one of the co-founders where we met and talked to some amazing people who were experiencing disadvantage and sleeping rough. Finally, on the last day, we prepared morning tea and activities for the Coolibah members who were elderly people experiencing disadvantage.
The highlight of the experience was enjoying lunchtime with kids from Sacred Heart Primary School, I met so many bright and young kids each with a unique personality. Some of my favourite kids I met were Aidan, Sandella, Chloe and Lily, we played tag and line tag with them, which was one of the most fun experiences of my life. Urban Camp was one of the best experiences of my life! I got to know and meet so many people in the community and learn their stories, as well as make new friends within the Urban camp group. This life experience taught me so many lessons one cannot learn unless you experience it, meet the people, and learn their stories and personalities. If I had the chance to do it again I would do it in a heartbeat!
Urban Camp was an insightful experience where I was able to learn and participate in various community and volunteering activities. I enjoyed the teamwork, independence and diversity of issues covered within the camp. My personal favourite encounter was the opportunity to work and play with the children of Sacred Heart. It was incredible to engage with young youth and learn from their joy. In addition, the camp enabled me to learn about the many social enterprises within Fitzroy and how we as a community can support them and their goals. I highly recommend this camp as it educates, encourages participation and centres on service in a unique environment.
Personally, I knew of issues with poverty in Melbourne, however meeting so many people in different situations made the issue so much more real to me. Speaking to so many different people and listening to their experiences helped me appreciate the trials and tribulations that come with the delights of life. That no two stories are the same and each person’s experience is so beautifully individual, hence providing a lesson for us all to learn. Urban camp was an experience I feel blessed to have been offered and would definitely take part in again if the opportunity arose.