Learning to make a difference

By Greg Whitby, 11 July 2018


Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

How many parents have had to forage around in cars and handbags or forgo their morning coffee to track down a gold coin for school fundraising activities? Schools involved in fundraising rely on the generosity of their parent community who are always incredibly supportive. Still, I wonder if would should be asking our students for a more long-term commitment when it comes to supporting charitable organisations.

I am delighted that students want to raise money for charities but if their engagement is little more than placing a gold coin into a bucket or click on ‘like’ on a social media page then they miss the point of outreach. These approaches also do not allow them to learn valuable life lessons. Asking students to wear a colour associated with a cause or don a pair of crazy socks or wear mufti to school in exchange for making a donation is the norm in many schools. There is nothing wrong with these things – they are ‘fun-raising’ as well as fund-raising – but I wonder how many students know why their school chose a particular cause or charity and how they can personally make a difference?

I would like to see more schools encouraging students to nominate a charity or cause and then commit to supporting it over the long-term. Fundraisers are as much a call to action as a call to give. Rather than just relying on the generosity of parents, we need to find simple and effective ways of harnessing the generosity and talents of young people.

Some schools participate in their own version of the ‘winter sleepout’. Some schools create vegetable and fruit gardens where students tend the produce (often with the help of parents and teachers) then donate it to local charities. Schools can draw on the expertise of grandparents and parents to teach young people how to create something from scratch like socks or scarves or beanies that could be donated to those in need.

One of the most inspiring student-led projects is Tears in the Jungle – a charity co-founded by two young brothers, who are committed to saving orangutans in Southeast Asia. Daniel and William Clarke from western Sydney, wrote a book aimed at educating children and adults about the destruction of orangutans’ habitat. Sales of the book are being used to support charities working with orangutans. The book is also being used as a teaching resource in many schools.

We know schools make a positive difference to the lives of young people. The challenge for schools when it comes to fundraising is how young people can make a difference in ways that allow them to better understand and appreciate the challenges that those on the margins face every day.

Greg Whitby

Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta

Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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