Each day starts differently and Tuesday 8 April was no exception to this. It was busier than usual and there was a bit more anticipation in the air inside the Mercy Works Offices in Parramatta. Paul Taylor, Mercy Connect Sydney Coordinator and Vanessa Yu, Mercy Connect Administrative Assistant, were busy at work setting up our conference room for the Mercy Connect Volunteer Training Day.
As 8 o’clock approached, our new volunteers started to arrive and began to filter through to our conference room – ready to start the day. With a packed agenda and much content to run through, our new volunteers were eager to listen and learn how to become effective volunteer/mentors for Mercy Connect.
After the Acknowledgement of Country, the workshop began with recently-retired Mercy Works Executive Director Sr Ailsa Mackinnon RSM introducing “The Mercy Story” before Paul explained the essential purpose of the Mercy Connect Project, which began its journey in 2008.
The Mercy Connect Project has its roots in the Mercy story. Mercy values underpin this project and its mission to assist refugee students as they settle into the Australian school system.
Established in three states in Australia, the Mercy Connect Project has become an integral asset to both primary and secondary schools in NSW, WA and VIC.
The Mercy Connect volunteers provide essential support and mentoring to Refugee and Asylum Seeker students who are struggling to settle in to their new country and often quite radically different education systems.
Guest speakers spoke on subjects ranging from English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D) to the support of children with Special Needs and Barriers to Learning.
The goal is to help our volunteers understand exactly what these vulnerable students are adjusting to and dealing with on a day-to-day basis in schools.
The workshop topics were chosen to further develop the volunteers’ skills and strengths to help the volunteers communicate with, support and mentor their students throughout their schooling life.
Activities such as engaging in group discussion, practical literacy and numeracy tasks and problem solving as well as self-reflection contributed to bring together the different elements of the day’s training.
Special thanks to our guest speakers Bruce Walker, School Counsellor, NSW Department of Education, Linda Drayton, Leading Teacher, Student Services Specialist Intervention Team, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta, and Trish Weekes, Literacy Consultant and Researcher, Literacy Works. Thanks also to our panellists for our Mercy Connect Panel/Discussion Harry Stephens, Delany College, Granville and Marilyn Lucas-Smith, Sacred Heart Primary School, Mt Druitt.
Mercy Connect is very thankful to all of our new volunteers who have given their valuable time to the Mercy Connect Project. We look forward to seeing the real and lasting positive impact they will have on the students they mentor during their time with Mercy Connect.
With collaboration from Mercy Works.