Pruning with parishioners in Kingston

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Pruning with parishioners in Kingston

St Aloysius Catholic College at Huntingfield and Kingston Parish are creating closer ties as students prune their way into the hearts of elderly parishioners.

Beginning this year, groups of Year 10 students have spent time each week in the gardens of parishioners who will benefit from the assistance.

The initiative is aimed at giving students a chance to practically experience concepts they are learning in their religious education classes, as well as building the students’ self-esteem.

James Wright, Head of Religion for the college’s Huntingfield campus, says the program was initially aimed at the more disengaged students, but he now hopes to see every student in the year level take part.

“It’s been really rewarding to see them experience the benefits of helping people and connecting with older people,” he said.

“We don’t make the kids go, but a lot of them are starting to want to go. I’ve got the goal – I don’t know if we’ll make it there – of wanting to get through all the year 10s by the end of the year.”

The students work on one parishioner’s garden at a time, speaking with them and finishing the tasks before moving on to the garden of the next parishioner – a slow but worthwhile process.

Lawn mowing, whipper-snippering, weeding, pulling out plants and raking are all part of the deal – but there are some immediate rewards.

“We [have] morning tea with them, and we normally [have] a chat and it’s really nice just seeing them connecting with elderly people because they don’t normally get that,” Mr Wright said.

“I think they’re realising [that] it feels good to help people,” he said.

“Some of the kids have grown in confidence … You can see when they walk away, they feel like they’ve really achieved something.”

Fr Chris Hope, parish priest of Kingston Parish, says the program is strengthening the already-strong links between the parish and the college, and that feedback he received from one of the parishioners involved was very positive.
“She was very happy with them … She was very impressed with the relationship between James the teacher and the students,” Fr Hope said.

“They certainly appreciate it,” he said, of the parishioners involved.