Spotlight - A Heart for Service

Spotlight Wednesday, 22 Nov 2023

A heart for service, what if we knew the benefits of carving out time for others, could help us navigate the challenges of stress, depression, and our physical and spiritual health?

Research tells us that volunteering is the second greatest source of joy. Dancing is first. So, when we’re not dancing in the kitchen, perhaps we could entertain the idea of how serving others not only refreshes our soul but also imparts hope to those we share our time with.

Sadly, since 2021 in Australia alone, the total number of hours of volunteering is estimated to have fallen by around 293 million hours over 12 months since COVID-19. While this is a dreary picture of the wider landscape, service learning and volunteering through Faith’s framework has continued to thrive for more than 30 years, forming an integral part of developing the ‘whole person’.

Faith was originally founded on congregations, families and community members who generously volunteered their time and resources to make Faith what it is today. In the 90s, Christian Living Classes saw students hop onto buses and head out to the community each week to assist with our aged care population, schools, kindergartens, and community groups. Amongst the gardening, cleaning, and physical labour, memories that remain are the delicious homemade biscuits, fruit boxes, cups of tea and the intergenerational friendships that formed.

So how is Faith continuing this culture of Service Learning? Students from Foundation classes right through to Senior School are getting out into the community through a range of initiatives, many student-led.

Earlier this year the Gramp Chapel at Tanunda Lutheran Home was transformed into a creative and colourful learning space as Foundation students worked with residents to construct items from a diverse range of blocks as part of their Unit of Inquiry into movement. The result was a wonderful display of tall, long, and complex designs that brought pure joy and a special moment of connection for young and old.

Each year in Year 9, students undertake the Community Project aligning with a cause close to their hearts. Students choose to either donate their time, and resources, raise awareness or host a fundraising activity. Several topics this year have included chopping up firewood and delivering it to those in need, sourcing sports equipment for the less fortunate, Angel Flight Australia, visiting residents in aged care facilities with handwritten notes and goodie bags and packing up necessities like blankets, non-perishable foods, hygiene products and delivering them to homeless people in the region. Students reflected on their experiences stating, ‘The thing I learnt about service is that in helping someone else you feel good about yourself.’

In the Senior School, Community Service and Peer Service Learning remain a firm highlight of the curriculum. Year 11 Service Learning teacher Mr Ivan Muster who facilitates visits to the Faith Junior School with classes who have chosen to volunteer in the classrooms explains, ‘Sometimes, getting students to consider the notion of serving others can be somewhat challenging because many don’t see the value of it or think that it is a waste of time or don’t know what to do. The key part of this program is to break down: What is service? Why serve? How to serve? What have I learned from serving? All these questions are answered through serving others as students consider the three components of service. Head – recognition of others’ needs, Hands – sharing and connection with others, Heart – ongoing reflection to learn and grow’.

And grow they have! As Year 11 student Reo Gerhardy describes ‘The service program has allowed me to focus on the contributions I can make to my community and enrich the lives of many along the way.’

For students, the time pressures of assignments, exams, and social and work expectations can cause overwhelm. As one in seven young people aged 4 to 17 years, experience a mental health condition in any given year, that’s where service learning at Faith is purposeful on many levels.

For Year 11 student Courtney Duggan, Service Learning in the Foundation Classroom has resulted in forming some special new little friendships and a welcome breather from the academic commitments of Year 11.

‘I love this program and that we visit a new environment where we gain real experience with helping others.’

As Faith continues the legacy of Service Learning for students, perhaps we can all reflect on the pace of our lives, particularly in the lead-up to Christmas. No doubt we could all do with some lower stress levels, especially when we know it will also help others. So, no matter where this finds you along life’s journey, we hope these words have presented you with a quiet moment of self-reflection. We know for certain that if we have the privilege of becoming elderly we certainly hope we will be able to rely on support from volunteers within our community.

2023 Faith News
2023 Faith News

This story is from our annual edition of Faith News dedicated to
sharing the amazing stories of our Faith Alumni staff and students
since their time at Faith. Click here to view 

Want to know more about Volunteering and Mental Health

Volunteering Australia released a report in 2021 showing the links between Volunteering and mental health with conclusive findings about how volunteering is also associated with lower symptoms of depression and anxiety…and that offering support to other people creates a positive emotional state and replaces stress-causing emotions, such as anger or loneliness.

We also know that volunteering is a great way to benefit career prospects. Students entering the workforce who have spent time volunteering often display valuable soft skills such as confidence, communication, time management, problem-solving and empathy.

Sources: Volunteering Australia, Volunteering Victoria, Beyond Blue, Campus Groups by READY Education, School TV

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