When his dog Strider passed away Swan View Senior High School chaplain Jon Jon Ramirez was devastated by the loss of his best mate. After the health of his other dog, Foxy, started to deteriorate, Jon Jon decided to get another puppy.
Mr Chips – named because his nose “looks like it has chocolate chips on it” – is a friendly American Staffordshire Bull Terrier. He regularly accompanies Jon Jon to school to meet the students.
“With permission from my Principal he comes to school most days, he has become the school’s unofficial mascot by bringing joy to everyone he meets with his cuteness,” he said.
“Students and staff love visiting him and he often provided comfort just by getting a quick cuddle. Mr Chips has opened opportunities to build relationships especially with students and staff I don’t normally interact with. Initially I was just thankful to be able to be allowed to bring him to school to help with his training to be a well socialised dog but he has become more than that. Mr Chips has been a blessing to the school community.”
After noticing a student wearing a pair of broken glasses, Gilmore College chaplain Linda Liddelow knew she had to help.
Linda approached her local OPSM to ask if there was any way they could help cover the cost. A member of the community paid for the glasses and the shop also provided a significant discount.
Linda then organised for OPSM’s charity partner – OneSight – to come and provide free eye checks and glasses for students at the school. The OneSight team are a made up of OPSM optometrists and employees who volunteer their time to help those in need.
“The process was very easy, OneSight provided all the forms and information, which was sent out to all the families,” Linda said. “The students were required to return the form to attend the eye screening test.”
The team completed 166 eye tests with 63 staff and students receiving vouchers for ongoing checks and free glasses. Linda said the day was a great success for all, with OneSight indicating that this will be an ongoing service available to the Gilmore Community.
“I received the vouchers for the students and staff via email the next day, which were sent out with a letter to the families,” she said.
“These vouchers can be used at any OPSM or Laubman and Pank optometrist, where further testing is completed and a free pair of glasses are given to the recipient.”
More than 60 people came down to Life City Church for a YouthCARE mega-morning tea.
The guests of honour were local politicians Stephen Price (Forrestfield), Yaz Mubarakai (Jandakot), Terry Healy (Southern River) and Dr Tony Buti (Armadale).
Unfortunately, Dr Buti, who was instrumental in bringing this gathering together was unable to attend due to illness.
In attendance were principals, chaplains, shire councillors and church representatives.
The morning was opened by Terry Healy, who spoke about his time as a teacher and how he initially believed that chaplains should not be part of the state school system.
“It wasn’t until I started working with chaplains, that I discovered how wrong I was. I soon realised how crucial and important the role is,” he said.
“They’re not youth workers, they’re not teachers, they’re not nurses or psychiatrists. There is an incredible unique role for chaplains in our organisations. I wish I could double the amount of [government funding] to put more in every single school.
“There is a special niche role in every school for chaplains and I am an advocate for it.
“You are in a privileged position, thank you so much for the work that you do every single day. I want to convey on behalf of my colleagues, how much we really appreciate it.”
After some food and drink, guests sat down with their local MLA to talk about what they do, challenges of the role and the positive impact that chaplaincy has in school communities.
Mr Price said he enjoyed catching up with his constituents.
“It was clear hearing from the school principals that the chaplains provide a vital pastoral care service in our schools and I valued hearing the unique insight our chaplains could provide into the types of challenges faced by some of our young people,” he said.
Mr Murbarakai also expressed his strong support for chaplaincy.
“YouthCARE and its chaplains do a fantastic job supporting students with a range of pastoral care issues in our local schools. It was great to meet with the team that supports schools in the Jandakot electorate,” he said.
YouthCARE chaplain Chantal Pereira is using her experience as a chaplain to help kids in Sri Lanka. Since moving to Perth as a teenager, Chantal has visited Sri Lanka more than 15 times. Apart from visiting family, she uses the time to volunteer with local churches running programs in the slums, hospitals and schools.
“Sri Lanka is my second home and there is so much need in every aspect of life there,” Chantal said.
“It’s a third world, post-war country and it’s sad to see kids finding it difficult to reach their full potential in life due to political corruption and insufficient resources. I have a passion working as a chaplain and to be able to introduce the concept in another country is the least I can do to leave a footprint.”
During her last visit in June, Chantal visited her old school. She was able to discuss with the principal and deputy about the importance of meeting the social and emotional needs of the students and how chaplaincy can help.
Chantal explained what she did here in Perth and the response was very positive.
“In the school I went to, there were no psychologists, social worker or a chaplain/counsellor,” she said.
“They mentioned how few of the issues they grapple with are bullying, peer pressure and self-value/respect.
“Using training I received at YouthCARE, I was able to make a short program according to the issues the school dealt with, such as Social Skills, Peer Skills and Youth Mental Health First Aid.
“The programs were based on my experience working at two different schools, with two different socio-economic levels.
“This was a great start for the school and they agreed on how it important it is to meet the kids half-way through the understanding their mental/social needs.”
Chantal was also able chat with the teachers at the school.
“This was an awesome opportunity for me as the teachers I spoke to were my own primary school teachers and I was able to share how I felt about the way they cared for me as a child when I was at my lowest,” she said.
“I have two homes, one in Perth and one in Sri Lanka. If I am able to bring to Sri Lanka a little bit of what we do as chaplains, we’ve made a significant difference already.”