Therapy dog delights Bruce Rock students

Groodle: a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Poodle. 

At Bruce Rock District High School Rock, Lulu the Groodle is a popular member of the school community. 

YouthCARE chaplain Sal Marais bought Lulu for the specific purpose to train her up as a Therapy Dog. 

“I chose this breed, because they are bred for the purpose of not shedding, eliminating allergic reactions and for the kind and placid temperament of the Golden Retriever,” she said. 

After a week of intensive training in Benalla (Victoria), she officially started working at the school in October. She has quickly endeared herself to staff and students alike. 

“On her very first day a Year 2 student came to our office, quite upset about something that happened in their family,” Sal said. 

“We were sitting on the carpet close to where Lulu was lying and as the little girl was sharing her story, Lulu crept closer and closer until she could put her head in the little girl’s lap. 

“The girl was quite overwhelmed, very happy that the dog loves her and wanted to help her.” 

Older students at the school, who may feel a little embarrassed to be seen with the chaplain, now has an excuse, because they come to take Lulu for a walk. 

“While we’re on our walks, they can chat without feeling the tension of having to look at me while they share their stories,” Sal said. 

“Students love to pat Lulu, because she is soft and fluffy. Even though she’s only seven months old, she absolutely loves all the attention and I am very excited to see how she will impact the lives of the students at the school.” 

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Practical pastoral care at Eddystone PS

Every now and again we all need some extra help. 

Eddystone PS chaplain Sylvia Spatara noticed three students at her school were going through some tough times.

“We met earlier this year and my heart sank when I saw them come to school cold, with no jumpers and old shoes,” she said.

“One day while I was sharing a Drumbeat Session with one of the girls, I noticed her shoes were totally worn with the sole flapping about. Not only is this dangerous, but her socks were also wet.”

Sylvia asked her school principal if she could buy some shoes for the sisters. This started a chain reaction within the school, to help other students in a similar position.

After speaking to the manager of a local Salvos, Sylvia was given a $120 voucher to buy several pairs of shoes. He told Sylvia to come back if she needed more.

That same day, Sylvia got a call from her friend at ‘No Limits’, Janine Wood, who filled her car with clothes and school bags for the girls. Since then, Sylvia has gone back and purchased 33 pairs of shoes.

“I took the templates of all the children’s footprints with me to Salvos and measured the shoes to fit,” she said. “With this action of love, the dynamic in the school has just changed for the better. I feel so blessed to share with my families in this way.”

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Chaplains get involved with Army Cadets

While most chaplains had a restful first week of the holidays, three YouthCARE staff were getting down and dusty for nine days with the Australian Army Cadets. 

Capt (AAC) Gay Phillips is the chaplain at John Tonkin College and Greenfields Primary School. 2Lt (AAC) Andrew Findlay is chaplain at Albany SHS and Little Grove PS, while Maj (AAC) Findlay is Area Chaplain for the Great Southern region.

The trio were involved training sessions covering survival techniques, single rope rescue, recon and patrol, catering, driver ed, adventure training involving mountain bikes, kayaks, abseiling and more.  

Maj (AAC) Findlay said it was the highlight of his year.  

“There is something special about seeing cadets who were homesick at the beginning of the week and by the final parade they are beaming with pride knowing they have overcome all sorts of adversity,” he said.

“The first few days had so much rain we nearly had to build an Ark! It was freezing every night but it was great fun and the rain kept the ticks away.”

New cadets learnt the basics of field craft and living in the bush while the seniors experienced the full army life – up before dawn, bed after dark, covered in camouflage paint carrying and being tactical and spending the week on Ration packs. 

“The Australian Army Cadets is a great opportunity to share with these young people and the work we do in YouthCARE fits well between the two,” Brent said. 

Gay ran a catering course and then they had to produce a full military mess dinner for the junior officers. 

Andrew was especially busy as the brigade army cadet chaplain. He is the first one ever appointed in WA. When he wasn’t being a padre or escorting people to the medical centre in Perth, he spent a fair bit of time on the range shooting. 

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10 years of chaplaincy

In 2008, a Year 3 student, whose mum passed away when she was small, was referred to her school chaplain.

YouthCARE chaplain Shirley Pyrc journeyed with Michelle through her primary school years.

Shirley held a ‘Meet the High School Chaplain Morning Tea’ for graduating Year 7s heading to nearby high schools, as the transition can feel quite daunting – especially for those, like Michelle, moving into secondary education without any of their familiar peer group.

Having a personal meeting and discussion with their new high school chaplain facilitates a new support connection.  

It was there that Michelle met Dianella Secondary College chaplain Helen Hames, who has supported her through high school.

Each year at Conference Helen, provides an update on how Michelle is going and Shirley sends a little message.

This year’s update was a little different – Michelle had invited both ladies to her Year 12 Graduation Ceremony.

“It is so encouraging and rewarding to see the impact of 10 years of Chaplaincy on a young life – it was great to catch up on some of her stories,” Shirley said. “Michelle is a delightful young lady and we wish her every success in life.”   

Michelle is venturing into business studies and would like to learn and teach Auslan.

“The chaplains have always been there to support me in my emotional trials and challenges,” she said. “They always encouraged me to keep going when things got tough.”

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