Making a world of difference for Ukrainian refugees in the local community

Making a world of difference for Ukrainian refugees in the local community

How a YouthCARE Chaplain and a teacher created a practical welcome program

War and conflict can be very divisive but through tragedy some beautiful things can emerge, like communities coming together to encourage and support one another. The war in Ukraine has also seen displaced people searching for safety. Closer to home, Jody Rynski, a local YouthCARE Chaplain working at Nollamara Primary School, saw an opportunity to help.

Over recent months, Jody had noticed an influx of Ukrainian refugees to Nollamara and decided to offer practical help to support their integration into the community. Speaking with her sister, Jocelyn Bradshaw, who also happens to be a Primary School Teacher, they set about creating a 20-week program, teaching functional English to refugees.

The objectives of the program were clear, provide an opportunity to practice and explore English in a supportive environment enabling people to engage and connect with the broader community.

Many of these newcomers to the community have very little understanding of basic English so the program walks them through tasks such as grocery shopping, catching public transport, communicating with doctors and even how to contact emergency services in a crisis. The program includes time for coffee and conversation after each class, cooking and excursions to explore Kings Park, Fremantle, Elizabeth Quay and the Bell Tower.

“As we all work fulltime, we began on a Saturday morning.  Within 2 weeks we had around 25 volunteers join to assist with the morning tea and other activities/excursions, there are more joining and it is definitely a team effort from like-minded women,” said Jody.

Cooking class using functional English

In addition to the practical support and connection the program provides for refugees, volunteers have also been able to source furniture, clothes, toys, books, school supplies and assist with their housing.

Ukrainian families with children attending the primary school have also been invited to connect with the families at the program.

“My sister has been nominated for a Zonta Women Achievement Award for writing the English program and setting out the 20-week program… formulated around the learning of functional English and (an) introduction to Australian culture, building community links and building capacity to engage and participate in this new environment,” explains Jody.

There is more to a chaplain than meets the eye; their community connections and the networks they build enable them to make a world of difference each and every day in their community.

Kicking goals for RU OK day is a year-round sport

Kicking goals for RU OK day is a year-round sport

Checking in with Harrisdale SHS, AFLW West Coast Eagles and YouthCARE

Conversations are so important for building trust, support and connection between people throughout communities. RU OK Day is a great reminder to stop and take the time to check in on how the people around us are going.

Chaplains have many conversations as part of their day however they do so much more to support the wellbeing of the school community. Carly Arnold is one of the two YouthCARE Chaplains at Harrisdale Senior High School. This year for RU OK Day Carly organised a whole-school wellbeing event full of fun. This was the first whole school event to be organised around mental health as the school was only established 6 years ago.

West Coast Eagles AFLW player Aisling McCarthy graciously accepted the key note role, speaking at the year 9 assembly followed by a Q&A with the students. It was a great opportunity for the students to connect with a sporting hero and hear about Aisling’s journey. Aisling spoke about how she came to play the sport she loves and how injury affected her mental health along the way.

“As you can tell from my accent, I’m not actually from Australia. I’ve come all the way from Ireland to play this sport. So not being able to play and not being able to fulfill that dream because of injury was quite tough.

What I learnt was to have a balance away from sport and not have my identity fully engrossed in football. I am also a physio and have family and friends here, so I spent a lot of my time pouring my love onto them while working on that balance.”

Aisling McCarthy, Player for the AFLW West Coast Eagles

The speech encouraged students to look at how they cope with their own struggles and the support they can call on.

That wasn’t all though. Students enjoyed a meet and greet with Aisling during recess before the year 9’s got to test their skills against hers.

And that wasn’t all either! Students participated in skateboarding and basketball activities hosted by the City of Gosnells Youth Team, a fundraiser sausage sizzle, face painting with their peer support leaders and live music hosted by Ian Broadbent, also a YouthCARE Chaplain at the Harrisdale Senior High School.

No matter what time of the year it is, we encourage you to connect with the people in your community by asking ‘are you okay?’ That’s one of the ways everyone wins. Okay?

Celebrating Indigenous culture by supporting regional heritage

Celebrating Indigenous culture by supporting regional heritage

Westbooks and YouthCARE partnering to create Indigenous libraries

At YouthCARE we are thrilled to be partnering with Westbooks in providing students with an avenue to learn and connect with Indigenous culture through the Burrup Rock Art books.

Burrup Rock Art by Mike Donaldson will be distributed to schools across the state as Westbooks works towards building an Indigenous Library in every WA school. This initiative supports local WA talent and educates the younger generations about Indigenous heritage.

Over the next couple of months, our chaplains will be presenting 150 of the Burrup Rock Art books to our schools as a first step towards building Indigenous libraries. Along with Westbooks we believe it is important to celebrate, showcase and share Indigenous culture.

We look forward to hearing about the interest these books inspire in their school communities.

A growing community starts with a growing community

A growing community starts with a growing community

City Beach Chaplain plants the seeds of cooperation just in time for spring

While technology has made it easier than ever to conquer distance and connect with people online, it takes some effort and creativity to bring people together, face to face for fun and community. YouthCARE Chaplain Nicola Harvey recently created a Gardening Club at City Beach Primary School to build relationships between the students and the wider school community.

Residents neighbouring the school have welcomed the project with open arms, contributing to its success by dropping off pots and compost to the school for students to use.

“Through the Gardening Club Nikki has fostered a great space for students, parents, staff and neighbours to build healthy, collaborative relationships,” says Area Chaplain Natasha Reynolds.

So far, the project has taught students the importance of healthy eating and cooperation as they work together to grow a thriving garden. More importantly, they are demonstrating the value of giving back to the community, literally sharing the fruits (and vegetables) of their labour.

So, amid the blooming spring flowers, the sound of birds chirping and the gentle hum of conversations in the garden, the students at City Beach spend some of their mornings growing and produce and community in the newly created Garden Club.

For more gardening tips and how to bring a school community together, keep an eye on our growing news page.

Two Pauls, one aeroplane, wonderful dedication to support services

YouthCARE Chaplaincy spreads its wings across remote communities

There’s nothing like spending time with people face-to-face and having real conversations about their situations, opportunities and challenges. To say that Paul White and Paul Marais go the extra mile to make that happen across Western Australia’s northwest, would be an enormous understatement.

Spanning enormous distances, the two Paul’s regularly visit schools connected to the Kimberley School of the Air, in Derby. School community destinations that benefit from chaplaincy support include One Arm Point, Koorabye, Looma, Yakanarra, Djugerari, Wananami, Ngalapita, Bayulu and Muludja. These schools have been visited weekly throughout the term.

Regularly taking to the skies to reach communities hundreds of kilometres apart is possible thanks to the ongoing support of Kingdom Aviation and the Department of Education.

Airtime, gifts and great relationships – it’s all in a day’s work.

To get an idea of “a day in the life”, here’s what Paul White had to say about his recent experiences:

I recently completed my first cattle station and indigenous community run for 2022. It’s always a real pleasure meeting up with families and children on the stations and communities. My wife Laurel makes little gift packages for the children including practical items such as seeds for gardens, games and toys, plus a bag of fresh fruit that is always well received. Once I’m picked up from the airstrip I normally join in with the kids, tutors or parents for the day, helping out where I can, encouraging them and trying to build good long-term relationships.

We cover many kilometres to carry out this pastoral support. It takes 2 hours of flying to get to Kandiwell Community, located near Mitchell Falls, then Sandfire Roadhouse is another 2hr flight from Derby. Drysdale River Station is also just under 2 hours of flying and it takes two and half hours to get to Ellenbrae Station. Then after spending the day with the various families, I’m back in the plane, flying back to Derby. Most days I prep the plane early and take off at first light, normally home by 3 or 4 in the afternoon, most days turn into a 10-to-12-hour day.

Here at YouthCARE, we are grateful for the positive impacts all our people have on the well-being of school communities throughout WA and we appreciate the time, effort and in this case, air travel it takes to demonstrate our values of respect, compassion and service – statewide.

Keep an eye out for more updates from around the state.

YouthCARE assists young students reach for their sporting stars

Our chaplain got the ball rolling to connect Perth Wildcats with the stars of tomorrow

So many kids dream of playing for their favourite teams in the big leagues and they are often inspired by a chance meeting with a star on the national or international sporting stage. This term, Southwell Primary School welcomed a very special visit from Perth Wildcats big man, Majok Majok thanks to the school’s YouthCARE Chaplain, Lisa Olislaegers.

Looking to encourage, motivate and inspire the students, Lisa reached out to the Wildcats with a request to bring a little b-ball magic to the school. The kids, some of whom have some pretty big sporting ambitions, were greeted by an even bigger treat when the almost 7-foot tall centre arrived, ready to share some tips, skills and shoot some hoop.

“There are a few students at the school who play basketball quite seriously and hope to go pro one day,” said Lisa.

 With a total of 80 students, Lisa got the whole school involved ensuring that everyone got to share in the excitement.

Just like us, the Perth Wildcats know the value of actively connecting with and supporting the community and on this occasion, it was YouthCARE providing the assist – and everyone wins!

To explore opportunities to get the most successful National Basketball League team in history involved with your school, you can contact Katie Reed at The kids will have a ball!

Morning tea with our MLA, David Michael

Morning tea with our MLA, David Michael

Sharing news and exploring opportunities in our local school communities

Having the ear of those in office that are eager to initiate positive change within their communities is of great benefit to chaplaincy services and those dedicated to delivering them.

On Friday morning Janine Rule, YouthCARE Area Chaplain accepted an invitation to meet with David Michael, MLA, along with YouthCARE Chaplains Gwynneth Bishop (Takari Primary School), Merrilee Wong (Balcatta Senior High School) and Marlene Kruger (West Balcatta Primary School) over morning tea. With a history of advocating for and championing works and upgrades to schools and facilities, David was keen to hear about the emerging trends and issues our chaplains address as well as better understanding the effectiveness of our services and support for students.

Expecting only a few minutes of David’s time, Gwynneth, Merrilee and Marlene were invited to share their backgrounds and observations of the student experience at their respective schools. That was not the case, as David discussed, in depth, his observations of school communities and welcomed further discussion on YouthCARE, its people and its value.

Having lived locally for his entire life, David is an avid supporter of the community as a whole and we were heartened that he wholeheartedly supported our ethos of respect, compassion and service for all.

Special CEO Update on the National School Chaplaincy Program

A Funding Update from the CEO of YouthCARE

YouthCARE welcomes the announcement of the New Labor Federal Government for its support of school communities through the school chaplaincy program with the addition of student welfare workers being introduced to the program.

This announcement augments funding to the strong support YouthCARE’s school chaplaincy has received from the McGowan Labor Government and successive previous state governments in Western Australia. 

In 2021, the McGowan Labor Government made a significant step and committed to funding school chaplaincy for any state schools that wishes to access this service. The program is currently being rolled out in WA with overwhelming subscription for the service.

“The school chaplaincy service has strong support in the Western Australian community” said Tamsyn Cullingford, the CEO of YouthCARE.

She said that “For over 40 years, YouthCARE’s school chaplains have made a vital contribution by supporting the wellbeing of students and school communities as part of the school’s wider welfare support program. The work of our chaplains has been critical in supporting school communities, especially during the height of the COVID-19 challenges faced by our community.”

YouthCARE’s school chaplains are well trained. They hold a minimum Certificate IV in community services or equivalent, with over 70 % of chaplains exceeding this minimum qualification and a significant number holding graduate qualifications in related fields, such as human services, education, social science and pastoral care.

Alongside its school chaplaincy services, YouthCARE also provides its highly valued Pastoral Critical Incidence Chaplaincy service to school communities in response to critical incidents throughout WA.  In addition to this, YouthCARE also provides chaplaincy to school principals in several regional and remote communities.

YouthCARE looks forward to working with the Federal Minister in support of school chaplaincy in Western Australia.

Special CEO Announcement

A message from the Chairman of YouthCARE

Dear Friends,

On behalf of the Board of YouthCARE, I take great pleasure in welcoming Tamsyn Cullingford as the in-coming CEO of the Churches’ Commission on Education Incorporated.

Following a comprehensive selection process that was led by Rev’d Stephen Francis, along with Bishop Don Sproxton, Dr Kaaren Watts and Ms Li Ai Gamble, Tamsyn stood out as the best candidate to lead YouthCARE.

Tamsyn comes to the organisation with wide experience in the health sector both in Western Australia and Queensland. She has held a number of leadership roles with the last being an Executive Director in Queensland Health in Mount Isa.

The in-coming CEO has a strong commitment to her faith with a long association with the Catholic, Baptist, and Anglican church traditions.

We look forward to the vision and leadership that Tamsyn will bring to the organisation in guiding it to its next phase.

Over the coming weeks and months, Tamsyn will work with Stanley to familiarise herself with the organisation and meet with a wide range of supporters, volunteers and staff.

The handover period will take place over a number of months. Tamsyn will be formally taking over as CEO at the Annual General Meeting on 30 March 2022. Stanley will assume the role of out-going CEO until the first week of July 2022.

The Board will have more to say about the completion of the current CEO’s appointment over the next few weeks.

The Board thanks all supporters for their prayerful support and encouragement during the appointment process. We also thank Stanley and Liesl, our Head of Human Services for assisting the Board and the Recruitment and Discernment committee.

We invite all who are associated with YouthCARE, to warmly welcome Tamsyn and offer prayers for God’s blessings for Tamsyn, Dan and their two girls.

Yours most sincerely

Glenn Bergsma FAICD

A message from the Incoming CEO

Dear Friends and Supporters of YouthCARE

It is with great joy and excitement that I join the YouthCARE family as the incoming CEO of the Churches’ Commission on Education Incorporated. I feel so blessed to be joining an organisation that values and lives out respect, compassion, and service in everything that it does.

I grew up in South Africa and migrated to Western Australia in 2005 at the age of 20. Having always wanted to serve and help others, I completed a Bachelor of Science in Physiotherapy at the University of Notre Dame, and started my career at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. I worked as a physiotherapist for several years before discovering a love for service improvement, change management and innovation. I subsequently completed a Master of Business Administration to further develop my knowledge in these areas, and am a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. I have also recently commenced studying a Master in Divinity (part-time) as I seek to serve YouthCARE, its staff and its communities.

For the past 10 years I have worked in senior roles across the public health sector in Western Australia and Queensland, including in project management, change management, financial recovery, and operations management. Most recently, I have worked for Queensland Health as an Executive Director in a remote health service, covering over 200,000 square kilometers of North West Queensland. I have a strong interest in innovation, policy development and corporate governance, and I am deeply passionate about reaching people, especially those who are at risk or disadvantaged.

My wonderful husband, Daniel, is a Perth local and works as an electrical engineer, and we have two daughters, Mabel (four years old) and Molly (three years old). Since returning to Perth in December 2021, we have attended a local church, and have been incredibly blessed by the encouragement and support from our church leadership and community.

I want to thank the Board, the Recruitment and Discernment Committee, Liesl, and Stanley for their support, prayer and encouragement throughout the application and appointment process.

I so look forward to meeting each of you and to walking alongside you as we continue to express God’s love and presence in the lives of young West Australians through the wonderful work that YouthCARE does.


Tamsyn Cullingford

The Story That Ended With a New Beginning

A chaplain in the Esperance region recently joined a year one and two class for their English lesson.

The students were encouraged to write a story following the principles of narrative structure.

Narrative structure is the creation of a plot by manipulating a chain of events, or cause and effect. This could be through a linear format (ie. beginning, middle, end), multiple plots, or be reverse chronological order.

Chaplain Jake was inspired by the idea a narrative could conclude with a new beginning instead of an ending. So he started writing a story as well.

Thirty minutes passed and one by one the students and chaplain read out their stories.

There were stories about …lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Jake’s story was such a hit that the teacher suggested he should publish it.

A few months passed and Jake had shelved the idea of publishing the story until an incident occurred. It caused Jake to realise that people in his community could benefit from hearing The Big Old Tree, even if it was just a couple of people.

The only complication was that the story needed an illustrator to bring it to life.

“After discussion with some of the teachers about finding an illustrator, one teacher suggested I ask Anika, a year 2 student who has amazing drawing skills for her age,” said Jake.

The first illustration created for the book was a sad prince and a tree.

“When I saw her pictures I knew it was exactly what I wanted for the book,” said Jake.

The Big Old Tree has since inspired many people and is a great reminder of how a little bit of positive encouragement can go a long way.

You can catch more stories from our Esperance chaplains on the Goldfields, Esperance and Lake Grace Region Page.