When you have lived among some of the most shocking poverty in the world, as Brisbane teacher and RE leader Monica Keating has, social justice and mission initiatives are especially resonant.
After spending time living and working with some of the poorest communities in Thailand, Monica’s resolve to help others when she could – her ‘why’– was strengthened.
‘I've been a volunteer in Vietnam and twice in Thailand, working with refugees in a school, so I've seen shocking poverty, and I know that the little bit of support we can give is certainly very worthwhile,’ Monica, Head of Religion for Years 7 to 9 at St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace, says.
Leading a large group of teenage boys, most of whom haven’t yet lived that experience, to feel the same passion can be a challenge. Monica says Socktober, a national primary and secondary school community engagement program run by Catholic Mission, equipped her with all the tools to involve their heads, hearts, and hands in ensuring people less fortunate can have life to the full.
The hook, Monica says, was a simple and fun creative arts activity. ‘I said to our students, ‘Children your age in a third world country can’t go and buy a soccer ball; they haven’t got the money. So, we’re going to make our own here and experience that reality.’
‘We used totally recycled material and made our own ‘sockballs’. It was a fun activity. The boys loved it and we raised money and we helped others who are less fortunate. I thought it was amazing.”
Creating a ‘sockball’ is one of the first goals of the Socktober Challenge, which kicks off right around Australia on 6 September. It is a program that lays a platform for Australian students to learn the reality of children in situations of need, empathise with them, and take action to make a positive difference in their lives.
The Challenge consists of six Mission Packs – modules filled with activities, reflections, and goals to kick – which can be integrated into classroom or home-based learning at any pace. For Monica, it was an easy and worthwhile program to run for her Year 8 students.
‘It was a matter of getting the message to the students that this is your way of doing something to help others. The Socktober website is full of excellent resources to show them, so they all got immersed in it.’
Monica believes the key to the program’s suitability for schools is its flexibility, especially given the busyness of the back end of the year, when World Mission Month comes around. ‘We were inspired to just do what worked for our school, and it wasn’t extra work at all. When you’re passionate about it, it doesn’t take a lot of effort. I would say to any teacher, give it a go and you won’t be disappointed.’
Catholic Mission will host two Socktober webinars, to be held on Tuesday, 7 September at 3:30pm and Thursday, 9 September at 5.30pm (both AEST). To find out more about how the program can help you deliver your mission goals, click here, to register.