At the beginning of 2022 secondary school teacher Wilda Laux created a document to weave Enviroschools and Caritas together into one strategy, then proposed it to colleagues Debbie and Joanne. They were happy for the two programmes to be integrated and for Wilda to take the lead. This has helped support student empowerment to undertake a Move it Live it Sweat it Stop it campaign that challenged their students during Lent and run a Caritas challenge day as part of their special character week at the beginning of June.
“This year I was going to be involved in the two groups and there was no way I could give 100% to each so by combining the two, it allows me to tackle both areas.” – Dr Wilda Laux
The Caritas team at Sancta Maria College in Botany, Tāmaki Makaurau have been significantly involved in the school community, accomplishing their goals to ‘Move it’, ‘Live it’, ‘Sweat it’, and ‘Stop it’, but more particularly ‘Sweat it’.
The team worked hard within the ‘Sweat it’ goal and collected jam jars for the purpose of upcycling them into vases that will be part of a Christmas parcel to acknowledge the work volunteers do for the Totara hospice, working in physically and mentally challenging conditions. This project also aimed to make use of recycling and upcycle. The team upcycling these jars is aiming for 200 completed vases before the end of the school year.
“We are making use of disposable glass jam jars by turning them into mini vases – recycling – all while fulfilling the Special Character of our school by making a difference in the lives of the Totara Hospice volunteers through gift giving as a thank you for the work that they do. It is not only promoting appreciation for community work and eco-friendly upcycling of everyday waste but also team building skills as we observe the importance of shared contribution to make a difference for our earth, even if it may be small.” – student reflection
In addition, the team worked after school in the butterfly garden to revitalise the area to ‘Sweat it’. Over the previous year, the once beautiful butterfly garden had grown weeds and many of the flowering plants had died. Students, supported by Dr Laux and Mrs McCreath, worked extremely hard to weed and plant new flowers, kindly donated by Bunnings Warehouse, Botany (who also provided paint for the jar vases). Thanks to everyone’s support and hard work, the garden is again flourishing.
To ‘Stop it’, the team gave up something during Lent. This included giving up ‘plastic wrapping’ or meat once a week. Giving up the use of single-use plastic wrappers reduces landfill waste and further supports our hope for clean waters by reducing microplastics into our oceans and waterways. Giving up meat also reduces methane production, a contributing factor of climate change.
To ‘Move it’, many students worked to collect and remove moth plants. These invasive and noxious weeds significantly harm the native life of our country. The students WALKED from school to collect these, enabling them to reduce their carbon footprint and increase their ‘step count’ for the day. They have also planned a beach clean-up later in the year where they will WALK to remove litter and built muscles by carrying the litter back to base.
The ‘Live it’ component of the challenge saw the senior team monitoring the two main water fountains in the school in order to ensure students do not waste water. Many countries are deprived of water and many individuals are suffering from dehydration and drought conditions where they live. This monitoring was hoped to raise awareness of this issue by ensuring our students appreciate the privilege of having easy access to clean water. (See banner photo).
The college students have also been collecting money and non-perishable items throughout Lent. The money went to support the Caritas relief funds and the non-perishables were used to make food parcels for families of Sancta Maria College community who are struggling from the effects of COVID 19. These parcels were sent to homes just in time for Easter as a message of HOPE and AROHA. Special congratulations to 9BRN who made a challenge to collect $250 as a Homeroom and reached their goal two days before the collection ended.
“Overall, the Caritas team have been working hard to accomplish the four Caritas challenges within the 40 days of Lent. It has surely been a challenge for our school community, but one we have all loved being involved in. We are very proud and humbled that we were given so many opportunities to EXPERIENCE these simply pleasures we sometimes take for granted. As stewards of God, under the guidance of Dr Laux and Mr Tamayo, we will continue to work for the common good of all. We are excited to tackle our next projects!”
The Caritas Challenge Day – One Day of Difference for a Lifetime:
At the 2022 Caritas Challenge event a range of fun and educational activities were run to provoke students to think about the challenges that other people face. Three particular activities were linked to their Enviroschools programme: water race challenge, the washing activity and the making houses using cardboard.
The water race involved using a 1.5 l bottle to collect water from a barrel and then carry this water back to ‘home base’ without dropping water on the way and fill up a bucket at ‘home base’. The winning team who managed to fill up the most water in their ‘home bucket’ without dropping water on the way got tokens to exchange for extra food at dinner. This activity was aimed at raising awareness of the importance of water in our life and how in some countries, some people have to travel long distances to find clean water to drink.
The water was then returned to the barrel so it could be used during the washing activity that occurred after the obstacle course when students got dirty but then experienced the use of recycled water to wash their clothing.
This activity again aimed to build appreciation of the value of water in our life and how in some countries, they have to sometimes use ‘dirty water’ for washing clothes.
An activity involving teams of students making houses with cardboard was aimed at raising awareness of recycling resources and the use of basic resources to build a shelter. This experience gave a small hint of the life of less fortunate (for example people living on the streets who have to use the likes of cardboard to build a shelter). The feedback from participants showed that the cardboard house building activity was the most popular and promoted values and an opportunity to consider the lives of those less fortunate than them.
Learning about Social inequities and inequalities:
Kenny (Service Prefect) and Lavinia (Deputy Head Girl) attended a Social Justice chat conference delivered by Caritas to learn about social inequities and inequalities. They are now involved in developing activities towards the Social Justice week from 4-10 September. This will be based on raising awareness of racism and Sancta Maria College are planning to add a locally relevant aspect by including link to top social justice issues at school such as attitudes towards people of different genders, religions and cultural practices.
With each of these challenges and events, there was a lot of planning and action. Students used the Action Planner and reflective questions to gauge the effectiveness of their engagement. They surveyed participants and also carried out self reflections.
Below are some examples of this.
Student leaders were asked after the Caritas Challenge 2022, “What difference did you feel you made to your own attitudes and behaviour and to that of others as a result of you modelling and promoting positive behaviour through the activities you ran and the reflections you led?”
“My own attitude and behaviour has changed through leading the Caritas Challenge activities since the more I talked and discussed with others during the reflections, the more I realised that there are small things that we can do to be in solidarity with those suffering worldwide. With the water bucket challenge, I could see how easily water was being wasted but I learnt that it is also easy to save water by prioritising it. Rather than trying to win the competition fast by running and dropping water on the way, I appreciated the idea of slowing down in order to save water that many struggling individuals desperately need.” – Samara Anubhav for the water challenge activity
“I felt like I got a deeper understanding of the activities and how other people struggle. It was incredible for me to experience even a part of the suffering others go through and promoting a positive attitude for others during the challenges as well.” – Sean Carlos as a leader involved in the planning of the night
“The difference I made to my own attitudes and behaviour is that I balanced my excitement with calmness. This was essential for the Scripture activity as the activity was supposed to be both fun and reflective. By allowing my excited side to appear, I was able to have fun and enjoy the activity. With my calm side, I was able to reflect deeply and understand my values more. With my promotion of positive behaviour, I believe I showed the participants that the Scripture activity isn’t as boring as people thought it might be when they compare it with obstacle course, etc. For the scripture’s activity, during reflection next time I would have the participants write their thoughts on paper and have them brainstorm why they feel that why. Is it maybe their values, roots, etc? By understanding themselves better, they can maybe understand others better and see the importance of making a change in our world.” – Kenny for the scriptures activity
“I feel as though I changed my behaviour to be more positive in pushing energetic participation, especially in the washing activity and subsequent reflection. I noticed almost all participants showed this positive energy back, and took part in the activity with a determined, team-spirited mindset.” – Reuben for the washing activity
“I believed by being positive while leading the activities, it genuinely encouraged me to be in a good mood and think positively about my experience and time there. This then reflected when discussing with the participants during the instructions and reflection period of the activity. By being encouraging and being in a good mood, this made participants be in an excited state and engaged in the activity. The activity became less formal and like a chore, so the reflection became a friendly discussion and not judgemental, encouraging the students to join in. I encouraged students to think about being grateful for the materials they have access to and how we can advocate for not wasting the resources we have. The participants received this very well and came up with some very insightful answers. There was often one person per group that would talk the most and other members would add to their idea.” – Ellen for the house building activity
“Due to the time of the activities, I felt very cold and tired, but I made sure to stay enthusiastic and involved in the games. It was fun to watch the players participating and seeing their competitive sides come out even in the cold and dark. Afterwards, during the reflection, I had to come to the front and help lead even if I wanted to sit and relax, which led to the players laughing and having fun when talking or playing short games.” – Jennifer for the water challenge activity
“I believe although it was a long day, I did my very best to stay positive and it helped me enjoy helping with the challenge even more. Seeing the smiles on the contestants was one of the highlights of my night and is what helped radiate positivity to others. I showed I was having fun which inspired others to do the same. The message we tried to put across was really good as the activities we ran for the water buckets symbolised the true issue at hand. The reflection really left a good thought behind to the contestant which helped them become more aware of their water usage etc.” – Jaden for water challenge activity
“I felt that by staying positive and energised throughout the day, others were motivated to stick it out and see it through to the end even with how long the evening got. I was so happy and grateful for how everybody contributed, as well as the trust I was able to put into people, running activities even if I wasn’t there myself to watch over them. Because I did my best to encourage everyone, it was a great feeling when everybody put in their own efforts to make the day as successful as possible. While I didn’t get to stay for a long time at any specific activity, I got to see all of them. A specific example that I remember of changing how the participants thought about an idea, was when Joseph was leading the reflection for the bucket challenge. He asked ‘how can we change what we do in our daily lives to save water’ but everyone was struggling to come up ideas. I was watching so I jumped in and suggested how everybody takes showers almost every day when they get home, and one of the best ways to conserve water would be to shorten these showers to 5 minutes at the most. I feel like this went a long way in making sure that the participants took lasting lessons away from the day.” – Adrian as a leader involved in the planning
“I felt that I had to take initiative to take up tasks that were originally not assigned to me (eg helping out in the kitchen to prepare and serve dinner). Also, I tried to keep a positive attitude and worked collaboratively as a team with the other prefects in the kitchen so the dinner could run smoothly. It was enjoyable working with other prefects I do not normally talk to and seeing the participants enjoy all the activities as well as dinner. I was originally assigned to the washing activity but had to move to the dinner due to the lack of people helping to prepare the food. The dinner ran really smoothly as we all decided to assign each person with a job (eg I was responsible for making and distributing hot chocolate and Rosie was in charge of the gluten-free and vegetarian food). I think the participants understood the message that we are very lucky to eat the food we want and have a decent portion, unlike those who are less fortunate. It also allowed them to enjoy and appreciate the food we served, even if they did not have enough tickets/points to claim all the food and drinks they wanted.” – Camilla for the washing activity
“I feel that I have changed my perspective of the impacts our actions make on our environment and learnt to appreciate little things more. Initiating and participating in activities have allowed me not only to educate and improve others, but also myself. Before, I would not even have the slightest care for amounts of water wasted. Now I think about those who do not have such opportunities as I do. I realised that my actions have become more considerate, which made myself feel encouraged knowing it creates a big impact. To our school community, I know that have helped to reduce the water waste and further educated them on our effects on the environment. This has helped with both financial benefits and environmental benefits. During times at school, I find myself smiling seeing colleagues correcting others when such privileges are not being used appropriately. As a whole people became more aware of their actions when these activities were created, therefore, the school has changed for the better and will continue to from further improvements.” – Kathrina Bacay on monitoring water fountains
A video of the student run “One Day of Difference for a Lifetime” event:
Some links to some articles that were published
Pledges for the future
Students produced hand prints featuring pledges they have made as a result of these Caritas challenge experiences. These will be displayed on the wall in the school auditorium – a reminder for everyone of the key messages and the impact the challenge made.
And the learning and action continue: Posters and a video promoting Plastic Free