4-6 October – St Thomas of Canterbury College
Educating the hearts and minds of the young
Students from Liston College, St Peter’s, St Thomas’s, and St Kevin’s, gathered for the annual three day Street Retreat at St Thomas’s during the October school holidays. After a short reflection and some icebreaker activities, the Retreat visited the St John of God Rehabilitation Centre in Halswell.
This was a particularly moving experience for the group. Long-term patients, normal people whose lives’ had been changed dramatically by motor accidents, neurological disorders, strokes having to learn to walk, talk and rehabilitate themselves back into a normal life-stream. That evening, John Minto, gave a thought provoking inspirational talk on the housing crisis and its associated tax issues in New Zealand that affected the poor and lower socio-economic families.
Each evening, the students were divided into groups, and given a small sum of money to budget and provide a meal for themselves. About $1 per person, a reality check to empathise with those individuals and families on the margins and their daily struggle to provide for themselves or their families.
On Thursday and Friday evenings, the group had to sleep rough. Given a piece of cardboard, individuals slept outside to give an in-sight in what it is to be homeless.
The day started with two Police Officers talking to the group about their work in the community and some comment on the issues of mental health, youth crime and work that the Police daily engage in.
Then New Zealand cyclist Reon Nolan outlined his story from a history of juvenile delinquency and criminality to turning himself around and now working with youth at risk in the community.
On Friday afternoon, the students were split into three focus groups visited and reported in the evening their experiences of four different organisations which service the communities of Christchurch. The first group looked at the outreach programmes that the Aranui Branch of the Salvation Army catered for their community in the East. The second group visited St Vincent De Paul and did voluntary work for the afternoon. The third group looked at the workings of the City Mission. They also visited the Community Law office in Montreal Street and gained an in-sight into the workings of that organisation.
The team visited the Red Zone and reflected on the dis-location of 7000 families, the disappearance of the eastern suburbs, and the impact on those communities. They then assembled on Brighton beach either side of the Pier, drawing spectacular images in the sand, reflections of their thoughts and ideas pertaining to the past three days.
The Street Retreat can only function on the goodwill of those staff who gave up their time during the holidays to provide leadership and guidance to the students. A big thank-you to Angela Smith and Stephen Kennedy, St Thomas’s, Thomas Newton, DRS at Villa Maria, Nick Bristow, St Kevin’s, Cathy Harrison Edmund Rice, for their professional input, and leading the reflective sessions, and finally the community of St Thomas’s who provided support.
The Edmund Rice Justice Trust sponsored the Retreat.