Sisters of Charity Street Retreat

During the first week of the holidays from the 1st to 5th July, ten Bethany students from Year 10 and 11 gathered at St Vincent’s College to participate in the annual Sisters of Charity Street Retreat. We spent four nights in the boarding house along with 8 other schools from all over Australia. The immersion allowed us to participate in various social justice experiences and gain a greater insight into the lives of the disenfranchised in our society.

The first day consisted of a guided walking tour of Sydney’s city, where we stopped at significant sites to discuss their significance to our school charism, Sisters of Charity. The pilgrimage was followed by a  beautiful mass at St Canice’s and then a pizza and movie night.

On the following day, we hosted a ‘buddies day’ on the college grounds where we had the opportunity to interact with children from underprivileged backgrounds. The children were aged 4-13 from families experiencing hardship or disadvantage. All students were responsible for preparing food, games and activities for these children. The children were compelling and the overall feel of the day was one of joy and connectedness as we engaged with the children and enjoyed some light-hearted activities. In the evening, we participated in a 10 dollar meal challenge. Janice and I set off to Bondi in an attempt to find fish and chips for under 10 dollars. This proved to be a difficult task, however, it allowed us to further comprehend the struggles faced by many underprivileged members of the community.

On Monday and Tuesday, we were involved in various experiences that were at the heart of social justice in Sydney. On Monday, we visited Rough Edges, a lounge room and cafe for the homeless. It provides a safe place and a community for people living on the streets. From there, we embarked on a walking tour of Kings Cross where we were guided by Andrew, who had previously been living on the streets. He shared his story and we were all truly captivated by his resilience and zest for life. He took us to a number of sites around Kings Cross and his knowledge of the area uncovered much of what was previously hidden to us. Later that day, we made a trip to The Wayside Chapel where we learnt about the organisation and how they support the marginalised members of society. We spoke with Rob, who taught us how easy it is to become homeless and trapped in the cycle of poverty. He told us of his experiences on the streets and walked us around Kings Cross and surrounding suburbs. Much like Andrew, his happiness and joy for life was something we all admired. That night, we enjoyed a presentation from a refugee who shared his experience as a boy in the middle east and a refugee in Australia.

 

On Tuesday, we walked to the Jewish Museum where we spoke with two holocaust survivors, Yvonne and Jack. Their stories captivated us as we gained a greater knowledge of this tragic event. After lunch, we made our way back to the college where we cooked soup and baked brownies and ANZAC slice to take to St Canice’s kitchen. We later listened to a talk about the negative impacts of drug and alcohol abuse and the effect it has on individuals. That night, we participated in a sleep out where we slept on the floor in classrooms with our sleeping bags. While many of us struggled to get to sleep, this gave us an insight into the experiences faced by many people in Australia on a daily basis.

 

 

On the whole, the Street Retreat was a positive and rewarding experience that enlightened us and gave us a greater insight into the lives of the underprivileged members of society. It allowed us to better appreciate our life and the opportunities we are privileged enough to have. While it was confronting and challenging for some, the immersion connected us to the marginalised members of society and through first hand experiences, we were able to empathise and learn from them. Thank you to Mr Gough and Miss Taouk for accompanying us on this eye opening journey.

Jessica Semsarian – Year 11