Back to school vouchers for children affected by bushfires

Back to school vouchers for children affected by bushfires

Students affected by the 2019/20 fire season have been getting a little help with their school expenses thanks to a grant from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal.  Social Futures, along with the Northern Rivers Community Foundation (NRCF), worked through 35 schools to distribute a thousand donated $50 vouchers to families across the Northern Rivers region.    

For the first time, the vouchers were sent electronically for students, or their schools, to print up and exchange for school related kit such as books, clothing and stationery.    

“It was a big job finding just which families had been affected by the fires,” explained Social Futures Senior Customer Experience Officer Kim Riches. 

It was such a widespread disaster.  We relied on the schools to fill in the picture, but even finding the right schools took a bit of work,” she said. 

“I think the last vouchers went to Dundurrabin public School,” she added.  

Dundurrabin, a small community inland from Coffs Harbour with less than 100 residents, was badly affected by the Bees Nest fire of September 2019.    

Social Futures also distributed vouchers through their programs like Mijung Jarjums and the Family Referral service.   

“We already have strong connections with the diverse communities across the region, including in remote or disadvantaged areas,” explained Social Futures CEO Tony Davies.  

“So, when we were asked to help out with this project, we were happy to make use our networks and hard working staff to see the vouchers get into the hands of the families that needed them most.” 

Emily Berry of NCRF said, “The vouchers are for purchasing items that students may have lost in the bushfires and have never been able to replace due to limited funds available in the family. We hope these vouchers help inclusion for the students, that they can more easily fit in to their school environment and go on to realise their potential, instead of feeling different, excluded because of their financial hardship.” 

While the fires were indiscriminate, many regional and disadvantaged communities were significantly affected, with homes lost and, in some cases, the school buildings themselves. 

Michelle Dalgleish, principal at Coutts Crossing Public School said many families faced hardship in the aftermath of the fires due to property damage and loss of livestock.  

“Our school community was affected by catastrophic fire conditions in November 2019. The fires threatened lives and property in the area, forcing the school to be declared temporarily non-operational due to safety concerns when the Coutts Crossing village was evacuated. It was an extremely scary time for students, families and the whole community,” said Michelle.  

“The school has worked hard to deliver a range of social-emotional programs to improve student’s resilience and strengthen coping skills in the aftermath of the bushfires. And now the vouchers have brought some welcome financial relief to families and students,” she said.   

All 86 students at Coutts Crossing received a voucher.   

“The school has worked hard to deliver a range of social-emotional programs to improve student’s resilience and strengthen coping skills in the aftermath of the bushfires. And now the vouchers have brought some welcome financial relief to families and students,”

Michelle

Couts Crossing School Principal

Tackling bullying one class at a time

Tackling bullying one class at a time

Schools are looking toward an inclusive future thanks to awareness program, ‘Different on the Outside but the Same on the Inside’.

Many of us saw the distraught video of nine year old Quaden Bayles and our hearts wrenched seeing the effect of bullying upon a young person. The video, which has been viewed 2.5 million times and shared by more than 65,000 people, highlighted how just damaging bullying can be and the dire need for education in schools.

Happily, Quaden’s story appeared to land on a bright note with support flowing in from around the world. But Quaden’s case is one in many, and bullying for people with a disability is overwhelmingly common and debilitating. 

Young people with a disability are more likely than their peers to have poor mental health[1] and recent research[2] suggests almost half of the poorer mental health we see in teenagers with a disability is due to bullying.

But a new program being delivered by Social Futures aims to tackle bullying head on.

The ‘Different on the Outside but the Same on the Inside’ program is the brain child of Social Futures Local Area Coordinator, Prue McCarthy. An educational inclusion awareness program about disability designed for children 8-11 years, this program has been received with enthusiasm by schools in Western NSW.

‘Different on the Outside but the Same on the Inside’ introduces young people to different types of disability. It uses activities and games to teach children empathy and help them to gain an understanding of what it is like to live with a disability. 

“I wanted children to realise that people with a disability are just the same as everyone else”, says Prue, “and I hope they can carry this awareness with them through to their adult years and onto the next generation. The best place to make change into the future is with the children of today.”

One of the features making this program so successful is the opportunity for children to interact directly with a person with disability and to ask them open and honest questions.

“’What the hardest thing for you to do with having a disability?’ they often ask”, says Prue “or I’m commonly asked if I ever wished that I weren’t born with a disability.”

“This is why I like the program so much,” states Prue. “Because I am a presenter with a disability walking into the class room, I get to observe the students that might be laughing at me. But by the end of the program it is these children that are asking most of the questions to find out more about me and my disability.”

“I had one teacher tell me about a student who was hearing impaired but too embarrassed to wear his hearing-aides. But after I presented that student went up to his teacher and said “I think that I might start wearing my hearing-aides so I can learn more.” ”

“I know I have done my job well when I see students write on the evaluation forms, ‘people with disabilities can do anything they want to’ ” smiles Prue.

The program is currently delivered across the Orange NSW local government area with Social Futures looking to expand to Orana far west.

If your school would like to be involved, contact Social Futures on 1800 522 679.

[1] https://miami.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/mental-health-issues-in-children-and-adolescents-with-chronic-ill

[2] https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/47/5/1402/5066450?guestAccessKey=92b80704-1fbd-4548-b41b-1fdcc02acbaa

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Civil Law Advice Clinics

Legal Aid has released a promotional flyer for its new civil law advice clinic at OTCP Connections Centre, Tweed Heads (starting on 14 March 2017), plus a list of all Northern NSW civil law advice clinics being run through the Lismore office, including homelessness drop-in clinics.

The Tweed Heads Civil Law Advice clinic runs on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month at 34 Cunningham St, Tweed Heads South.

The homelessness advice clinics are set up across the region in locations where people are accessing food and other services. A large number of clients that visit the generalist/ATSI targeted clinics also fall into the homelessness/risk of homelessness category.

Delivering services around COVID-19

Social Futures is committed to the continuation of delivering support services in a safe, practical and innovative way while navigating COVID-19.