Just Like Me
“It’s important for students to see outside of themselves and to learn that they are but one piece in the enormous puzzle of humanity.”
The initiative of St John’s Anglican Church in Darlinghurst, Rough Edges Café is a cause that St Andrew’s Houses Westminster and York have been involved with since late last year. Rough Edges provides food for the homeless with the help of volunteers and the good people at OzHarvest, who collect leftovers from local restaurants at the end of each day. Starting in Term 4 last year, Mr Paul Eastway, Head of York House, and Ms Tracey Ireland, Head of Westminster, have been taking small volunteer groups of senior students to Rough Edges of a Friday evening twice a month. The students involved help out by serving food, cleaning, or sitting down for a chat with some of the people who seek support through this service. “Rough Edges Café is such a brilliant initiative,” says the school’s Senior Chaplain, Rev Craig Foster. “Whenever I talk with students about their experiences at Rough Edges, I see their faces light up because they are excited to share these experiences. They go with the goal of serving the needy people of our city, but also come back having grown so much themselves.”
According to Mr Paul Eastway, “It’s about listening to others without judgement. But it’s also about challenging our own preconceptions, particularly those ideas to do with what homelessness looks like, what it means and how it comes about.” Charlotte Riddle of Year 11 volunteers at Rough Edges and describes her involvement with the programme as a completely eye-opening and emotional experience. “It is very rewarding to be opened up to a world you aren’t used to,” she says. “Sitting down and sharing a meal at Rough Edges really puts things into perspective, because you realise that these are just real people, with hobbies and interests like any of us.”
“I think it is a very important thing for students to be involved with,” says Mr Eastway. “On one hand, it’s about giving back to society wherever you can, but on the other, it’s also about personal development. It’s important for students to see outside of themselves and to learn that they are but one piece in the enormous puzzle of humanity.”
Rev Foster agrees. “It is wonderful to see the continually growing enthusiasm at SACS for serving our local community,” he says. “To me this highlights that our students see that each person is valuable and precious, no matter what their background or circumstance.”
Many of the individuals Mr Eastway, Ms Ireland and the students have come across through Rough Edges are incredibly intelligent and well-educated people. The experience of volunteering at the café has enabled students to realise that there are a multitude of reasons why people become homeless — relationship breakdowns, mental illness, struggles with addiction, or just plain bad luck. “In the end,” says Mr Eastway, “it’s important to put ourselves in their shoes.”
Though the group of volunteers is a small one — consisting of approximately 15 students — they are all very enthusiastic and always eager to be rostered on of a Friday night. “It’s great to see these extraordinary young people and how mature they can be,” says Mr Eastway. “Although some of the homeless people walking in the door are really old souls, the students are always willing to sit down with them. They listen with such ease and compassion.”
According to Mr Eastway, the experience of volunteering at Rough Edges is an invigorating one. He says that, though many people turn up on a Friday night tired from a long week of work and study, by the time they leave at 9.30, they are buzzing.
Mr Eastway and Ms Ireland hope to expand the group of volunteers involved with Rough Edges Café later on in the year, subject to the availability of a series of five prerequisite training sessions.
Words: Rosie Dalton
This article appears in our new issue of the Andrean Magazine. Packed with features and beautiful photography, printed on thick recycled paper stock, it's a perfect read to get a feel for our school. Visit us for a Head of School tour and grab a copy, or download your own copy here.