English teacher Dale Kelly grew up in South Africa and was deeply affected by the poverty he witnessed daily through his classroom windows. The experience led him to become a teacher in Australia so he could instil independence, social justice and a generous global outlook in his students.
Last year, Kelly, who teaches at St Stephen’s School in Duncraig, Western Australia, clinched a grant worth more than $4,000 in the NGS Super Scholarship Awards program (formerly known as the Dedicated to the Dedicated Awards).
A world of difference
The funding enabled him to take 17 Year 10 students, on the ‘trip of a lifetime’ in April this year to continue revamping an orphanage in South Africa. The orphanage, day care centre and foster home, called Jehovah Jireh Haven, houses more than 100 underprivileged children. Many have been orphaned by the HIV virus. “We wanted to launch an international service program that built on the school’s motto – ‘Serve God, serve one another’,” explains Kelly, who has now taken three school trips to the orphanage, introduced to him by his parents.
Over that time, the St Stephen’s School students have retiled two dilapidated bathrooms, paved an entire sports court, built and painted an adventure playground – complete with zip line – and created a laundry out of a shipping container.
The facilities have changed the children’s lives and allowed staff to dedicate more time to them.
“With more than 100 children there, washing all the clothes by hand was killing human resources. The people helping were spending all their time doing laundry, so now they are free to give more attention to the kids,” says Kelly.
St Stephen’s School already has a thriving program of overseas service with Year 12 students going to Cambodia and Year 11s experiencing Malaysia. But the Year 10 initiative was made possible this year by the NGS Super grant, which acknowledged Kelly’s enterprising approach to charitable projects.
The travellers were self-funded but each student also had to raise $750 to support works over there.
“One boy worked in a butcher’s shop, another picked up extra shifts as a referee at his soccer club and others did sausage sizzles,” says Kelly.
The two-week itinerary included a day in Cape Town, visits to a township primary school and homeless shelter, where the children donated soccer and netball equipment, outings with South African children to a restaurant, visiting a game reserve and ice-skating plus six days working at the orphanage.
Laying the groundwork
Health and safety concerns meant the trip needed careful planning with Kelly and a colleague driving the full length of the journey a few months before the first school trip to ensure everything would run smoothly.
The children also attended workshops at hardware chain Bunnings prior to the journey to learn building skills for very physical 12-hour days at the orphanage.
“When the kids arrived there I was really comfortable they knew how to use a drill, a saw, impact drivers – we just let them get on with it,” says Kelly. “It encouraged independence and responsibility.
They were able to step back and say, ‘I did that!’ That’s a massive achievement for a 15-year-old,” he says.
Scholarship propels students’ efforts
Apart from opening their eyes to the privileges they have in Australia, such as excellent health care and social benefits, one unexpected outcome was an improvement in the students’ English grades.
“The kids came back better writers because they were more mature and they had more scope to draw from,” explains Kelly. “Now when they get upset about first-world problems, they have got a bit of perspective,” he explains.
Due to the tour’s success, twenty-six children have applied for 18 places next year. The group plans to build a new dining room and kitchen and add lights to the sports court.
Kelly admits the NGS Super grant pushed the project along further than expected and paid for washing machines and the adventure playground. “Four thousand dollars is about 40,000 South African Rand – so the money really did help – it went a long way,” he says.
Money cannot buy the life-changing experience and impact the trip has on the Australian students though, adds Kelly. “My upbringing probably affected my outlook now – they will probably look back in 10 years’ time and say that trip really did change my life and my mindset,” he says.
|NGS Super Scholarship Awards 2017
NGS Super offers five awards of $5,000 annually to outstanding educators who go the extra mile to better themselves and their independent schools.
The scholarships allow successful applicants to complete a study tour, professional development course or project in Australia or overseas. NGS Super members working in management, teaching or in a support staff role in a non-government school can apply.
Applications are rated for their relevance, innovation, ability to further careers and potential to improve education. This year’s scholarships close on September 1 and are awarded across four categories including teaching, management, support staff and judge’s choice.
For more information and inspirational awards stories visit ngssuper.com.au/scholarships.