As our students become older, immersion trips for students with a passion for social justice will be considered.
The College supports several Australian and overseas charities, but a connection is being formed with the Mary Rice Centre in Kenya. This centre provides an education for some of the most intellectually and physically challenged students in Nairobi, Kenya.
In addition, programs run for the parents of these students to empower them to become financially self-efficient by the learning of new workforce related skills.
The College hopes to take a group of students to Kenya to spend time at several schools and agencies, including the Mary Rice Centre.
With a commitment to developing positive links with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the College is also hoping to take a group of students on an immersion trip to a remote Aboriginal community.
In 2019 two teachers from St Bede's participated in an Immersion trip to Kenya.
Mr Andrew Cornwall shares his experience with us:
In one of the more famous parables of Luke’s gospel, we learn of a poor man, Lazarus, who lies dying and unnoticed at the gate of the rich man (Luke 16:19-31). It is a powerful story, and one that the Australian Catholic Bishops chose to underpin their call to all Christian communities in their fight against world poverty.
This story – and others – also have a deep personal meaning for me. Almost 15 years ago I was grateful to be called to help Cassie Mowbray and Mark Wright with the St Francis Xavier’s Hamilton Cambodian immersion experience. At that time Cambodia was very much Lazarus, and I would wrestle with that in the coming years as I lead many more immersions and continued my work in Cambodia.
Kesheni means “stay awake” and the theme for the immersion was to do exactly that – to become awake to the needs of those around us.
And so, it was with much excitement and that same gratefulness, that I took up the offer to attend the 2019 Kesheni Immersion with the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. Over the course of the next three weeks I saw, heard, and experienced things that unsettled the spirit within and which I continue to reflect upon.
We hear your voice, O Christ
Saying ‘Whom will I send?’
and there is a longing in our hearts
to say ‘Send us.’
From the Kesheni welcoming ritual
Like many others, I approached Keshni from a rationale place. Kenya, a country of almost 50 million. Almost half the population is under the age of 21. Nairobi, a city of 6.5 million. 46% of the country is below the poverty line. Half of Nairobi’s population live in slums like Kibera filled with 3mx3m shacks made of corrugation and mud walls.
What I didn’t expect was to immerse myself in a world so filled with hope and aspiration. Every day I was humbled to learn from and work with some amazing people. At the Mary Rice centre I was privileged to share in a tiny portion of the amazing work that goes into supporting the most disabled children of Kibera. With the Edmund Rice camps I was able to share in the youthful joy of an emerging youth leadership team. At Women for Women in Africa we were able hear how young people and adults are being empowered. We were able to spend an afternoon chopping wood and prepping meals with the Missionaries of Charity.
For me, however, it was the work of the Ruben Centre which connected most. Based in Mukuru, only just smaller than Kibera, the centre attempts to bring together a range of services – school, medical clinic, birthing centre, police station, radio station just to name a few – in an effort the empower the Mukuru community. It was there that I raged against the injustices, marvelled at the ingenuity and perseverance of the staff, and came to recognise that the solutions required small steps, collaboration, and empowerment.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours
St Teresa of Avila
I still have a lot to learn from my visit. I went looking for Lazarus and instead found communities rich in spirit, joy, and belonging. I found friends, colleagues, heroes and villains. And I found myself still uncertain as to my role in heeding Christ’s call to “love thy neighbour”, but feeling assured that all those small actions make a difference (including those thousands of can sales).
Kesheni kwa Lazarus
Stay Awake for Lazarus
I would like to thank the St Bede’s school community, the Catholic Diocese of Maitland Newcastle, and my family for supporting my involvement in Kesheni. I would like to thank former Director Mr Mick Slattery and his wife Alison for leading the immersion. I would like to thank the participants, communities, and organisations who shared the journey. I am thankful for the opportunity and I will continue to learn and grow from the experience.