Spotlight On: The Gift of Service

17 March 2023


This article first appeared in Queenwood Weekly News on Friday 17 March 2023.

Serving others is a gift. The interesting question is ‘for whom?’.

Connecting with others through service allows us to laugh together, cry together and share our stories, and our ability to empathise grows. Developing empathy, particularly in the adolescent years, is essential for fostering social connectedness (Wagaman, 2011). It involves cultivating psychological characteristics that motivate and enable the individual to function as a competent moral agent, ie to do good in the world (Berkowitz, 2011).

Fundraising activities and special events have a place in supporting good causes but the foundation of service at Queenwood is learning through two-way connections. We structure our social justice programs so that students engage with complex social issues through direct experience and carefully planned learning opportunities.

Our girls learn about homelessness, addiction, and mental health as they connect with patrons at Rough Edges. By sharing learning with students from Macleay Vocational College (MVC) on Dunghutti Country, they understand Indigenous ways of knowing and the damaging impact past injustices and ongoing inequality has on our First Nations Peoples. Students will soon begin visiting a local aged care facility where they will be introduced to the challenges of ageing and trained to start conversations that bring joy to the residents.

Importantly, these face-to-face experiences are not one-off connections. We focus on developing and maintaining sustainable partnerships over the long term to maximise both understanding and impact. We have seen over the years that this impact extends beyond volunteering and transfers to a deep understanding of issues, advocacy, and giving. Impact is further enhanced by integration of these out-of-hours activities into the curriculum - an approach that is not particularly common in schools but a defining feature of our approach. At Queenwood, Social Justice learning is mapped and embedded across the K-12 curriculum and, where possible, students are taught by guest presenters who share their lived experience and specialist knowledge.

Queenwood regularly hosts a group of refugee children recently arrived from orphanages in Afghanistan through the charity Mahboba’s Promise. The purpose of the program is to support and nurture these vulnerable children who have arrived in a strange country, without parents, without the language in the most traumatic of circumstances – and yet we see that our girls benefit enormously. Our growing partnership has already had a profound impact on our students who have spent Saturday afternoons swimming, sharing food, and participating in a range of activities with the children aged 5-18 years old. Here are some of their unfiltered reflections.

Heidi Boyd
Volunteering with the children from Mahboba’s Promise has been a deeply moving experience for me and I will continue to be grateful for this well beyond my years at school. Being alongside the young children I have realised how much we all take for granted in our daily lives. We often find ourselves complaining about trivial things while these children have had to face many truly significant challenges so early on. It has given me a renewed sense of purpose and made me grateful for everything I have. It has made me want to do more to help others as I’m reminded of how the smallest acts of kindness can make such a big difference.

Aya Kazal
Working with Mahboba's promise has truly been a heart-warming experience. I am constantly surprised by the enthusiasm, compassion, and love the children carry despite the challenges they have been through. Laughing, swimming, running around chasing basketballs, their laughter fills my heart. In a new country, trying to juggle a new language and culture whilst still maintaining their own is difficult to say the least.

Emerson Stock
Volunteering with Mahboba’s promise has shown me the benefits to both parties as we are not only helping Afghan children experience their life to the fullest, but they are also leaving their mark on us. Volunteering has allowed me to connect in a unique way. It is truly eye-opening to witness such an optimistic group of young children and the extent of their gratitude towards even the smallest of experiences, after the challenges they have already faced.

I am honoured to have built such a strong connection with these young children as they were on the shy side when I first met them and are becoming more confident, outgoing children who greet us each time with a hug. It is remarkable to watch them grow week by week and see their English improve.  I am so lucky to have played a part in their lives, and I know I will remember this connection forever.

Our Queenwood community has the power to advocate for a more just and generous society. Through volunteering we understand the path others walk, and through education we understand the power of advocacy in magnifying the voice of marginalised members of our society.

Our unique approach to social justice is a defining aspect of a Queenwood education as we prepare our students for a meaningful life where serving others becomes second nature.