La Salle Students Winning

La Salle Students Winning
by Vincent Haber

It’s 1.30pm on a Thursday and the Catholic Youth Ministry (CYM) staff entered into the retreat hall to witness two groups of Year 12 students from La Salle College, Midland distinctly clustered according to the colour of their bandanas. The red group with a look of defeat, while the blue group overjoyed by the pleasure of victory.

The Year 12 Social Justice retreat was held on the 6th of March at Camp Wattlegrove, with the theme, ‘To see a change, we must be the change’. It was attended by 25 year 12 students, four staff members and on the day of the session, visited by the Principal and the Vice Principal of the school.

For CYM, it was our first school retreat for 2014, and for some of the students it was their first to experience what millions of people go through every day in many parts of the world. The red group were the less fortunate of the two. Having had to serve the blue group and give up their comforts and luxuries which included desserts, pillows and even sitting on a comfortable chair, while the blue group took pleasure in their superiority and wealth.

It was a challenge for many, as students complained and exerted their frustrations while some lapped up their luck of the draw. It was a sight we will never forget, as it was the beginning of many realisations and a journey to a new outlook for the students.

The one and a half hour session conducted by CYM composed of an entertaining balloon popping activity, which was followed shortly by a powerful video clip which was appropriately titled, “Still Complaining?”

One activity that got the students engaged, and some even frustrated, was the Life Auction. Groups were allocated a specific amount of money in which they can use to bid for life’s necessities which were education, food, shelter and health. While others had enough money to tender, other groups didn’t have enough for all their basic needs. This was followed by a heartfelt testimony by one of the CYM staff members.

La Salle teacher Nadine Low said, “Having one of the CYM team members speak from their own experience and share a personal story with the group really enabled the message we were sending students to ‘hit home’.”

The session was concluded by a presentation on Pope Francis and his teachings on faith and action. Even his life-size cardboard cut-out amused the students. As we ended with a prayer and a group photo with the Pope cut-out, the emotion of several students changed dramatically.

As one Year 12 students said, “I think we were able to benefit from it because we could understand it in simple and fun terms. It put our own situation in perspective- the ‘poor’ team stopped complaining about their treatment because after the presentation they realised how many people are worse off than them.”

Both the teachers and students came away from the retreat feeling empowered to make a difference to others and in their life. The realisation of how lucky they were was finally evident in the many smiles and laughter that captivated the retreat hall as we left to bid them farewell.