Changemakers at KDS

It was my absolute pleasure to be a participant in this year’s Youth in Philanthropy (YiP) programme. The Youth in Philanthropy program is offered by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation. The aim of the program is to get senior school students involved in philanthropy, and to inspire them to continue contributing to society later into life. The program kicked off with a meeting at the State Library where the different schools were introduced to the areas of focus and students chose which areas interested them most. There were four areas of focus: Healthy and Resilient Communities, Homelessness and Housing Affordability, Education and Employment, and Environment and Sustainability. Our group chose to focus on Homelessness and Housing Affordability, and accordingly we visited three charities which deal with this issue, namely: the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Kids Under Cover and Justice Connect.

One of the most touching moments of the program was the visit to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC). At ASRC, there are hundreds of volunteers, including lawyers, doctors and cooks, selflessly giving their time and efforts for the cause of some of the most vulnerable members of society. Everyday, lunch is cooked by volunteers, both refugees and non-refugees, and all of the staff and clients sit down together to break bread. This was very moving, and I felt that it perfectly illustrated the need to connect and consult with those who you intend to help. Top-down approaches are ineffective and can be condescending; it is important that we employ the bottom-up approach as this is far more respectful and effective. Furthermore, the ASRC works in a holistic way, not only focusing on legal support, but also medical support, rent assistance, food aid and employment training, which ensures that a ‘Band-Aid solution’ is not being applied.

The YiP program has been very insightful and we have learnt many things about homelessness. For example, few people may know that the homeless people who we see in the city and on the streets only constitute 4% of all homeless people! Every homeless person’s circumstances are different, it is wrong to paint everyone with the same brush and call them drug addicts and alcoholics. There are surgeons and lawyers amongst the homeless, and people from all walks of life. Homeless people are often indistinguishable from non-homeless people. You might pass by one and not even realise. It is utterly shameful that our society, a relatively prosperous one at that, has completely failed this segment of the community.

Ultimately, philanthropy is one of the core means of enacting social justice. It does this by striving to create equity of opportunity for the oppressed and marginalised peoples in society. I highly recommend this program to younger students. It is well worth the time and effort. Aside from being in keeping with Tikkun Olam, a tenet of Judaism, the program allows students to see first-hand the practical and tangible impact that money and charity can have on society. It’s one thing to read about initiatives in reports, and it is quite another to learn about them from those who are involved on the ground. A hearty thank you to Geoff Garber for taking us on this wonderful journey and offering us timely advice where it was necessary.

Max Sandler (Year 11)

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