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Marists and todays Montagne (Br. Harry Prout - Australia)

 

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24/04/2015: Australia

 

class=imgshadowThrough my membership for 15 years of the Olympic Village Exodus Community (www.exoduscommunity.org.au) I have had many valued opportunities to be involved with children, young people and their families who come from one of Melbourne’s poorest areas.

Just last night I organized a group of twenty high school aged youth to attend a fun holiday activity at a local swimming complex. These youth had been involved in a three-day programme with me in January where the focus was on living safely during summer. It included completing a Resuscitation Course, learning about skin care and healthy summer nutrition, doing some community service and enjoying some recreational activities.

Last evening’s participants included ten Somali refugee boys and one of their dads who helped out. Others attending were mostly from single parent families. These kids could not attend activities like this without financial support,  transport and organization.

Many of our children do not do well in school. We advocate on their behalf making sure schools understand their living circumstances and better accommodate the special needs of students. Our Community conducts after school activities to affirm, encourage and support children in their learning and growing up. We assist with homework.
When young people are involved with Police and Courts I am able to be an Independent Person in Police interviews and often accompany young people in Courts. Through building strong relationships with local police and other agencies involving family support I am able to be a significant advocate for children in trouble. Our Big brother/sister programme offers another level of support to local youth whose lives are at risk of manipulation and substance abuse.

A weekly Bike Maintenance programme I conduct with volunteers offers a place for youth to gather, have their bikes and scooters serviced, get a second hand bike or just find a safe place to be for a few hours each week. Many become involved and learn bike maintenance skills. This is a place where I often hear of their need for advocacy with Police and/or Courts.

A weekly, evening food service in which I am involved, is another opportunity to meet with other volunteers in support of local families. Many children attend this service, enjoy a healthy meal and have some safe time of play with young adults whom we mentor as a part of the programme.

class=imgshadowOur fund raising efforts through involvement with many different organizations (such as Rotary Clubs and schools), enables us to offer financial support to families wanting their children to continue schooling. We can assist with books, stationery, clothing, transport and fees. We do not just provide money, but engage with the family to ensure the young person has other support and encouragement they might need. This can often lead to having family members being involved in other Exodus Community activities thereby breaking patterns of stigma, violence, neglect and disadvantage.

For many years I have been involved with a Young Carers group. These are young people caring for family members living with mental illness. Through this involvement I have come to learn much about the plight of sufferers of mental illness and our Community has been able to work in the local community addressing the stigma attached to mental illness and informing people of the many supports available.

I have had the privilege of leading burial services for several families and through those occasions have been able to build ongoing relationships of support. I have officiated at funerals of very young children, of parents who have taken their own lives and of victims of drug use. Always, children seem to suffer the most.

Br. Harry Prout - Australia
28 March 2015
Brother Prout was named Banyule Citizen of the Year at the council’s 2014 volunteer awards

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