When Cyclone Debbie rampaged across Queensland, the storm damaged thousands of homes and hundreds of schools, and left a clean-up bill of more than $3.5 billion. It was the second most damaging cyclone in Australia’s history, and many communities are still recovering two years later.
So when our Values for Life team visited Rockhampton recently to deliver workshops to secondary school students, it was crucial that the sessions were tailored to address the ongoing impact of the cyclone on their lives and wellbeing.
Teachers also told Values for Life presenter Tim Powell that many students live in low socio-economic households, and don’t have many employment options outside of the tourism sector. As a result, many students face challenges with their mental health, along with struggling with engagement and retention in school.
Tim was asked to address how students could deal with anxiety and disappointment when faced with few job prospects after school or options for further education.
With all that in mind, Tim adapted the three sessions that he delivered on the following topics: Community (grades 7-8); Cyber Safety (grades 9-10); and Resilience (grades 11-12).
As Tim entered the massive gymnasium with about 300 students in each session, he was sensitive to the students’ context and backgrounds, knowing they were all facing difficult challenges.
“We have an incredibly powerful privilege to step into a child’s life when they are challenged with the reality of ‘life is unfair’,” said Tim. “We can help them learn and discover strategies to manage and find hope and purpose within those times.”
As many young people journey through life, they can often feel that their immediate experiences will last forever. This can make life hard when the experience is challenging or painful. The Values for Life Team aims to prepare and equip students with coping strategies for dealing with difficult times.
In one of his presentations, Tim shared: “It’s okay to feel bad sometimes. However, it’s important to remind yourself ‘I’m just going through a patch and I’m probably not going to feel like this tomorrow’.”
He gave examples of people who had faced the challenge of having to deal with sadness and disappointment that was outside their control. “It’s important to focus on the things you can control, rather than being overwhelmed by the things you can’t,” he said.
One of the Health Teachers spoke to Tim afterwards about how important this message was for young people and children. “Sometimes you could look at your life and future and know it’s a bit of a challenge, but a lot of people aren’t aware that there may be a point where things may fall apart,” they said. “And it’s important to know what areas of support and places we can go to when this does happen.”
This teacher also reflected on Tim’s presentation that included this “Your Plan VS Reality” image, saying it was particularly useful because children often don’t have the tools for coping with different or unexpected experiences.
As Tim was packing up, another student approached him. “What you did today was really good,” the student said. “You really opened my eyes about this. I’d never thought about it like this before.”
To hear from students and teachers that we are providing tools and strategies that young people and children can use to overcome difficult challenges is so encouraging!
The Values for Life Team have already delivered 92 seminars in 48 schools, reaching just over 7,400 students, in Term 1 alone!