‘Unprecedented’ – my dictionary tells me that this word means “never done or known before”. What an apt word this is. Everything about this week has been unprecedented. My decision making, problems I have had to solve, the anxiety I see around me (including my own), the thought of closing the school for an indefinite period of time, children using technology to talk to their teacher and classmates, hand-washing lessons, cancelling events and gatherings, Chapel on-line, parents working from home, a footy game without a crowd in the stadium, 0.25% interest rates, panic buying in the supermarkets… and so much more. No doubt, you too are feeling the pressure of these unprecedented times.
What I do know for sure.
As we head into the weekend, and face another uncertain week, there are many things that I am feeling very positive about and which give me great confidence. To start with, the sun will come up each day and with it, I hold on to the knowledge that God’s love is with us and His blessings are new every morning.
To close or not to close our campus
The commentary on whether schools should be closed has been intense. Opinions are divided, health officials are divided, world leaders are divided, Principals I know are divided. Facebook posts present opposing and often extreme views. This all adds to feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. As parents, you worry if you are making the right decision about sending your child to school. This is why we are working doubly hard to have systems and structures (at present) to support and empower you in making the decision to do what you believe is best for your family and personal circumstances.
So, if we commence school next week ‘open’ – we are ready for teaching and learning, 'business as usual'.
Or, if we commence school next week ‘campus closed’ – we are confident we are ready for Off Campus Learning and it's 'business as usual'.
For as long as the campus remains open please support my teachers and staff. Please be patient with us, be supportive, express your appreciation and gratitude. Do not send your child to school if they have cold or flu symptoms. Do not argue with us, if we call you to collect your child please answer your phone. These are scary days for us all, and my staff are making many sacrifices, putting your child’s needs ahead of their own needs and often before the needs of their family.
Thank you to the wonderful mother who offered to buy some groceries for our staff. You have no idea how encouraging your kind gesture was.
There’s Strength and Safety in our Community
I am strengthened by the thought that the Claremont College school community has lived through many times of significant crisis in the past. Our school song begins with the line … “Since 1882 we’ve stood”. This school has lived through the fears associated with the ANZAC years, the Great Depression, WW2, 9/11 and other crises that have threatened the heart of our community. Through these times, strength, faith and hope have prevailed. There is safety in this place.
In all of the uncertainty that we are facing, I believe that one of the greatest threats we are facing is a lack of connectedness. Phrases such as ‘social distancing’, ‘quarantining’ and ‘isolation’ all tear at the heart of what it means to be human. People need people. Our kids need each other, which is one of the benefits of keeping schools open. I see them play, laugh, learn and interact together each day, and in this I’m reminded why I love my job. We must understand that reaching out to each other, staying in touch, checking in and asking “are you okay?” is more than ever a shared responsibility. And do please reach out to us if you need help.
As we head into next week and beyond, I am confident that we have systems ready to provide connection, safety, support, and interaction. We will be focusing on ways to allow us to thrive in a new normal. Please follow this link to access the document ‘Communication Guide for Parents’ which will assist you in the event of a campus closure.
Conversations and Empathy
As we stay connected, we must prioritise healthy, positive and respectful conversations. Please be mindful on your parent What’s App chats, that you are speaking to a wide audience. It is disappointing to hear that some people have been upset by unhelpful, incorrect facts, and anxiety inducing comments.
Over the past few weeks I have prioritised the need to be at the gate, welcoming children and chatting with parents. It’s been great to talk with many mums and dads. For as long as school remains open, I shall endeavour to be at the gate every morning and afternoon, so please drop by if you’d like to chat.
In our conversations with others, let’s seek to listen, understand, hold no judgement, empathise, and be a source of strength, comfort and reassurance to each other.
God does not change
With things changing by the day, the hour, the minute, I am strengthened and comforted in the knowledge that God does not change. He is our ever-present help in times of trouble and nothing can separate us from His love.
So I am ready! I’m ready for another ‘unprecedented’ week and season ahead.
I am ready for the unprecedented new ways for children to learn and engage with the world and each other. I am ready for unprecedented opportunities for connecting and engaging in helpful and constructive conversations across our school community. I am ready for opportunities to demonstrate unprecedented love, and unprecedented opportunities to creatively devise for good works, acts of compassion and helping each other. I am ready for experiencing God’s love (that casts out fear), and knowing His peace (that passes all understanding), in new and unprecedented ways.
We are in this together.
My prayers and love are with you all.
This Sunday we celebrate 'International Women's Day' - a global day where we get to honour and celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It’s a timely opportunity because here at ‘Project Help India’, we are right in the thick of our preparations for SHINE 2020 – a conference in April which will empower and equip women to understand their value, worth and purpose. Words really cannot express the impact that this conference has on the 500 or so women delegates, who live in the Kotdwara and Bijnor slums and surrounding Himalayan jungle villages in India.
I am delighted to introduce you to three remarkable women, Aasma, Najmeen and Asha. Behind their beautiful smiles, each woman has a powerful, heartbreaking, yet inspiring story. You will cry as you read about what each has suffered, what they have to endure on a daily basis and what each has overcome and achieved. The hardships faced by these women show why I love to help and why my life is so much the richer and better from knowing them.
Aasma – disabled, a fighter, determined for her daughters to be educated. After having three daughters, Aasma was thrown out of the house by her in-laws for only having girls. Despite her disability, she has fought to earn a small wage, ironing clothes, which is enough to rent a single room in the slums. Aasma’s husband
gambles and does not give her any income and does not contribute to the rent, or pay for family necessities. Now with four children, sadly one of her daughters has a significant intellectual disability. But Aasma has managed to get all of her daughters to school. They are learning thanks to their remarkable mother.
For SHINE Conference Aasma says last year she joined in with the dancing. It was the first time that she had ever been on a stage. She says SHINE is like a festival for her. Because of the conference she was able to make her daughters understand about their personal hygiene and health. Follow this link to read more about Aasma’s story.
Najmeen – Beautiful Spirit, Strength and Dignity
Najmeen is 40 years old. She is a single mother with 5 children. After her husband died of heart disease 12 years ago, Najmeen had to sell her home, her jewellery and possessions to pay off the many medical bills. Her 5 young children were hungry and homeless. Her seven year old son (12 years old at the time) had to become a vegetable seller. Najmeen worked hard as a house maid. She also suffers from epilepsy which is now so bad, she cannot work. Her sons work and look after their mother. All six family members live in a small rented room. Najmeen loved attending SHINE last year and she cannot wait for this year’s conference. She loved the sense of equality with no discrimination.
“At SHINE she loved the freedom and joy of dancing where she forgot about all of her sorrows and troubles.”
Follow this link to read more about Najmeen’s story.
Asha - A Warrior Mother and Community Leader
Despite recently having a major heart attack, Asha works hard and fights for her five children, one who has had significant health issues all his life. She is determined, kind, generous and has the heart of a saint. Asha loves to attend SHINE every year. She says that the conference gives her value and an understanding of the purpose in her life. At SHINE she has learnt a great deal about women’s health and hygiene. She was given a sanitary pad for the first time ever at SHINE. She shares her knowledge with the many women and girls who live in her slum community of Kotdwara. Asha is a woman who simply by her character and example, has become a leader and an influencer in the slums. SHINE has given her the strength that she needs to endure the many hardships that she faces every day.
Follow this link to read more about Asha’s story.
PLEASE HELP US TO HELP THESE AND MANY OTHER WOMEN
In April the Thomas Family and a team of other Aussies will be heading to Kotdwara in North India for Project Help India’s third Women's SHINE Conference. This conference is an important aspect of the 'Project Help India' vision, and we are asking for your help to make this possible. Most of the Conference delegates are women who live in slums or jungle villages, in terrible poverty. These women can't afford to pay, so we are not charging them. We want to bless them and give them an experience they will never forget. Teenage girls, mothers, grandmothers, our teachers and community leaders will be attending. Our aim is to empower women in all spheres of life. Might you be able to sponsor one woman for $10, five women for $50 or ten women for $100, for them to be able to attend SHINE Conference. You will be changing their lives in a significant way.
Donate - Your tax deductible donation can be made Here
As you click this link ensure that you are donating to (WYG-IND-PHI-2019) and please let us know (by replying to this email) if you make a donation because we would love to thank you. Privacy legislation does not permit us to know that you've donated unless you tell us.
OR if tax deductibility is not required, your EFT donation can be made at
BSB: 062 230 (Commonwealth Bank Randwick)
Account: 1134 1909
Account Name: Project Help India
Please write your name in the reference section so we can thank you.
Thanks so much love Doug
SHINE 2020 - Stronger Women for a Stronger India
and a stronger India