When the funeral is over and all the people have gone home, that's when the painful and difficult journey commences.
It was only during the first week of the school holidays that my son asked me to attend with him, the funeral of one of his surfing mates. The young man who passed was only nineteen years old and sadly he took his own life. It was a difficult funeral to attend, and the church was ‘packed’ with teenagers and young adults. My son has now had to come to terms with the suicide of 3 young men, friends and acquaintances, who he has known through his connections in the Maroubra surfing community. In the midst of the overwhelming grief there was a desperate atmosphere of trying to make sense of this. This is an alarming statistic that reflects the impact of what health professionals are calling a mental health ‘epidemic’ in our nation. When I was last in India, I read a news article that addressed similar statistics in schools and universities in Mumbai. The incidence of suicide related to students not coping with the pressure of their academic performance across Asia, for example in Singapore, is recognised as a national well-being priority. The need for each other to talk, have conversations, and to check-in with one-another is clear. I see that strong schools, with excellent well-being programs are key in helping children and teenagers navigate the stresses and challenges of life. I am thankful for the foundations of a Claremont College education that prioritises the well-being, resilience and flourishing of the children.
And this Tuesday I attended what was perhaps the most heartbreaking funeral I have ever attended. Whilst it’s a relief that this was not related to anyone from our school community, none-the-less, the circumstances are about as harrowing as one could possibly imagine. A little boy from my church, Josiah, died on the day of his first birthday. Josiah was accidentally killed by his father, who was reversing the family car. I attended the funeral to support not just the family, but also to be there for a number of my very close friends including my pastor, who all have the enormous task of caring for Josiah’s mother and father, over the days and years ahead. Whilst it was tinged with hope and faith, this funeral was just so, so sad. Words can not express and so many questions just cannot be answered. The tears flowed the moment we all walked into the church.
I share this news because I know that the mother and father, and wider family, desperately need prayer. There was also a powerful sentiment conveyed through the eulogies that has really impacted me, and has drawn me to write about this. The message was simple…
Life is fragile and we must never let the fusses and small stresses of life cloud what is most important to us all… our family and friends. We must keep perspective and never live with regret. We must reconcile with loved ones. Fights and unresolved conflict are not worth it. We must never be too busy to enjoy time spent with family, and we must always tell our each other how much we love them. In my busyness, I must confess that I am guilty of not always getting this right. I get busy and upset about stuff that really is not important. Josiah’s mother and father spoke courageously at the funeral. The raw emotion was heartbreaking to watch and experience. The mother feared that she “would not be able to get up off the floor” the day after the funeral. Please pray for them all.
So with this, I pray that we would all take the time this weekend to enjoy the blessings before us. Enjoy the crisp winter morning, enjoy the sun, connect with family who you don’t see enough, enjoy the company of your children and loved ones. Tell them that you love them more than ever before.
As a community, we must be committed to walking alongside those who are grieving for the long haul. When the funeral is over and all the people have gone home, that's when the painful and difficult journey commences.
Thanks Warren Wong instagram.com/wflwong for the image
Extreme living, extreme action
Sowing my passion into education and making a difference in my school and in the world...
Life in India is full of extremes, and just this month in July we have seen the harsh impact of this. Only a few weeks ago, the temperature in Kotdwara was over fifty degrees. Since then, we have been deluged with the extreme rain from the seasonal monsoon. Each day we come face to face with the impact of extreme poverty. Sickness and death is a reality of life and whilst it’s easy to get ‘used’ to this, our mission and projects focus on combating poverty. We will not settle for accepting this, knowing that our efforts can have significant impact in the lives of children, families and communities.
Check out July-in-pictures to see just how much has been achieved. It's amazing! Just in this month of July, the work of ‘Project Help India’ continues with purpose and momentum as we provide opportunities for;
- improving children’s health and nutrition
- education and learning
- social work and counselling
- emergency crisis care
- creating community and a sense of belonging
- environmental responsibility
- community impact through drug awareness
- individual lives changed
- a brighter tomorrow and hope for the future
- experiencing God’s love
Thank you to all of our supporters. It is simply because of your generosity that all of this is possible. We also thank our teams in Kotdwara and Bijnor for their tireless work. ‘Project Help India’ has 14 paid staff. We honour their innovation, problem solving, determination, sacrificial efforts, care and compassion. What you have achieved in just these past 4 weeks is truly remarkable. You inspire me!
Love Doug :-)
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Thank you - it was a community effort
Our "Well-being Challenge' on the last day of Term was a significant event for our school community. We received a mention in the 'Daily Telegraph' with Claremont also receiving a special shout-out from Ben Fulham on Radio 2GB, praising the kids for their 10000 burpees, and our fund-raising efforts of approximately $28000. Our local members of Parliament Matt Thistlethwaite (Federal MP) and Marjorie O'Neill (State MP) joined us. We thank them for their support and encouragement, especially by coming along to our event at Grant Reserve.
Through this challenge we have demonstrated the power of us coming together for such an important cause, the Prince of Wales Hospital - our local hospital that helps our older teens, our parents, grandparents… all of us really. This was more than this however, as we have demonstrated that our wellbeing is a community responsibility. We have also demonstrated how remarkable our school community is. Go Claremont College!
Thank you children, thank you teachers and staff and thank you parents. We have shown that we are here for each other, and especially for our kids. I started this year reminding us of that fabulous verse that says;
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13).
I believe that our community and the society we live in really does need more love. We live in a time where so many people seem to be angry, criticising, blaming and having a go at each other… we must not forget the power of love and shining the light on all that is good in this world and in each other. Our Wellbeing Challenge has been such a fantastic experience, a highlight for me as Principal.
As for my other personal challenge...I continue to push myself at the gym 5 mornings a week. I have reached 7000 burpees and 7000 push-ups (give or take a few).
Together, 400 members of my school community - kids, teachers and parents completed 10000 burpees all at once. The Kindy kids were amazing and really go into it.