Early in 2017, the St Vincent de Paul Society Tasmania’s then Youth Officer for the Southern Regional Council, Claire Scanlan, and later her successor, Erin Crean, devised a program designed to involve school youth conferences in collaboration with parish conferences.
The program is titled ‘Imagine a family’ and its goals are for:
- school conferences and parish conferences to be closely connected
- school conferences to learn about the specific issues facing families in their area
- schools to direct their fundraising efforts under the umbrella of Vinnies national appeals towards the immediate needs of a family e.g. paying a power bill during winter and providing food and gifts for Christmas.
Each parish conference is paired with schools in its area. By providing non-identifying information describing the members of a family in need to the school conference, the parish conference provides assistance, too.
St Dominic Conference, Glenorchy took up the challenge although it was near the end of the school year. Guilford Young College, a senior secondary college for Years 11 and 12, accepted the information provided and, in the three weeks remaining in the school year, provided parcels for a family of five: the parents and three boys. On the last day of the school year in 2017 the students made a presentation to the parish conference member Des Mortimer, who thanked the college and spoke about the Society. The students’ generosity extended beyond their selected family as the catering class provided a large number of boxes of Christmas treats for the Vinnies hamper appeal.
A second family, with 10 members, was adopted by another Catholic college in the parish, Dominic College (with students from Prep to Year 10), which provided the family with cash for Christmas treats.
Other conferences in the region have reported similar responses from schools in their area.
This year will see better planning, with parish conferences working more closely with the youth conferences. The feeling is that this could be how conferences will attract young members when they leave school.