The last two weeks have seen two wonderful events. The first was the Fete, and the second was a visit from the founder of our partner charity in India. Both events were amazing; both once again demonstrated what a unique community we have here at Emmanuel; and both left me feeling incredibly grateful to all the staff and parents who were involved. They also led to an interesting, and in some ways challenging, conversation about fund-raising and charities with a colleague from another school. He asked whether I ever thought the school devoted too much time and energy to these and other charity projects. I might have found this questioning surprising, except that it was not new. When I first arrived, I was asked about whether I agreed with using school time to raise charity funds, and I was also asked why we don’t support different charities – in particular, why we don’t support local charities instead of overseas ones.
Why has Emmanuel traditionally put so much effort into these kind of charitable projects? Well, the obvious answer is that our motto is not just “to know,” but also “to serve”; and that motto directly reflects the core Christian values of both wisdom and compassion. However, there is more to it than that and the questions still remain:
- shouldn’t we put all our energy into class learning, instead of charity activities, and
- what about local charities?
Do we put too much time into charities? I don’t think we do. Emmanuel has always sought to offer more than just class learning. We openly state that we don’t just want to help our students get the very best exam grades possible, but we also want to “enable them to develop the character, skills, courage and desire to effect change for the good” (school vision).
We believe that this character, skill, courage and desire cannot be learnt in a vacuum, and that children need opportunities to practice these compassionate-leadership skills if they are to develop into the kind of “ideal graduates” Emmanuel has always said it wants to nurture.
Furthermore, no learning occurs in a vacuum, and these activities give real-world context to academic learning. As such, they actually improve academic engagement which is known as the ‘hidden curriculum effect’. Sometimes this effect is direct: Business Studies, for example, has used our charity involvement to inspire projects through which students learn ‘examskills’. However, often, this hidden curriculum effect is less direct; yet it is still essential. That is why it is central to the philosophy of many of the world’s best performing schools – schools like Deerfield Academy in the US (which has more Presidents in its alumni than any other). What about our local charities?
As our Chaplain has written on several occasions in the newsletter, and spoken about in Chapel, we actually support seven charities:
- World Vision
- Samaritans Purse
- Mission Educate (King of Kings School, Mozambique)
- Effective Aid International (Thai/Burma border)
- Cancer research and care (primarily through Can-Teen)
- Paradise Kids (support for children in dealing with grief through death, loss or illness)
- The Institute for Indian Mother and Child (which at present is supported primarily by our adult-community – alumni, parents, staff, friends etc.)
As you can see, these include both local and global charities, (and we also strive for a balance of Christian and secular charities and charities focused on health, education, social-justice, and development). Therefore, the monies we might raise (and we only contribute monies raised) are distributed both overseas and here in Australia. Not only that, but through our SERVE activity we also support local charities with our time; and then, of course, there are our ConnECt Trips – all Queensland based, all designed to support others.
Why has Emmanuel traditionally put so much effort into these kinds of charitable projects? It is a central part of our educational program, without which we simply would not be able to nurture the wonderful graduates we do. Therefore, we will to continue to actively encourage our students to think about, and act upon both local and global needs and become “strategic participants in a global setting” (as our Ideal Emmanuel Graduate statement puts it). We will also continue to encourage staff and students to actively support our charities, so that we can continue to do as much as possible to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
In addition to encouraging our students to think about these things, I also want to encourage our whole community to support the students in these efforts – just as the superb Fete and India Supporters have done. Because in supporting the students’ involvement in charities, we bring goodness into others’ lives, and help our children to be the best they can be. It is a win-win!