Merry Christmas Hopes

November 2015

There’s a shopping frenzy going on amongst students at Mercy College in Coburg and it’s all for a good cause. Not only are the Year 11 girls shopping, but their families are in on the act. Sabrina Martins and Alyssa Russo took their Mums when they went shopping for children at McAuley Community Services for Women refuges and safe house and a lot of thought went into what might make a great Christmas gift.

The Christmas shopping by Year 11 girls is all part of the school’s commitment to support children who, along with their mothers, have had to leave their homes because of family violence. Each student is given someone to shop for and the gifts are boxed, wrapped and sent to the safe house ready for children coming in over Christmas. Many of the children will arrive in just the clothes they are wearing and certainly no Christmas presents.

Over the past year McAuley Care, Victoria’s only accessible 24/7 safe house and refuge service kept a total of 496 women and children safe. Two hundred and forty one children, from babies through to teenagers, accompanied their mothers.

Sabrina, 17, the school’s recently appointed co-captain, said a lot of family violence information on social media inspired her to be part of the program. She bought a box of gifts for a boy aged 5 to 7 years, including toys, books, colouring books, pencils and puzzles.

“There are lots of stories about the impact of family violence that are on Facebook and other social media so most of the girls know about the issue. But when they are giving their money to something they are intrigued to find out more and a lot jump onto the McAuley site to find out about the services for these women and kids. So apart from providing the gifts, it raises awareness of the issues and the services provided,” Sabrina said.

“This Christmas project is part of the school’s culture now – it’s what Year 11 girls do before Christmas.”

Alyssa Russo, SRC (Student Representative Council) President, said just donating money didn’t engage people as much as this Christmas project, which she also shared with her mum and sister, shopping for a boy aged 2 to 4 years.

“We thought a lot about what a little boy would enjoy opening on Christmas morning, or at some other time and we bought play dough, cars, a soft lion, pencils and books. I thought maybe that little boy will keep that lion toy with him for a really long time,” Alyssa said.

Alyssa, who is also part of the school’s social justice group, said many of the girls were excited about the project and bought more boxes to fill than just what they were given. Some of the parcels won’t be used at Christmas but will be there ready to brighten things up for a child fleeing their home during the summer.

“We hear about family violence all the time now and there’s a feeling that we can’t do anything to help these families. But this Christmas project is a way of doing something,” Alyssa said.

Jane Stiles, Senior School Leader, spoke to the girls about the project, which was optional, and was thrilled that almost everyone wanted to get involved.

“This is such an important project because it is not just a practical response to an immediate need, but it nurtures women of justice for the future. These are the young women who will need to lead social justice issues in the future,” Jane said.

Students from Mercy College have an excellent woman of justice as their role model, in Catherine McAuley, who founded the Sisters of Mercy. The Sisters have been involved in education in the Coburg district since 1886 and began McAuley Community Services for Women almost 27 years ago. Both strive to continue the mission and vision of Catherine McAuley.

Thank You

Each year McAuley Community Services for Women receives wonderful support, particularly around Christmas. This generosity means the women and children who need to be with us over Christmas and the holiday season can enjoy many of the things the rest of the community is enjoying. We would like to thank the following organisations for hampers:    

  • Our Lady of Mercy College in Heidelberg 
  • christmasbox.com.au  
  • Catholic Church insurance
  • Impact for women 

Caption: Sabrina Martins and Alyssa Russo with some of the gift boxes.