Christchurch Young Vinnies: the young reaching out to the old

The Christchurch Young Vinnies are reaching out to the lonely in their community by hosting morning tea in four schools for elderly residents who live in their own homes. A mini bus from Age Concern picks up around 10 people and brings them to the school where the children host them for a morning tea and chat for around 45 minutes. The Young Vinnies plan what they will do for their guests and their guests, most who live alone, really enjoy the chance to get out of their homes and have some company.

This initiative works particularly well in Christchurch, as after the earthquakes many schools no longer had a local rest-home they could visit.

Helping the school community through rejuvenating the Sacred Space (a quiet area of the school that students can retreat to) was the outreach project that the St. Paul's Vinnies undertook this year with the assistance of students throughout the school.

From stuffing 1.5 litre plastic disposable bottles with non-biodegradable rubbish to coming up with the design for the earthbench and then creating this construction, students were involved at all levels of this project. Inspired by the Vinnies involvement in an earthbench project that took place in 2013 for a community garden that assists people in a lower-economic community in Nelson, this project gave students at St. Paul's first hand experience of how the principles of recycling and sustainability can be put to good use in meeting the needs of people in the community. It was a project that simply couldn't have taken place without the assistance of the Keep New Zealand Beautiful Coca-Cola Beverage Container Recycling programme that kindly gave us the grant needed to achieve this.

Our completed earthbench is only one of many that have been built throughout the world since the Peace On Earthbench Movement began in 2011. People can learn more about this global trend by going to www.earthbench.org.

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At St Patricks, Napier, we visited the Edu-Kids childcare centre which is next door to the school. It's a great chance for the bigger kids to see what goes on right next door to them. Some of the Vinnies got to show off their little brothers and sisters. Those about to start school got a chance to meet with older children they may see soon.

The Vinnies spent last term making felt and turning them into mobiles to give away. They were much admired.

In Waipukarau at St Josephs School we are preparing on how to deal with people with differences. Lesson include role play about brain injury in preparation of our visit to the Pukeora Trust this term.

The Vinnies are also busy making decorations for Veronicas Place, which is a house for young mothers in nearby Waipawa.