Our early school years are important in laying the foundations for our future. It is at school where we learn the fundamentals for academic success and where we form our first strong friendships.
For children from refugee backgrounds, navigating the school years can be very difficult: many will have had an interrupted education, while others may be dealing with the impact of trauma. Most are unable to speak English when they first arrive in Australia.
Homework Clubs are one way of providing the support that children from refugee backgrounds need to give them the best opportunity to achieve their full potential.
At CatholicCare’s Wyndham After School Learning Group, Burmese children from four surrounding schools gather every Friday afternoon during the school term. They get help with their homework, complete exercise sheets, and practice their reading.
On this particular Friday, there are around 60 pupils attending. The children are split into three rooms to accommodate different year levels; each room has two volunteer tutors supporting the children. CatholicCare Settlement Workers drift in and out of the rooms to lend a hand where needed. For the most part, the children are working quietly at their study. Even the youngest children are focussed intently on their colouring sheets.
Meanwhile, the kitchen next door is abuzz with activity, as some of the children’s mothers are learning to cook lasagne.
When the homework club was established 10 years ago, it became apparent that there was a need to provide a program for the mothers who would wait at the centre for their children. The cooking group was established to give the mums an opportunity for peer support and to learn about healthy cooking while practising their English.
The mothers are keen to help their children to do well at school, but they generally have little English and low levels of formal education themselves. Bringing their children to the homework club and participating in the cooking group is their way of showing interest in their child’s education – and demonstrating their own attitudes to learning.
With the lasagne baking in the oven, the mothers form a production line to prepare food for the children. Hotdogs are assembled, sausage rolls and fruit are distributed along with tubs of jelly and bottles of orange juice. All the food was collected from Foodbank earlier in the day.
The children line up at the kitchen to receive a plate which they take to the tables, eating and chatting in groups while the mums clean up in the kitchen.
The Wyndham homework and cooking group is a colourful display of community development in action. It provides support to vulnerable refugee families during their transition - providing academic assistance for children and opportunities for social connection for mums and kids alike.
This week is Refugee Week, and the theme is “Share a meal, share a story” – which could almost be the theme for our homework and cooking group. To find out more:
Refugee Week 2019
CatholicCare Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support