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Kempsey community come together for kids

Ethan* is twelve years old and every week he attends the community after-school program in Kempsey with his little sister. They have a warm meal and fresh fruit, join activities, and most importantly, check in with our Rise team member Jose*. 

The children face a troubled home life; their dad is in custody, and while family is very important to them, they’ve experienced disadvantage from a young age.

Ethan loves and idolises his dad, and his absence has left him trying to grapple with many complex emotions. In school, Ethan often acts out and finds it hard to manage his ‘big feelings’ in an appropriate way.

Luckily, his local primary school is very nurturing, and together with Jose*, Ethan has the opportunity to troubleshoot issues he’s facing at school and talk about different ways he can express his feelings.

Jose* has spoken with him a lot about thinking about the consequences of his actions and given him techniques to help him remain calm.

“He’s bright and lovely. We have a good chat about different ways to approach situations,” says Jose.

He is one of about 50 children who come running down the big grassy hill every week, excited to spend the afternoon at the community centre’s after-school program.

The local community is very tight-knit, and it takes everyone working together to make an impact on the children’s lives. The program is open to all primary school children in the area, and they come by choice.

“We greet the children with smiles, and you can see how happy they are to be there,” says Jose. For many of the children like Ethan and his sister, having a safe place to spend the afternoon and interact with adults they trust makes all the difference.

Through play and activities, they children have the chance to share concerns and ask advice from positive adult role models and they know they have someone to talk to when they need to.

“He’s bright and lovely. We have a good chat about different ways to approach situations.”

“We treat them with respect, and they know we are here every week. We ask about their day at school and talk about problems they might have had in a nonjudgmental way.

“We are consistent, and for children like many of those who attend, having this stability is very comforting,” she says.

The older children in particular love to play football with men and leaders from the local community who volunteer their time, and this is a great chance for the children to see positive role models and access mentors they respect and who they feel ‘get them’.

Some of the children are in out-of-home care or have a parent or both parents in custody like Ethan and his sister, and even just a warm meal is a treat for them. “They enjoy the meal. They are often very hungry,” says Jose.

The school has worked closely with our Rise team member and the other services at the community centre to ensure activities are child-focused and driven.

“The children ask ‘What are we doing today!?’ when they arrive and we have made a huge list of ideas together with them, like slime making, or slip-n-slides when it’s hot!” says Jose.

The afternoon is also a chance for siblings to share time together in a safe environment and bond, and Jose says it’s heartwarming to see how close the siblings are to each other and how the older children will help their younger brothers or sisters.

Ethan is a protective older brother who always ensures his little sister is having fun and enjoys their time together, creating crafts or playing games.

While Ethan is heading to high school next year, he knows he’ll always find a supportive adult ready to listen to him at the centre.

Our Rise team member feels confident that as he enters a new stage in his life, he’ll take on board strategies they’ve worked on together to manage whatever comes his way better equipped.

Thank you to The Benevolent Society for supporting the Rise program. 

Donate today and help children to thrive, no matter what they are going through. 

Kempsey community come together for kids

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