Our indigenous connection: Journey of Service and the Dalaigur Preschool in Kempsey
Montessori East’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) states that "we acknowledge that true reconciliation will require building bridges to our larger community." Community and being of service are so important to who we are and what we value at Montessori East, and for some time we have wanted to build a friendship between us and indigenous children.
Finding new friends at Dalaigur Indigenous Pre-school
In 2020 we were introduced to the Dalaigur Pre-School in Kempsey thanks to an alumni parent, Rena Shein. Rena had been providing art therapy to the children as an artist in residence, when a conversation with Raji Sivapalan gave her the idea of connecting our two schools.
It was perfect timing because we were looking to bring our Journey of Service program back home. Since 2013, the year 6 graduating students at Montessori East have been travelling to Thailand to work at the Udon Thani Home for Girls and the Montessori Chuakmuay Wittaya School; they fed babies, did chores and helped the under-6 children with their school work. This was their Journey of Service - an opportunity to experience the world beyond their community and be of service to others.
Historically, ME graduates ran fundraisers each year for the Thai orphanage with the funds raised used to pay for a Montessori teacher in the classroom and other essentials for the children. Future fundraisers will now be for the indigenous preschool in Kempsey.
Dalaigur Pre-School is an independent indigenous owned community pre-school with 118 Aboriginal children aged 3 to 6 years. It’s Thungutti/Dunghutti country, and they’ve suffered greatly in recent times from the drought, fires, floods, and now Covid. Many social issues, unfortunately all too common in our indigenous communities, are there and have a dramatic effect on the wellbeing of the children.
What have we done so far
In the past 12 months, the Montessori East community has been able to provide real help to cover some basic needs, such as cleaning of the centre and to support a family who lost everything in the floods. Here’s a summary of what we’ve achieved so far;
- Committed to the Journey of Service program partnering with Dalaigur, which will see the children be of service and fundraise for them.
- Fundraised approximately $6,000 including more than $3,800 from our family movie night and bake sale.
- Increased our commitment to indigenous cultural understanding throughout our school via Connection to Country ceremonies, Reconciliation Week learning and sharing, and an active Reconciliation Action Plan committee.
Involving the Children
In September 2020, Raji and Rena did a road trip and met the aunties and uncles of Dalaigur, and there was instant bonding. The work of the dedicated teachers was an eye opening experience, even for Raji with all her years of experience.
Covid ruled out travelling to Kempsey, so the ME graduates met the children on regular Zoom calls, wrote letters to the children, read stories online and did fundraising.
The 2021 group of 15 graduates will be travelling to Kempsey, with a bit of luck, and they are preparing for this Journey every week, so that the experience is deep and real. Some of the ways this is done include;
- Group Zoom calls with Dalaigur for the children to get to know each other, or our children read books
- Learning indigineous words and greetings local to the area Learning about Thungutti/Dunghutti country and history
- Visiting our Cycle 1 (3-6 years) classrooms to get comfortable with activities they can do with this age group
- Fundraising via the Organic Fruit & Veg boxes
- Preparing for a service project they will do when they visit, such as planting a garden - yet to be decided.
Our deep wish is to build a bridge of friendship between our two schools, celebrating the rich, diverse and resilient cultures of our country. Our goal is to build respect, understanding, and appreciation for each other.
If you’d like to offer your support, a donation of any size would be greatly appreciated.