NEWS CENTRE

Mercy Connect Sydney project expands

Srs Lorraine and Jenny participating in recent training

From a pilot initiative in three Catholic schools in 2008, the Mercy Connect Sydney project has grown to 11 schools across both the Catholic and publicsystems in Sydney. Earlier this year 13 additional volunteers were inducted and trained to mentor students from a refugee background.

This new intake of volunteers brings the group to a total of 35. "I was thrilled at the high calibre of volunteers that applied to work on the project", the project manager Sr Lorraine Phelan said. "We have a very dedicated team of experienced teachers from both the Catholic and state systems – their enthusiasm in working with the students is very encouraging."

This year two new schools have agreed to participate, including St Joseph’s Primary, Belmore. A newly trained volunteer, Sr Jenny Bailey, a Mercy from North Sydney is having a wonderful time with her 5 students from Sudan. “We are focussing on reading and comprehension to improve literacy and numeracy skills. All of my 9 years experience in Mercy schools, before I went to PNG, has kept me in good stead for this satisfying work." Sr Jenny says “Its a two way experience – I am learning lots about new technology used in the classroom too."

Mercy Connect Sydney is a targeted intervention that provides in-school mentoring to students from refugee and humanitarian backgrounds. The first years in a new school are critical in their successful settlement in Australia. The project aims to provide mentoring so that students’ academic learning is optimised. It also provides additional resources for schools and raises community awareness of issues facing young refugees.

To ensure continuity and incremental growth of the project funding is regularly being sought from various government and community sources.

Recently, the Sydney project shared experiences and training with Sr Mary Lewis, a Mercy from Melbourne, who is instrumental in establishing a similar project, Mercy Connect Melbourne.