Jess’s story

Stewart House student and recently, a volunteer.

People who have spent time at Stewart House often reflect on what it meant to them and sometimes they let us in on their insights.

Jess shares her story…

Í grew up in Broken Hill, living with my dad and brother from a very young age. I attended Stewart House in 2011 because I was from a single parent home, struggling financially, I didn’t have friends and I generally didn’t fit in; my Principal thought I needed a break.

My time at Stewart House was a time I will never forget and a time I will always be grateful for.

 

What I remember attending Stewart House in 2011

The staff, teachers and supervisors, how fun they were, making us laugh with fun activities. They were there for us whenever we needed anything. Making friends, going to the pool, Powerhouse Museum, Taronga zoo, Sydney aquarium and the beach.

Pictured above: Girls having fun at the beach in 2010

 

 

Not having many friends at school was tough, but in my cabin and class at Stewart House everyone became friends with each other. It was a good feeling. 

Volunteering 2018

Fast forward to 2018, I’ve lived in Adelaide for 2 years and am 1.5 years into a double degree at Flinders University, working part time and starting to make a life for myself. I have 5 weeks off over mid-year break. I could have stayed in Adelaide and worked a lot, but I wanted to do something a bit more meaningful with my time. I thought about what I could do and decided to email Stewart House.

Over the past 7 years I’ve thought about my time at Stewart House quite often; how much fun I had and how grateful I was to be chosen to attend. So now I’m back at Stewart House as a volunteer and it is still as amazing as I remember.

I can’t say that Stewart House changed my life; I went back to Broken Hill, went back to school and everything was the same. But the 12 days I was here were the funniest and happiest 12 days I had experienced in a long time and it was the break I needed at that point in my life. I hope I can help provide the kids here at the moment with a positive break from their home life, fun activities and good memories to cherish forever.

 

(Jess pictured below in her origami class) 

So far I have spent time with both girl’s cabins and a couple of the class groups. I’ve been on excursions with the classes and stayed in doing activities too. I ran an origami lesson with class C. It was the first time I had taught a lesson and it went really well.

All of the staff here are really kind and the kids have been great too. I was really nervous when I first got here, but everyone made me feel welcome. I connected with the kids pretty quickly and I feel like the kids really like having me here. If there is one thing I wish the students at Stewart House could take away from their time here is that their current circumstances do not define who they are and where they can go in life. I believe everyone can be and do extraordinary things if they work hard, think positively and never give up.

 When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves” – Anonymous 

 

Stewart House children at Taronga Zoo

Every fortnight, up to 85 children will travel a short distance from Stewart House at Curl Curl beach to Taronga Zoo in Mosman. For many, especially children who are from regional and remote parts of the state, a trip to Taronga Zoo is often one of the highlights of their stay at Stewart House.

The children experience the seal show, bird show, the giraffes, turtles, elephants, meerkats and various exhibits in between. The seal show is always popular with splashes, jumps, dives and crowd encouragement.

Excursions such as Taronga Zoo give children from all over New South Wales learning experiences outside of the classroom and forms part of the broader 12-day program at Stewart House, which focuses on a holistic approach to education and wellbeing.

Some happy snaps from the Lake Macquarie Group visiting Taronga Zoo

  

 

During their time at Stewart House, children are supported to enhance their social and emotional skills. They learn to work in a team and build respectful relationships with peers and adults. It also gives them the chance to celebrate their own strengths and identify strengths in others which can lead to increased motivation and self-esteem thus allowing connections to be built sometimes in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Thank you to the Taronga Conversation Society  

The Taronga Conservation Society of Australia has been a Platinum supporter of Stewart House for many years and their in-kind support gives every child the opportunity to experience Sydney’s iconic Zoo.

We would like to thank The Taronga Conservation Society of Australia for their generous and ongoing support of Stewart House and for helping us to continue work in changing children’s lives. 

This program is offered to children entirely without charge to them or their families and we rely entirely on charitable donations to cover the costs of the program, which amount to $4.5 million annually.

 

 

 

 

Celebrating NAIDOC Week

 

NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Over five hundred children from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds attend Stewart House each year. This month children in Group 10-2018 (from Queanbeyan, Southern Tablelands and Wollondilly) celebrated NAIDOC week in a special school assembly with our Aboriginal Education Officer, Ged McMinn.

 

Ged demonstrated his talents as an accomplished Aboriginal dancer by teaching all our children his dance moves and discussing the symbolism of his body paint representing different animals from areas across NSW.  The paint on his body represents the rabbit from the Central Coast area (his totem) and the lines on his chest show the lungs of the whales passing up and down the coast as viewed from Stewart House in the hills above Curl Curl beach.

This year NAIDOC Week focussed on Aboriginal women. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women working for justice, equal rights, access to education, employment and to maintain and celebrate culture, language, music and art.

 

Cooking classes

Our children learned how to make Lemon Myrtle Cake and we now share the recipe with you. Lemon myrtle is an Aboriginal tree plant which is famous for its flavour and healing properties.

Ingredients 

125g butter, chopped
¾ cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 eggs
2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
⅔ cup milk
Lemon myrtle powdered spice

  • Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly grease a deep, 20cm round cake pan. Line base with baking paper.
  • Beat butter, sugar and vanilla together in a large bowl using an electric mixer, until pale and creamy.
  • Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, scraping down sides of bowl. Lightly fold flour into creamed mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour. Add lemon myrtle in with cake mixture. Spoon mixture into prepared pan.
  • Bake for 40-45 mins, or until cooked.
  • To make the vanilla icing: Sift icing sugar into a bowl. Add butter, water and vanilla. Add a little lemon myrtle. Beat well with a wooden spoon until a smooth spreadable consistency. Spread over cooled cake.
  • Source: Tuckerbush.com.au

There is no charge for the children who come to Stewart House and all costs are met by charitable donations. 

 

Memories from Alfie

People who have spent time at Stewart House often reflect on what it meant to them and sometimes they let us in on their insights.

Alfie shares his story…

My name is Alfie, I will be turning 71 this June 2018. I had the pleasure of attending Stewart House several times some 60 years ago when I was about 10-11 and 12 years of age.  While reminiscing over my past life I was overwhelmed coming across some memories of my stay at Stewart House.

How well do I remember my stay, I believe the school teacher’s name at that time was Mr ***** or something like that.  I recall him teaching us basket weaving and the song Botany Bay, enjoying his style of educating children. He also came with the children on our excursions to the Zoo, and to the theatre so watch “Around the World in Eighty Days”. I also remember how much I missed talking to him.

Alfie’s dormitory and the current ‘cabins’

I don’t recall the name of the dorm master but I do recall the double bunks and listening to the sound of the ocean while drifting off to sleep.  I recall he would take us on walks on the beach learning about shells and creatures that lived in the water and on the shoreline.

I remember the dining room and enjoying some foods that were new to me. I remember having a slice of bread and jam after school, and after beach walks getting ready for dinner. I remember the TV room, watching the “Micky Mouse Club” and singing along with their melodies.

 

I remember the staff members telling us stories and teaching us poetry and encouraging us to write our own. I remember friends we made some who I kept in touch with for many years.

At the time of my visit I was living in Hurstville and attended Kingsgrove Public School. For the past 33 years I have resided in the city of Rockhampton, Queensland. Whilst living in Sydney, I worked for the then MWS & DB (The Waterboard), received my diploma in human resources and majored in training. When I left Sydney and moved to Queensland I continued my vocation in training mostly assisting the less fortunate to get employment, including those with disabilities, youth at risk and many other target groups, something I loved doing.

My love and gratitude to your staff for participating in such a wonderful career, caring for children.

Please feel free to share this letter, yours sincerely, Alfie

Stewart House Today

Alfie’s dormitory has changed many times over the years but our charter of providing children the opportunity to experience the sights and wonders of Sydney has not. Our popular excursions still include:

  • Taronga Zoo
  • Australian Museum
  • Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre
  • Travel on the Manly Ferry
  • Walks across the footpath on the Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Visits to local parks & attractions

Since 1931, Stewart House has been to changing the lives of children and to giving them hope and aspiration for the future. Stewart House provides recreational and experiential activities designed to enhance children’s social and emotional wellbeing, self-esteem and resilience.

For Stewart House to provide these vital services to around 1,700 children every year, we need to raise $4.5 million annually.  Across nine decades,  staff from NSW public schools have supported our worthy cause through Workplace Giving (donating a fixed amount each fortnight from their salary) We appreciate their generosity and commitment to helping public school children living in difficult circumstances.

If you would like to make a donation please click here. 

Fundraising at your school

We continue to be impressed by the many creative ways schools fundraise for Stewart House.

Need some ideas for your school? Check out the ideas below for inspiration!

Previous Stewart House fundraisers for schools include:

  • Mufti Day for $3.00 with each child given a Stewart House handball.
  • Mufti Day for gold coin donation with each child given an entry into the Stewart House Donation Drive.
  • Draw the outline of the Stewart House logo on the ground in chalk and fill it with coins.
  • Challenge each class to create the longest line of 5c pieces.
  • A handball competition with the Stewart House high bounce handballs.
  • Dress as an ‘S’ day for Stewart House. Other activities such as pyjama mufti days, sausage sizzles, cake, ice-cream and jelly stalls.

  

More ideas…

  • Book fairs: Foster a love of reading and a sense of charity by holding a book fair.
  • School breakfast: Ready to get up at the crack of dawn and sell pancakes and bacon to early risers

  • Movie night: Pick a popular movie – make sure to keep it age-appropriate depending on your audience! – and sell tickets to students and staff. Set up a concessions stand (or maybe incorporate a bake sale?) and raise extra money by selling popcorn, drinks and delicious snacks.
  • Candy jar count: Another example of a quick and easy fundraiser with low overhead but fun results. All you need is a large jar that you can fill up with candy (M&Ms or Skittles are a prime choice) and tickets you can sell for staff and students to take a guess at how many candies are in the jar. You can either offer the candy as the prize, or have different prizes depending on how close the guesses are!
  • Scavenger hunt: Children love scavenger hunts, but they’re also great fun for people of all ages. Participants can either donate to sign up or collect sponsors (perfect as a team activity too – think team costumes or themes!), then race around school property looking for various items on a list. Have prizes at the end for whoever finds all the items, whoever finds specific items, or which participants had the best costumes.

  • Lemonade stand for charity: Offer up a selection of cold drinks. This fundraiser is especially good when the weather is still hot from the summer, or when paired with another event like a fun fair or charity run.
  • School garage sale: Need to get rid of a few things around the house? Whether it’s spring cleaning or just an annual clean up, having a garage sale – but at school or on campus – is a fun way to earn money while jettisoning various items. Have students (and especially teachers or parents) bring in unwanted goods to sell, with all the proceeds going to charity. Open the sale up to the community as well – you could raise even more money and make even stronger connections.

 

 

Sources:

frontstream.com, 71 fast fundraising ideas for schools. August, 2017

Image credits: EatingWell, AlphaGamma

 

Team Member Interview with Sarah Haywood

Stewart House relies on an amazing team of teachers, supervisors, service staff and volunteers in order to look after the children and deliver its programs to all who attend. It also requires a dedicated team to manage the operations of the organisation and raise the essential funds needed to run our programs, as we rely almost entirely on the charitable donations of our supporters. Read on to meet Sarah who has had both teaching and fundraising roles.

How are you involved with Stewart House? 

I was a teaching Assistant Principal at Stewart House School for three years and this year I’m employed as a School Liaison Officer. My current role involves visiting schools across the metropolitan area to promote our health and wellbeing programs and reaching out to teachers to discuss the benefits of becoming a regular donor.

My work at Stewart House has been the most rewarding work I’ve been involved in within a long career in education.  It is uplifting to work alongside so many warm and compassionate people to support our students and provide them with enjoyable experiences, new understandings and skills.

Why is Stewart House important? 

In my role as School Liaison Officer it is important for me to convey to teachers the considerable impact that our programs can make on the health and wellbeing of their students. The children have the opportunity to learn important life skills at a depth not covered by the regular school curriculum. As well as having a well-deserved break, the students leave Stewart House with a toolbox of self care, social and emotional regulation skills that can truly enhance their own wellbeing and relationships.

Since 1931 Stewart House has provided support to over 220,000 children and the demand persists today. Our compassionate and dedicated Stewart House team wants to continue providing this essential service to 1700 children each fortnight, long into the future, however, we need ongoing financial support to do this. Donations will allow us to assist many more children and offer them hope for the future.

Sarah Haywood – School Liaison Officer