There aren’t many students who enjoy doing their homework. But primary students from refugee backgrounds at SCARF’s Homework Club, who are tutored by high school students from St Mary Star of The Sea College, may be the exception.
“We play and we do our work and read our books and we do some fun things,” Hiba, a student in Year 3 at Wollongong Public School, says. “We play on the computer and we do maths. [Our tutors] are like our friends.”
Rajaa, whose also in Year 3 at Wollongong Public School agrees, saying “we learn and do our homework here and it’s fun.”
To create a supportive and mutually enjoyable environment for students and tutors is an ideal result for SCARF and St Mary Star of the Sea College, who work in partnership to deliver SCARF’s Homework Club program.
The aims of the program are to provide academic support to primary school students from refugee backgrounds, to enable an opportunity for students from refugee and non-refugee backgrounds to connect and to help St Mary’s students fulfil their Social Justice Course requirements, which includes a community service component.
The primary students are in years 3 – 6, and come from diverse backgrounds, with countries of origin including Iraq, Syria, Burma, Congo and Afghanistan. Tutors are in years 9 – 12.
Kerrie, the St Mary’s Social Justice Course Coordinator, has watched Homework club grow for 10 years. When SCARF first blossomed so did the the Homework Club, where it was once held at the Piccadilly centre.
“[We were] in a tiny little room. There was probably 6 students and it grew to 10 then we outgrew it.” Kerrie said.
Now, the space for Homework club is generously provided by St Mary’s, and engages 22 primary school students and 70 volunteers on a rotating roster.
Homework coordinator, Jessica, thinks the students gain a lot out of Homework club:
“They feel a sense of belonging being with us. They feel a sense of connection knowing they [the students] have that support. I know they would struggle a lot coming from a non-English speaking background and family, so we’re able to give them that opportunity to learn all the language and skills they need to succeed in their primary education. Helping them is a very worthwhile cause which we can get a lot out of.” She said.
Similar to the majority of SCARF’s programs, the opportunity to form friendships is a core aim. In Homework Club, the primary school students from refugee backgrounds and the High school students who are the tutors form bonds. The tutors are very passionate about helping the primary school students and in turn the students appreciate their company.
Ana from Year 12 is very grateful for the program and is happy to escape the pressures of the HSC through the hour spent in Homework club.
“I enjoy coming here. When we come here we see an improvement, their writing is neater, their reading is better. I feel like I’ve accomplished something teaching them and I have learnt things from them as well. They’re a really great bunch of kids, all different individually obviously….We love looking after them. It takes us away from our hectic life, we have so much to do but it’s an hour where all we focus on is them, we don’t think about ourselves and it calms us down.”
The program provides a safe, supervised environment for primary school students to engage in homework, reading, computers and other fun learning activities.
A huge thank-you is owed to St Mary’s for providing the Homework Club space, transport, food and resources. Another big thank-you is due to Jenny, SCARF’s hardworking Homework Club Coordinator, Kerrie from St Mary’s, and Mary from Wollongong Public School. Lastly, thanks is owed to all the St Mary’s students who give up their time on a Wednesday afternoon to give back to community.
Photo credit: Sarah Pulling of Bear Hunt Photography
Refugee entrants have left family, friends and communities behind, and must re-build their social networks from scratch. This is a difficult and lonely task for anyone, but particularly so for refugee entrants in a new country where laguage, culture and customs are unfamiliar, and where discrimination is rife. This holiday season, you can help us to give a warm SCARF welcome and ongoing support to refugee entants facing loneliness and isolation.