As you may already know, education is a gift that resonates with me personally. Accordingly, it is no wonder that I believe that education is essential and can create opportunities for all who are prepared to put in the necessary effort. Some students just need a little help along the way.
Access to education is the most empowering pathway out of disadvantage. I have seen over and over again some remarkable outcomes for students, no matter what their background. In my visits to India to do volunteering with students from very disadvantaged circumstances, I saw firsthand that the way out of poverty was connected to education and personal drive.
Following my retirement, I wanted to stay involved and became a volunteer with the Heidelberg West Education Program. It was obvious to me that providing students with extra support makes a world of difference. A caring adult or senior student to have regular input with any student counts for a lot.
We are also proud of our Education Assistance Programs because they help students access some of the fundamentals required such as: school uniforms and shoes, books, tablets or laptops, breakfast before school at a Breakfast Club, travel and excursion costs, administration fees paid. Our conference members are in the front line identifying those who might benefit from such help and delivering whatever is appropriate and most helpful.
In order to learn, students need to feel that they fit in and it is essential that we do everything possible to ensure that they and their families do not see education as an extra financial burden in an already complicated life.
Beyond the basics, our formal Education Programs are designed to help students really shine. From vocational training programs and one-on-one literacy and maths support to university scholarships, Vinnies is passionate about helping young people fulfil their potential. It was very pleasing to be able, with the further generosity of the Jewish community, to offer again in 2021 another round of scholarships for tertiary students in the regions affected by the 2020 bushfires.
We serve a variety of young people who are experiencing social and economic disadvantage. We also support students who want to learn more, so anyone can attend our programs or seek assistance with education expenses. As an example, read the stories herein of Hayma and Nevin, which are so inspirational.
As my term as State President draws to a close, I am humbled and proud of the work we have all accomplished during my four years.
Yes, we have had some very challenging times but irrespective of those limitations we, the St Vincent de Paul Society as a whole, have ensured, modified, maintained and continued to provide the best possible service and care to the people we assist.
So, with that in mind, I would like to extend my thanks to each and everyone one of you who have travelled with me on this journey. Change is inevitable but our spirit is one of caring, kindness and love for our fellow Victorians. We are here and will be here to assist others in need.
Finally, I extend a welcome to anyone who thinks that they may have something to offer to the St Vincent de Paul Society as a member or volunteer. Visit our website or contact your local parish group to find out more. We have a vital role for everyone – volunteering in our shops, on our soup vans, in our education programs, as part of prison visitation, as well as in our visitation work directly helping people who call on us for our help. Those in need definitely need more of you involved!
Bless you all for your service and for your support to me personally.