Seven Vinnies Education Programs run throughout Victoria, helping hundreds of disadvantaged students with their reading, writing and homework skills. They also help children with important social and emotional development skills that build their confidence which underpins all learning.
Vinnies education programs were moved to an online platform during the pandemic, where Michael and Eamon met for weekly reading sessions for almost a year – but they have never met in person.
Michael, who plays Ron Wesley in the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage show in Melbourne, became a learning assistant with one of Vinnies Victoria’s education programs when the show was suspended due to COVID-19.
He was teamed up with Eamon, aged 8, who had joined the program to get help with reading.
The programs have now returned to in-person, after school meetings, and the pair hope to one day meet the old fashioned way – face-to-face.
How did a Harry Potter theatre star become a Vinnies volunteer?
After the Harry Potter show had to shut down, I began thinking of what else I could do with my time and skills that were useful.
I wanted to do something meaningful so I answered an advertisement looking for volunteers for one of the Vinnies education programs.
How did your online sessions with Eamon work?
It’s not just the education aspect of the program because social interaction is a big part of learning too.
First Eamon and I have a chat about what he got up to that day and then we start with some warm-up games.
It was important to figure out where Eamon’s passions lie. We realised that we both love animals, and he has a strong affinity for science and understanding how things work. So that’s where I was able to focus our work.
What games did you play?
One of our regular games is Heads Up. We write the name of an animal on a piece of paper on our foreheads, and the other person has to describe its characteristics.
When we finish, we‘ll do research about the animals and their habitat and behaviours. Those games really appealed to Eamon’s interest in animals and science but helped his reading skills improve too.
Why do you think education is important?
Education is empowering. Variation in education is important, too. Vinnies’ education programs give the students a perspective that’s different from the teaching style at school.
Many young people struggle with the pace at school, and we aim to meet them ‘where they are’, so they can develop at their own speed.
What did you like about your time with Michael online?
I like how we have lots of fun with books. He’s funny too.
What sort of stuff did you talk about with him?
Most of the time we talk about animals when we play Heads Up.
What’s your favourite animal?
My favourite animal is an owl.
Has Michael helped with your reading? What are you reading now?
Yeah, definitely. We read a lot about animals but me and Michael are working on making our own book. Right now we are planning on how the story goes.
What do you think it would be like to meet him in person?
It would be really cool if I got to meet Michael. I think he would be really funny. He’s a really good guy and I think he’ll probably be the same as I know him on the laptop.
Vinnies - We are always here.
When COVID-19 struck Australia early in 2020 and the Government enforced restrictions on schools and business alike, our Vinnies Education Programs quickly adapted. Our education support programs moved to an online platform because Vinnies is committed to always being there for struggling students.
Today our programs have returned to after school face-to-face meetings whilst ensuring that we are COVID safe. Thank you for supporting students like Eamon through tough times.