Edmund Rice Camps Tasmania (ERCT) has been hard at work not only delivering programs and services for kids and families but also building their volunteer base through partnerships and life-changing programs.
Their Head2Heart (H2H) programs are shortened camp experiences, usually overnight, where high school students are challenged to be leaders and friends to a group of camp kids for an intensive period. As the name suggests, the programs help connect students’ heads to their hearts, and create moments of heart-changing transformation.
This program model has created opportunities for high school students to volunteer on an Edmund Rice Camp program, as part of their Duke of Edinburgh certificates. The inclusion of Duke of Edinburgh students has seen ERCT take on more volunteers which has enabled more transformative moments for kids who need an Eddie Rice experience.
ERCT Executive Officer Andrew Blackett says that “One of the best parts of my job is that I see the impact, I hear from the parents, hear from the schools, which confirms the amazing impact is has on the kids.” As part of the program, ERCT have developed a model where students start their volunteering with Edmund Rice Camps as a way to ‘tick a box’ but as Andrew says, once they are there, they “forget about the box tick, and [they] keep coming back”.
Above: An ERTAS Duke of Ed Program in action
When asked about their experience on a Head to Heart program, one student Lily said that “now that we’re here it doesn’t feel like service, it’s fun”. Another student, Zachary said that what he thought would be a chore has turned into something he really enjoys, “Eddie Rice was my volunteering, but I finished my hours weeks and weeks ago”.
By combining the Head to Heart programs with students completing their Duke of Edinburgh certificate, ERCT Operations Manager Brendan Webb says that they are able to give “…young adults an opportunity to practise their leadership skills in a really safe environment where they can make mistakes, and it’s okay and they learn from them in a really safe and supportive way”.
ERCT conducted a pre and post-program survey with some students. They were asked before the program “Why have you applied?”, and then after the ERCT program “What was your experience?”. Their responses show how transformative their experience was:
Students before their experience when asked "Why have you applied?"
Students after their experience when asked: "What was your experience?"
Because we were told to.
My whole perspective has changed.
Because I am part of the student leadership team.
I received a new outlook on myself, a heightened gratitude for everything I am blessed with, and a whole lot of new friends.
Because Mackillop was given the opportunity to run a camp.
I learnt that I have the potential to make a difference, even if it isn’t a massive action.
The student prefect team had to do it.
My Eddie moment was when my buddy, said to me “Thank you for everything, you have helped me. I will miss you”.