By Natashya Fernandez
It was a special day for a group of Year Five and Year Six students from Matthew Gibney Primary School who were earlier this month commissioned on 1 March into Mini Vinnies.
An initiative by the St Vincent De Paul Society, Mini Vinnies empowers students to become ambassadors within their school and local community by putting their values into actions.
Set up for primary and secondary students, Mini Vinnies’ aim is to inform, engage and promote social justice in young people.
“It’s all about giving young people an opportunity to demonstrate their willingness to help others through good works and becoming more aware of issues in the local community and world,” said Assistant Principal RE, Karen Keddie.
When Dr Daniel Lombardi, St Vincent de Paul Society’s Youth Development Officer visited Matthew Gibney Catholic Primary to speak to the children about Mini Vinnies in September 2016, it gave the children food for thought, she said.
“So at the beginning of 2017, we invited students from year five and six to nominate themselves for the inaugural Matthew Gibney Mini Vinnies Group.
“What we didn’t expect was an overwhelming response of some 40 students commissioned on Ash Wednesday,” Mrs Keddie said.
“Being the beginning of Lent, it was significant for the students as it was a time of fasting, prayer and almsgiving.
“Mini Vinnies equally stresses the importance of prayer, spiritual discernment and formation,” she said.
“We commissioned the students at our combined Parish and School Mass with members of the local St Vincent de Paul Society conference handing out special badges to students.
“This relationship between Parish and school is very important to us, and we want the students to know that they are part of a much larger Catholic community that is doing good work,” Mrs Keddie said.
Lochy, a Year Five student said, “I felt really happy when I was commissioned. I want other people to be happy through the fundraising we do. I thought I would be good at Mini Vinnies because I care about helping others.”
Meeting twice a term, the students will pray, learn about The St Vincent de Paul Society and discuss upcoming events and how Mini Vinnies can assist.
“We will be inviting Mr Robert Harding, President of St Francis of Assisi Maida Vale Conference to speak about local issues and concerns and how the students can help,” Mrs Keddie said.
With many fundraising events over the year, the students were thrilled to be a part of Rice Day for Project Compassion, where students served rice for the whole school for a gold coin donation.
Year Six student Daniel said he was particularly happy when he joined Mini Vinnies.
“It makes me happy to help others. I want to particularly help the homeless, those without a roof over their heads and no hot showers. To be a Mini Vinnie, I need to be committed. It was fun helping with Rice Day” he said.
While Montanna from Year Six wants to help the less fortunate, Sophie from Year Five said, “People need help and through Mini Vinnies, I want to become a more caring person.”
There are also a number of activities planned for the year including a Lapathon, collecting for the Winter Appeal, a Super Heroes Day (focusing on Youth Homelessness), and of course the Christmas Hampers.
“We will also be further promoting our weekly ‘Friday Giving’ basket, where families in the school donate food items for the local conference,” Karen said.
With a trip to the new St Vincent de Paul facility in Canning Vale imminent, Mrs Keddie hopes the students will be inspired by the amazing work that The Society does and become role models for other students through Mini Vinnies.