Who would have thought that what started in 2005 as a new idea of the ELC supporting the Melbourne City Mission’s campaign ‘Homeless not Helpless’ would be still going strong in 2020?
One of the great attributes and foundations of Carey is its commitment to social justice. But what does this mean for young children, and how do you start to build the understanding around this concept?
In 2005 when I found myself asking these questions, I received a flyer from Melbourne City Mission aimed at early childhood and lower primary schools. It seemed a perfect springboard for us. The original idea from Melbourne City Mission was for children to wear their PJs for a day and raise money and awareness for the homeless. They had lots of fun activities to support the day, and we decided to get on board. After much discussion with the staff team and the Junior School Chaplain, Janine de Paiva, we decided that although the idea was definitely fun, we really wanted to focus on the serious element of the matter – that our students in the Carey ELC wear PJs because they have a home and a bed, but so many children and adults in Melbourne don’t even have PJs to change into, let alone a bed to sleep in.
We introduced an important educational aspect to the day, with Janine sensitively explaining to the ELC children, in an age-appropriate but impactful way, why the fact that they had PJs to wear was significant. Janine talks to the children about homeless people, and together they explore and expand their thinking outside of their own experience, learn empathy by considering what it would feel like to be homeless, and brainstorm ideas about how to help.
Our first years of PJ Day in the ELC were novel and a great success. It was a concrete way to help children begin to think about those less fortunate than themselves and that we have a responsibility to help. Raising awareness and raising money has enabled the children’s understanding that we can in fact take practical action to help others.
Over the years, PJ Day has become a tradition in the ELC. In this troubled year, we have reached 15 years of commitment to Melbourne City Mission. For the first time, in 2020 we were more than happy to share the event with the rest of the Junior School, both on campus and through remote learning on the last day of Term 3.
It has been very encouraging and rewarding over the years to be committed to this particular event and Melbourne City Mission, but also to see the children’s growing understanding of social justice. As they move through the ELC and into the Junior, Middle and Senior School, many of our students reflect on PJ Day as their first understanding of social justice – ‘From little things, big things grow’.
So, my sincere thanks to you all for your support, not just this year but in the past and into the future we go.
Director of ELC Kew