The popular Family Learning Program at Church of All Nations (CAN) is a cross between an after school program, a family literacy program and an African-Australian mums’ social group.
Through funding received from Share, the Carlton-based congregation has developed a program to directly meet the needs of their local community.
The program offers opportunities to do homework while the Mum and Kids group meets in the foyer room of the CAN Centre. Up to 10 mums and 20 children gather between 4pm and 6pm Monday to Wednesday.
While the program meets many of the needs of the local community, an underlying aim is to get families learning together.
“In 2009 we began to host it at our site. Then it had a couple of children attending and the numbers began to increase,” minister at CAN Rev Dr John Evans said.
“Soon parents also started to come and we realised their need as well – so we started the Family Learning Program in 2011.”
Reading and simple maths are the most common activities and more than 1000 children’s books have been donated to the project from local libraries and schools.
Dr Evans said the close proximity of CAN to public housing flats in Carlton was just one of the factors contributing to the success of the program.
“The availability of numerous tutors and our ability to respond to the needs of the parents have been important for the program’s success too.
“It also cuts across any single program which might be offered at one school for its own students, as we have six to eight schools represented.
“The children appreciate this mixing and, because we are independent, we have had the freedom to be responsive. We are not strictly bound to the terms of government funding in running such programs,” he said.
Older students are assisted by a crew of volunteer tutors, mainly from Melbourne University.
The program benefits all involved; one university student has since changed courses to become a teacher after their experience helping the children.
“Education is the key to gaining social inclusion for the African community. This includes not only education for the children but also for the parents,” Dr Evans said.
“Ultimately this will help lead to better social inclusion of the African community within the local and then broader Australian community.
“The program gives an opportunity for a young person to achieve their full potential.”
By Chip Henriss
For more information on Mission and Service funding please visit: www.victas.uca.org.au/givingisliving