The joint initiative run by UnitingWorld and the Anglican Board of Mission (ABM) actively engages students on issues around global poverty and work being undertaken to address disadvantage in developing countries.
Now in its fourth year, the conference uses hands-on activities to explore the root causes of poverty and the fundamentals of good development practices.
This year’s conference visited Anglican and Uniting Church schools in the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne.
In Melbourne, students (pictured above with school chaplain David Hall) from Penleigh and Essendon Grammar (PEGS) participated in activities around cultural relevance, respect, local ownership and sustainability.
PEGS students took part in workshops aimed at giving participants insight into the fragile ecological conditions facing many remote communities in the Pacific region.
Year 10 PEGS student Andrew Saccardo said he was interested to discover the realities of neighbouring developing countries and the challenges they face.
“Lots of agriculture and farming is based on chance, so if there’s a bad season, or the climate changes slightly, it can do a lot of damage to a community,” he said.
“If the crops fail, they rely on foreign aid, and that takes a long time to recover. Australia’s foreign aid is decreasing, and we now give 32 cents in every $100.”
Students also heard from guest speaker Gideon Bustamante, a project officer from ABM’s partner Church in the Philippines, who shared his experience of living through Typhoon Haiyan.
“Gideon told a harrowing story about Typhoon Haiyan where he and his friends fled to a three storey building to escape the flood, but the steel roof of that building was blown off,” Andrew said.
“There was footage of total destruction – every house destroyed. I don’t think I realised it was that bad in the Philippines.”
Other activities included students constructing solar cookers based on a model from an ABM project in South Sudan. Due to the scarcity of fire wood, gas and electricity, lives are being transformed through these easily constructed ovens.
PEGS chaplain David Hall said students were very eager to engage in the issues around eliminating poverty and the social justice imperatives to be informed.
“Students were very quick to get involved and I think some were quite surprised at the extent of poverty in our own region and the challenges faced by some neighbouring countries,” Mr Hall said.
For more information on the work of UnitingWorld visit unitingworld.org.au.