SMITH FAMILY HAND UP FOR WEST ‘FUNSHINE’

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Words by Uyen Thy Nguyen

Every Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, students are sprinting from class in a thunderous stampede. They race from class, not to get home to video games or hours in front of the television, but rather to complete their homework.

Students actually wanting to finish their homework may sound strange to most, but for the students of the West Sunshine Learning Club, this is a weekly highlight and a welcome change from the daily routine of school.

Since it started in 2009, this free, after­school program – dubbed the ‘West Funshine Learning Club’ – has been facilitated by The Smith Family to benefit primary aged students in the West. Working in conjunction with the West Sunshine Community Centre and Brimbank Council, the Learning Club offers selected students from local primary schools access to volunteer tutors and a safe space to work intensively on reaching the learning standards of mainstream education. With students coming from newly arrived immigrant families or nominated by teachers as needing one-on-one help, the club is a supportive network to students that might otherwise fall through the cracks of schooling.

The ethos of The Smith Family’s work is to provide the disadvantaged with a hand up, not a hand out. In order to achieve this, the organisation primarily works through educational programs such as academic scholarships and Learning Clubs in targeted communities. Learning Clubs aim to increase student engagement with learning by increasing students’ self-confidence and confidence in their school work.

This invaluable work is made possible through the kindness of local community members who donate their time, resources and facilities to the program.

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“We rely on individuals in the community who believe in making a real difference,” says Smith Family Learning for Life and Community Development worker Jeanine Carter.

Having been working with the Learning Club since its inception, Ms. Carter understands the need in the community for such a program.

“A lot of parents would love to be able to offer their children an afternoon a week, just to get that extra support with homework because in the classroom they don’t get that one-on-one attention. The program we’ve developed here is in response to those sort of needs”.

Beyond the classroom, the Learning Clubs are also a network of like-minded volunteers providing support to students.

“Students have a real opportunity to meet someone who is a positive role model,” Ms. Carter says. “Through spending time with them the adults are saying to these kids that they believe in them, which is really lovely. It’s a bit of a community approach to educating kids”.

The Smith Family believes that community engagement is vital to the success of programs like the

Learning Clubs and welcomes donations and expressions of interest from locals in Brimbank.

“We’re particularly keen on people in the Brimbank to get involved. We want to build the capacity of the community so that we have a culture of volunteering here”.

For all those interested in getting involved, please visit the Smith Family website for further information.

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