Surpassing expectations through service

The AITC curriculum has a strong focus on industry at the Australian Industry Trade College (AITC) but also gives high priority to a values-based education, with young people frequently undertaking Gift of Giving service projects.

This term, young people from the Ipswich campus travelled 60 kms to Silky Oaks Children’s Haven in Manly West to undertake a very important outdoor project. Silky Oaks ensures children and their families are protected, nurtured and empowered to build better lives in a safe environment.

Over several days, the AITC team dismantled the existing playground onsite and constructed a garden with repurposed pieces of the old playground and a number of plants that had been donated by Bunnings.

Regional Industry Officer Dave Breeze said the young people were inspired by the work of the not-for-profit organisation to create something amazing.

“We had access to the tool shed and our imaginations… The young people worked really hard on the project, and the outcome surpassed ours and Silky Oaks’ expectations.”

“Our Gift of Giving projects provide a great opportunity for us to check in on the young people and see how they are progressing with their hands-on skills, their attitude, and to take note of where they need to improve,” said Dave.

Silky Oaks CEO Aaron Thirkettle generously invited the young people back on 29 October to say thank you with a BBQ and a few words. “As a nonprofit, we keep in mind that our resources are in our relationships, so the partnership with the AITC from a values perspective, aligns with what we stand for. Repurposing pieces of the old playground had symbolism for us, in that even though the old playground wasn’t useable anymore, there were pieces that were. It shows us that everything has potential.”

The newly created outdoor space will form part of the Silky Oaks Inspire therapy program.

“The Inspire program provides therapy support to children and young people who may have experienced neglect, emotional harm and/or physical abuse. Therapists aim to help children and families start to re-establish their sense of safety and support them to develop good relationships with both themselves and with others,” said Silky Oaks WHS Advisor Nelia Barwise.

Silky Oak therapists use movement, games, and outdoor physical activity to help children to express what they cannot find the words for, usually following stress or trauma.

“We have found that allowing children and teenagers the opportunity for movement during their therapy process has been successful in supporting their path back to wellness. By developing this outdoor space, we’ve extended the ways in which we can support children’s mental and physical wellbeing,” says Neila.

And it’s not only the lives of children at Silky Oaks that have been improved by this space, with the service project surpassing the expectations of many of our young people who have found gratitude and satisfaction in helping others.

“Working on these projects, and having the opportunity to talk to the team at Silky Oaks gives many of our young people a different perspective, and it makes them feel grateful for what they have. One young person expressed to me on the trip home how satisfying the work was, and how glad he was that he took part,” said Dave.