Can you imagine going to school every day in the middle of a rainforest? What about in a small farming community? Or in the midst of an Indigenous community, or a remote little town on the coast?
David Kamholtz went to a school in every one of those places in the last week — and he’ll do it all again next week as well.
David is the school chaplain in four communities in the Cape — and although all are uniquely different, they are all bustling with energetic youth.
“I love the different challenges that every school brings and still enjoy the travel, which amounts to about 450 kilometres every week,” David says.
The four schools he works in include:
- P-12 school in Cooktown of around 350 students, 40 percent of whom are Indigenous;
- a two-teacher school in the beautiful rainforest setting of Rossville;
- a school in the farming community of Lakeland; and
- a 100 percent Indigenous school in Bloomfield River, close to the Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal.
Now in his ninth year of chaplaincy, David works largely with groups of students. He uses adventure-based learning, like low ropes courses, trust activities and wilderness camps, to explore positive values.
Based heavily around the program V.I.T.A.L. (Values Integrated Through Action-based Learning), his adventure-based approach involves various camps, where he works with school leaders and at-risk students. “The camps help them to really understand values and concepts, such as commitment, trustworthiness, healthy risk-taking and forgiveness, through firsthand experience,” David says.
This year, David invited key men from the community to talk to the young men about their own lives and how important these values are in their everyday lives and work.
David also runs the Drumbeat program, where students play African drums and use rhythm as an analogy to talk about communication skills and emotions.
“The nature of staff in schools in the Cape tends to be quite transient, with teachers and support workers coming for a couple of years and then often moving on, so it can take time to establish relationships and trust with young people in the schools,” he says.
But after living there for more than five years, David is well-loved and valued by staff and students. “We have bought a house here, and this is where we have had our kids. We love living here and mean to be here for the long term,” David says.
“Cooktown has a rare and pretty special connection between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures, which we are really proud of. My wife and I count ourselves really privileged to know some amazing Aboriginal elders who have strong spiritual values and a genuine love and concern for the youth of this generation.
“I have worked closely with some amazing Indigenous people, hearing their stories and talking about what they want to see happening in the lives of their children and grandchildren. Family is really important to them, particularly in the Aboriginal communities.
“Up here, there’s a strong sense of culture and identity. Indigenous youth are very connected to their culture. Indigenous language is strong and so is their way of life, including hunting and strong family relationships. We love their sense of humour and value their friendship.”
David has tremendous support from his schools’ teachers, parents and principals. Being one of the only males in three of his schools is a big thing in itself. “The students look forward to their ‘Chappy Day’ each week… and so do I!” he says.
Your support makes it possible for SU QLD chaplains and volunteers to work alongside our state’s diverse communities — whether in Indigenous, outback, coastal or metropolitan areas. Thank you!