For more than a decade Sian Routley served as an Occupational Therapist (OT), tending to the physical needs of children who’d suffered traumatic injuries.
Today she’s tending to the social, emotional and spiritual needs of Serviceton South State School’s students as their chaplain.
“I’ve always loved working with children and loved my time as an OT, but I always had this sense that I wanted to do something more to help the children I worked with,” she says.
While the role of a school chaplain is demanding, Sian has now found her true calling, she says.
“I know that I’m building into their lives. Regardless of what they’re going through, as a chaplain I can be that listening ear. I can give them my time, when they may feel that no one has the time for them.”
It’s a calling she could easily have missed if not for an ad she heard on the radio…
“We’d just relocated from New South Wales to Brisbane and I was keen to get back into work after my youngest child started day-care. So I was driving the car and I heard this ad for chaplaincy on 96.5. I just felt very strongly that this was something I was meant to do,” she says.
In 2015 Sian accepted her first chaplaincy position at Inala’s Serviceton South State School – a school whose population boasts 42 nationalities and a total of 33 different languages.
“It is a very culturally and linguistically diverse school. For many of our families, they’re struggling to make ends meet, which places additional strain on the children.
“A percentage of our families and their children have experienced significant trauma before coming here through their experience as refugees. They’ve already experienced so much uncertainty in their lives about knowing where they are going to live and even their personal safety,” she says.
In addition to providing one-on-one support to the school’s students, Chappy Sian supports the students through a variety of social and emotional programs, including Friends for Life, which caters for children battling with anxiety.
She also coordinates the highly popular social connection-based DRUMBEAT program, and the KC Club, or Kindness and Caring Club, which teaches children craft, but with a focus on serving others.
“The kids really love participating in this. We do a lot of craft work, but the focus is always on other people. So we’re making something for the mothers on Mother’s Day. We’ve made pom-pom animals for people who are sick.
“So it’s about getting them to think about others first and being a blessing to someone else,” she says.
Chappy Sian also works with iSEE Care to deliver food hampers to families in the community who are struggling financially.
“They may have had an unexpected bill come up or something. So it’s just a way to alleviate the stress of not being able to get the groceries they need for that week.”
For Chappy Sian, she is humbled by the overwhelming support she receives from her school community. But she is also quick to acknowledge the work of the chaplains who came before her.
“The legacy of the chaplains before me has carried on. Literally the first day I arrived, children trusted me because I think they trust the role of chaplain. The school staff trust me and confide in me because they know whatever they say will stay with me. It’s such an honour to be in this position,” she says.
This Chappy Week we celebrate and recognise the invaluable work of our passionate school chaplains. SU QLD is so grateful to all the many individuals and communities across the state that financially support, volunteer their time and pray for these amazing, selfless people. Contact your local chaplain to learn how you can support their work!