“As a chaplain, it’s my job to recognise kids’ passions. It’s not about my dreams or ideas, but championing theirs.”
These are the words of school chaplain Shane Briggs.
They are his driving force. They’re why he wakes up every morning. And they’re the reason one of his students, Jax, began an adventure of a lifetime.
Shane mentored Jax while she was in high school, and that encouragement led her across the globe….from volunteering in rural Indian hospitals, to doing community development projects in Thailand, and completing training in Mozambique.
Jax is now 24 years old, but she’s been forever changed and shaped by her chaplain, and the opportunities she received at school.
“In Year 10, my Chappy Shane led a group of us on a trip to Thailand. That was my first experience travelling to a different culture and it really opened my eyes to the fact there’s a big world out there,” Jax says.
She taught English to university students in Bangkok, visited a Burmese refugee village in Thailand, and helped in a community just outside of Chiang Mai. Jax was so impacted by the experience, that she returned to Chiang Mai two years later to volunteer for 6 weeks. But that was only made possible after she won a $5,000 RSL Youth Development Grant.
“In Year 12, I wanted to do a different version of Schoolies. I didn’t really want to go to the Gold Coast, so I applied for the RSL grant and got accepted. I spent a month in India and 6 weeks in Chiang Mai. My heart is for people, and it was great to go overseas and learn from people in different cultures,” Jax says.
While in India, Jax taught English in a school, volunteered in a leprosy clinic, and helped in various hospitals. “We saw all aspects of the healthcare system in an Indian rural town, which was really interesting.”
Her most impactful time in Chiang Rai was mentoring a group of young Thai girls. “I also taught English in schools and night adult classes; organised supplies for children’s programs and school lessons; led youth groups and Sunday school; and ran a children’s program in a village,” Jax says.
“The RSL grant was like a dream-enabler. Everyone who applies for the grant has a passion and dream, so the grant enables us to achieve that. My dream was to serve and learn from people in other countries. These people might be less fortunate than me, but may actually be better off than me in ways.”
Shane was one of the reasons Jax applied for the grant in the first place. “My role as a chaplain is really about championing kids’ passions and dreams,” he says.
“I see myself as a coach to students… I ask the right questions and hopefully that empowers them to make a difference in the world. And that’s what happened with Jax.”
Shane’s favourite part about being a chaplain is being able to mobilise young people. “That gets me up in the morning. Mobilisation can look like many things – working with someone who is down and out and really struggling… or empowering someone like Jax to go on and make an impact in this world,” he says.
“I think this generation wants to make a difference – not just talk about it or ‘like’ something on Facebook. They want to get their hands dirty and make a difference.”
Jax is now married and living in Perth, but those high school experiences have stayed with her forever. She travelled to Mozambique for 3 months in 2011 to attend a training school, and she continues to support overseas mission work.
For Jax, school chaplaincy started her on a journey that will last a lifetime….