When your small country school is closed due to flooding and your community is struggling in the wake of a large-scale disaster, what do you do?
If you’re Rollingstone State School chaplain Travis Johnston, you roll up your sleeves and mobilise your town’s youth group, called the Troupies.
“The school was going underwater. It was like a sinking ship, and I knew we were going to be off for days,” Chappy Travis recalls.
“Because we’re so far out and there isn’t much here to do, a couple of the parents started Troupies to give the kids out here something to do. They do a lot of community work so they were keen to help flood victims.”
Chappy Travis was only too happy to have a small army of young volunteers to help with the clean up.
Year 6 student Riley Fairbridge was one keen helper, packing sandbags and cleaning homes.
“People had lost their homes so we helped them restart again and get on with things,” Riley explains.
For Chappy Travis, getting in and helping the community is part of what being a chaplain is all about.
“I’m a big believer in showing God’s love through action,” he says.
“It’s been a crazy experience but an amazing journey as well, getting shoulder to shoulder with people you’re helping – people you don’t know.
“It was an opportunity to get out and show the community that we’ll get our hands dirty and we’re here to support. We’re there for anybody.”
Travis says he found the community spirit during the devastation to be overwhelming at times.
“Queenslanders, that’s what we’re known for. We’re a tough bunch of people who like to help each other when times are tough. We pull together.
“There are so many people with nothing up here now. Everything’s gone – their cars, their houses. We’re so grateful there are people out there who actually care. The support from around the country has been amazing.”
Rollingstone State School principal, Andrew Stallman, says Chappy Travis mobilising the school community helped everyone.
“Chappy was feet on the ground, going where it helps” Mr Stallman says.
“For a kid to get involved in helping someone else changes how they think about themselves – it makes them feel good about themselves, makes them feel needed.
“Chappy takes a lot of that on himself to do that, and they wouldn’t get that otherwise.
“I love chaplaincy! It’s another avenue where kids can go, or families, especially for little schools like ours that are more isolated. (Travis) does a lot extra with the kids. This a community who needs it.”
Your support is keeping chaplains like Travis in schools across Queensland. To continue this great work, visit suqld.org.au/donate.