When faced with violent threats from Prep student, Jacob*, Chappy Janelle and her fellow school staff chose to respond with love and kindness. Four years later, Jacob is now serving others.
“[Jacob] came to my school when he was starting Prep… When we were on playground duty with him, he would say stuff like, ‘I’m going to get a big knife and stab you. I’m going to kill you.’… The teacher’s aides and I would just give him a positive response back, and try to make him feel good about himself,” explains Janelle.
“His family were victims of domestic violence, and his mother took him to get away from the domestic violence.”
In addition to his awful home circumstances, Jacob has Asperger’s Syndrome, so interpreting social cues in his daily interactions has always been a challenge for him.
Further complicating matters was that Jacob’s concept of ‘normal’ interactions were formed in a highly volatile home.
Chappy Janelle was committed to demonstrating healthy relationships.
“I befriended him and talked to him, to find out how he was going each day. Even if he was running past, he would still say ‘Hi, Chappy!’ because he knew he was special to me. If he was down and I saw that, I would spend time with him and find out as best I could what was wrong.”
Slowly but surely, Chappy Janelle’s caring presence began to bear fruit.
Today, Jacob is a completely different boy, who enjoys serving other students at his school’s Breaky Club.
“He asked ‘Chappy, can I have a go at serving the other kids?’. And that for me was just such a blessing because he’s never been a kid who liked interacting with other people… So for him that was just amazing… If the kids wanted Vegemite or jam, he’d do the toast for them, and get their Milo. It was just an amazing blessing.”
Through Chappy Janelle’s unwavering love and support, together with the help of the school’s other support staff, Jacob has been given hope where there was once hopelessness.
“A little guy like [Jacob] would slip through the cracks when it comes to school… A child like him just really needed to know that he was special. Teachers, and support staff, do their very best but they just don’t have the time that’s needed, and as a Chappy we can take the time.”
The impact of school chaplaincy is life-changing. But we need your support for it to continue. Visit suqld.org.au/donate.
*Name and image has been changed to protect child’s identity.