18 May 2018

South African chef now an outback chappy

Posted in SU QLD

Children, young people and their families in remote and regional Queensland are doing it tough – from juvenile crime, broken families, high unemployment, and struggling with isolation.

But school chaplains, like South African expat and former chef, Les van Lelyveld, are there to help their communities.

So how did a South African chef become a school chaplain in remote western Queensland?

“My wife got a job in the mine so we came here for her work,” Chappy Les explained.

“I owned a takeaway shop in town and interacted a lot with the wider community on a daily basis.

“I witnessed and listened to stories about their struggles and problems because food brings people together, so you just want to help people.

“I got my Certificate 4 in Youth Work, closed my shop, applied for a chaplain position, and as the people say, ‘the rest is history’.”

Chappy Les works five days a week between Spinifex State College and Townview State School in Mount Isa.  He has also been a chaplain at Mount Isa School of the Air.

“Every day there’s a new challenge happening out here.  This is the Outback; it’s a lot different to city life,” he said.

“As a chaplain you can make a positive difference in people’s lives. Not just the youth in the schools you work in but the whole community, including teachers and parents.  

“We get a lot of young teachers from the city and they will be here for a month and then need help.  Parents as well.”

Despite living in remote western Queensland, Chappy Les said his students also struggle with the same kinds of issues as ‘city kids’ – lack of self confidence, domestic violence at home, fitting in at school, and fear of being judged by other people in the community.

Chappy Les uses his chef background to do cooking sessions with students during lunch breaks.  He also runs a Gentleman’s Club for Years 3 to 6, where they do a program about bullying and respect.

Chappy Les is only able to support the children, their families, and staff at Spinifex State College and Townview State School in Mount Isa because of generous supporters like you. This Chappy Week you can keep the light of chaplaincy shining in our communities, visit suqld.org.au/donate.

Jennifer Kerr

Media and Communications Administrator

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