21 April 2014

‘You are what kept me going’

Posted in School life

Matt Brady, Queensland’s longest-serving chaplain, has seen a lot of heartache in the 19 years he’s been a chappy.

But he’s also seen a lot of hope injected into the lives of broken and hurting teens, many of whom have no one but their chaplain to talk to.

There was a girl many years ago who joined a program I run for at-risk students,” Matt says. “She found out her whole life was built on a lie because her parent’s ‘perfect’ marriage didn’t work out and they separated. She started drinking too much and abusing her body in other ways.

She really struggled with her self-worth. She thought she was rubbish because of the things that had happened to her. She used to come to my office and we’d sometimes just talk for hours – she’d cry and sometimes I’d cry too because it was so sad to see her going through that.

Later that year, on her graduation day, I asked her and a group of other kids to write what it meant to have a chaplain. And she told me, ‘I’m alive because of you Matt. Because in those long dark nights when I didn’t want to be around anymore, I knew I could come to school on Monday and be loved. And that’s what kept me going.

That’s a story I will never forget,” Matt says.

Matt first heard about chaplaincy 20 years ago, and he has been a chaplain at Burnside State High School, on the Sunshine Coast, since October 1995.

He was initially a slaughterman, but stopped after an injury. “While off work, I volunteered with Teen Challenge, working with highly at-risk kids with addiction, abuse and other life-controlling problems.” Matt says that experience really prepared him to be a chaplain.

I just love the school and the staff. I never thought I would be a chaplain, but now I couldn’t imagine it any other way. I love what I do – there’s no other job that would be better than this,” he says.

I can’t think of a role that’s more impacting, particularly for someone who wants to look after the ‘poor’, because the ‘poor’ in our nation are our kids – they’ve got it really tough these days.

Matt is passionate about working with ‘at-risk’ students, and spends about 80% of his time running his adventure-based program, called Trek, for at-risk students. He developed the program 14 years ago to teach students various skills, like trust, problem solving, bond-building, relationships, and how to treat other people. Once the group builds a certain level of trust, Matt takes the students on a three-day wilderness trek, where they have the chance to put their skills into action.

It’s hard, it’s challenging, but it’s a real opportunity to learn some invaluable life skills,” Matt says.

Because of your continued support, chaplains like Matt have the opportunity to be there for young people when it matters. Thank you for helping to make more stories like this possible!


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