31 January 2018

You helped Cheyenne graduate

Posted in Indigenous youth / School life

On the verge of dropping out of school amidst an unstable home life and issues in the schoolyard, Cheyenne found the strength to motivate herself – thanks to help from her chappies.

Growing up on Stradbroke Island, Cheyenne struggled to make friends, found schoolwork difficult, and rarely felt loved or accepted. There were periods where she struggled to make it through each day.

That’s where, thanks to your support, Cheyenne’s chappies Neale and Heather made all the difference.

“When we first met Cheyenne, she stood out to us as someone who was struggling to fit in at school; her life was not easy,” Chappy Neale says.

“There was a lot going on at home, she didn’t fit in or have many friends, and she found quite a lot of her school work difficult to understand.

“We have a Chappy Drop-In Centre at the school and Cheyenne started visiting us there. And because she didn’t want to miss the chance to be with her friends at the Chappy Centre, her school attendance went up significantly, which meant she was attending more of her school classes.

“Along with the indigenous support workers at the school, we supported her by simply being there, available to talk about anything she wanted. When there was something too difficult for her to cope with alone, we were that stable place she could always come to.”

As she started attending school more often, Chappy Neale and Chappy Heather invited Cheyenne to get involved in their sister-school program, which worked to resource disadvantaged schools in Vanuatu.

“My friends used to hang out in the Chappy room most lunchtimes, so I started tagging along,” Cheyenne recalls.

“Soon after I started helping Chappy Neale and Heather sell ice blocks to raise money for our sister school in Vanuatu. The money we raised bought books, shelving, and basic needs for the students there who had nothing.

“With every ice block I sold I got more passionate about the project. It was the first time I felt I was really making a difference in the world.

“Eventually I raised enough money to go on the school’s trip to Vanuatu, which was a huge eye-opener and made me really appreciate how much we have here in Australia.”

Cheyenne’s mother Crisarna saw a marked impact in Cheyenne’s life thanks to chaplaincy, especially in terms of self-motivation.

“I heard a lot about the chappies because Cheyenne was doing a lot of activities with them – they helped and taught her to fundraise so she could support herself,” Crisarna recalls.

“I saw a lot change in Cheyenne, especially in the way she coped with bullying and everyday life.

“Living over here [Stradbroke Island] was really hard, but with the help of her chappies I didn’t have to motivate her to get out of bed and head to school each day; she was more than happy to do that for herself.

“I think chaplaincy is really important for kids who are disadvantaged and don’t come from really good backgrounds. I don’t think a lot of them would pass Year 9 – Cheyenne might not have got far through school if it weren’t for her chappies.”

Cheyenne can’t say enough about the positive impact that chaplaincy had in her life.

“In my mind, chaplains are the most important people in the school,” Cheyenne says.

“Without my chappies I wouldn’t have had anyone to help me. I wouldn’t have found a point of purpose in life, and I may not have ever known what it’s like to feel loved.

“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart – by supporting them [chaplains] you supported me.”

To keep chaplains in schools to support young people like Cheyenne, visit suqld.org.au/donate.

Samuel Moore

Digital Media and Communications Coordinator

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