17 August 2021

You’re transforming lives like Rhys’s

Posted in SU QLD

Thousands of young people have been powerfully impacted over the years thanks to your support for school chaplaincy. But in the sea of transformed lives, the true beauty is in the individual stories you’re making possible.

Meet Rhys and Chappy Nikola.

The year was 2011 – Chappy Nikola’s first year on the job. It was also the year Rhys and his family moved from Sydney to North Queensland. Rhys was a shy 8-year-old with autism, uncertain about engaging with his peers, and Chappy Nikola was finding her feet in the whirlwind of her first year of chaplaincy.

As the duo got to know one another, Chappy Nikola quickly spotted Rhys’s potential. She could see how he could flourish if he had the right people to champion him.

“I remember when I first met Rhys he was a very quiet little soul. But what really stood out to me was his attitude in the programs or whatever we were doing.

“He didn’t let fear stop him and I admired that,” says Chappy Nikola.

“He’s always had a desire for building community. Watching his journey of growth, and the way he’s learnt to take initiative for running groups, and has grown in self-confidence, has been amazing.”

The catalyst for Rhys came in Year 9, when he took part in a Homeless Sleep-Out as part of an A2B program Chappy Nikola was running.

“There were about 12 of us who slept outside overnight, using only cardboard boxes. We were raising awareness for the homeless in our community, and this experience really challenged how we see the world. It makes you thankful for your bed!” says Rhys.

“I’m grateful for programs like this which taught me to engage with new people. Being someone with autism , it can be tricky to socialise with others, and Chappy has really helped [me] in that area.”

Nikola watched in amazement as Rhys came back from that sleep-out experience full of passion to see change in their community.

“When Rhys came back from that, he was so on fire for homelessness. He was leading the change for how we could implement things in the school. He wanted to share that empathy of how it is to sleep rough,” says Chappy Nikola.

“I remember how transforming that experience was for him.

Programs are a wonderful way for our young people to grow and develop their social and emotional skills.

“Programs add another dimension to the schooling experience. They help our young people recognise that they have a lot they can contribute to their community.

“It draws out the hidden gifts and talents that might not always come out academically,” says Chappy Nikola.

After knowing Chappy Nikola for a decade, Rhys has transformed from a shy observer to a leader, community activist, and a well-loved member of his cohort.

Rhys’s growth is a beautiful reflection of what can happen when a trusted and trained chaplain, who understands that each child is made in the image of a loving God, is there to support our young people.

Thank you for the many stories of transformation you are making possible.

If you’d like to bring out the hidden potential inside other young people like Rhys, head to suqld.org.au/donate today.

Sarah Moore

Media and Communications Administrator

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