School chaplains have been providing social, emotional and spiritual support to Queensland school communities for more than 25 years.
‘Chappies’ are very much a part of their school’s social fabric, providing vital support to students, staff, and families who all use their school chaplain’s services, enhancing the overall wellbeing of the school, and helping them reach their educational goals.
While a chappy is there with non-judgemental support for anyone who needs them, they primarily help with issues relating to friendships, bullying (including cyber bullying), school behaviour, family breakdown, and mental health issues (anxiety and depression).
A chaplain’s support in a school reaches beyond friendship, family and school problems. In 2016, Queensland school chaplains ran 358 breakfast programs, 396 social and emotional programs, and 347 mentor and role-modeling programs, among others.
Chaplains also run grief and loss programs, and officiate funeral services for members of their school community. Sadly, 11-year-old Brianna and her mum, Rebecca, have been through just that.
Brianne’s big sister, Bella-Courtney, died just days after her 14th birthday after a long battle with neuroblastoma (a form of brain cancer). Brianna’s chaplain, Leanne, at Gin Gin State School helped her, her mum and family, through the medical fight and, ultimately, through Bella’s passing, funeral, and the days and weeks afterward.
When Rebecca and Bella were away in Brisbane for treatment for months on end, Brianna was left behind in Gin Gin with her grandparents. Even when they were home for short visits, Bella’s immune system was so compromised that Brianna wasn’t able to get close to her - to hug her big sister. Through it all, Chappy Leanne was there to listen and encourage Brianna.
“It was very hard on Brianna, the feeling of being unwanted, pushed aside,” Rebecca said.
“I saw how much it hurt Brianna that our family couldn’t be together like it used to be. I’m just so grateful Brianna had that safe person, that safe place to go to where she felt cared for and listened to.”
When Bella passed away after a five-year fight, Chappy Leanne helped organise the funeral, supporting the family in any way they needed - from being someone to lean on, hug, or organising meals to be delivered.
Two years later, the bond between Chappy Leanne and Brianna, and her mum Rebecca, is still strong, which speaks volumes about the value of school chaplaincy.
“To this day Brianna still shares a strong relationship with her chaplain who has supported her to overcome her grief,” Rebecca said.
Chappies support everyone in their school community. They are there in good times and bad because their heart is for the emotional, social, and spiritual wellbeing of children and young people, their families, and school staff.
To support school chaplaincy, visit https://www.suqld.org.au/donate
Thanks to Scripture Union QLD for allowing us to publish this article on their behalf.