20.02.2012 - 24.02.2012
Our time spent at the Cottage By The Sea deserves its own blog entry...
We arrived in Queenscliff as the cottage was preparing for 50 kids from a community school south of Ballarat. The three day camp for these primary school kids (years 3 to 5) was starting just after lunch. From the moment we parked the van within the cottage grounds we were made to feel very welcome. Despite lots to do Fitz the ground keeper saw us loitering and was only too happy to show us around and share stories about the cottages history, as was Bill the Ops Manager who was our point of contact and did a great job looking after us.
The concept is so simple. Kids are given the opportunity to be just that and have fun. In the process they form stronger bonds with each other and their teachers and escape hardships they might face in their everyday lives. The kids from this particular school were from a low socioeconomic area with high unemployment. It was great to chat with the teachers and cottage staff about the realities of these kids lives; the overwhelming sense we received was that everyone was in partnership to help make a difference. The cottage is also involved in leadership programs for smaller groups to show these kids they have options. All inspiring and all great stuff.
A few fun stories and highlights:
- Many of the children struggled to settle and sleep on the first night (up until 11pm after many tears). After an action packed day two including surfing, swimming and long walks, the kids were sound asleep by 9pm and had to be woken up the next morning.
- The staff; we would have been happy to help behind the scenes but to be included in all kids activities was quite special. We have so much admiration for these people. They were all so happy to be at work and you could see they loved their jobs.
- The kids faces learning how to surf and seeing one in particular overcome a fear of the ocean. All kids were keen on surfing, other than one sudanese girl stayed on shore, very nervous. With a little encouragement to try the shallows her confidence grew quickly until we discovered a natural.
- Seeing many of the shy kids come out of their shell... A little boy on day one was often sitting by himself didn't want to be spoken to and didn't want to participate. By the morning of day three we were playing in the surf together, he was holding my hand and beaming the biggest smile I have ever seen.
The Cottage has been in operation for 120 years with no government funding; this allows flexibility to try different things and tailor their programs, however they have a strong reliance on donations, contributors and volunteers. If you would like to make a donation please visit their website Cottage By The Sea.
There is no doubt we found great satisfaction spending time with these kids. It made all the difference that we were given a real experience of what the cottage was all about. Thanks to everyone (too many to name) for making us feel welcome and part of the team
Next blog, Great Ocean Road!..