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Photo by Brendan Biggs

Edmund Rice Street Retreat

Brendan Biggs —

Edmund Rice 2015 Street Retreat

The street retreat involves students from Liston College (4), St Kevin’s (4) and St Thomas’s (9). All students and staff were based in Mount Sion for 3 days. The programme focuses on examining and developing an understanding of Youth Justice issues, the role of the City Mission and experiencing a night out with the Salvation Army and their work with the homeless and street workers in inner Christchurch. Also examined was the role that Corrections play in the incarceration of youth and looking at the critical issues that poverty plays in the breaking down of communities.

On Thursday afternoon the group went out to Christchurch Prison and after going through stringent security procedures the group were welcomed by the inmates with a Powhiri and followed up with a haka. The students spent some time with the inmates, looking through the cell blocks, playing touch and having a barbeque. Impressive was the commitment of Corrections to offer education and vocational skills to allow these offenders to have skills and qualification to integrate back into society. The recidivism rates are still high but are coming down. There was also a reminder that thoughts some be given to the victims of crime and the impact on them and their families.

On return to Mount Sion the group was split in half and each group were given $15 dollars for their evening meal. That evening one group went out with the Salvation Army where they mingled with the homeless and gained an in-sight into why these people were living on the streets in poverty.

The other half spent the night sleeping rough on a piece of card board outside and try to imagine what it would be like to be homeless and alone.

On Friday the group went to the City Mission and were spoken to by staff about their role and mission. The group visited the site of the CTV building and went on tour of the Eastern suburbs looking at the dislocation of people and gaining an understanding of the effects on families from the Earthquake. That afternoon representatives from the Christchurch Refuge Settlement organisation spoke to the group about their role and the integration of refugees into New Zealand society. Roles were reversed with one group going out with the Salvation Army, the second group sleeping rough.

At all times the group were asked to fill in a Reflection Journal on the issues that they came across and their thoughts and feelings encountered. On Saturday morning Cathy Harrison went through the experiences that the group had encountered and the people observed, and examined the causes and reasons why these people had been marginalized.

The Retreat can only function with the injection of time given willingly by staff. I would like to thank the following, Richard Washington, Hamish Barclay, Stephen Kennedy, Tom Newton, Cathy Harrison, Tony Mullally St Kevin’s; and Marty Taylor.