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Logan Catholic school’s hub builds community for isolated mothers and refugees

St Francis College Crestmead community hub

Happy families: St Francis College principal Tricia Kennedy with Hollye Erskine and her daughters Clover and Matilda at the school’s Community Hub. Mrs Erskine found the hub helped her combat isolation. Photo: Emilie Ng.

HOLLYE Erskine could have been one of those mums who lost contact with the outside world after giving birth, but a project at her local Catholic school provided a different option.

The mother-of-three is a regular visitor to the Community Hub at St Francis College, Crestmead – a project that helps local families combat isolation.

The hub is part of an Australian network and reaches out to migrants, parents and the local community.

Before arriving at the hub, Mrs Erskine, who is also an assistant nurse working with dementia patients, said she was isolated and craving interaction with other mums.

“I work funny hours, so the times where people are interacting and having social experiences, I’m at work,” Mrs Erskine said.

“I needed to have that (support from other mums), that we’re going through the same thing.”

At St Francis College’s community hub she found the support she needed.

“I’ve made true life-long friendships,” Mrs Erskine said.

For mothers like Mrs Erskine, the community hub is also a stepping-stone into the early stages of schooling.

“My daughter was turning five and about to go to school, and we saw that there was a playgroup here and we were trying to toss up which school we were going to send her to in our catchment,” she said.

“We said, ‘We’ll come to the hub and we’ll get a feel for the school and it’s values and the community, understand the way that they interact with the parents and how happy the parents are here’.

“We didn’t even look at another school; we just knew this was going to be right for our children.”

St Francis College principal Tricia Kennedy said the Community Hub broke down barriers that Logan parents could have when considering a school for their child.

“Sometimes people are a bit wary of schools, especially if they’ve had not great experiences themselves,” Ms Kennedy said.

“Forty per cent of children in Logan don’t go to kindy.

“This is a soft-entry to school, but it’s also about providing activities for the community.

“We have playgroups, we have a child youth nurse over there, so we do baby check-ups, immunisation, we currently have a sewing class running, an activity that will be starting in the next couple of weeks is resume-writing and interview skills for mums who want to return to the workforce.”

But the hub is not just for mums who might feel isolated.

The hub also offers skills training sessions for local refugees, including the 60 refugee families who attend the college.

The sessions include sewing lessons, resume-writing, English conversation skills, and even cooking sessions to teach families how to cook meals for under $10.

“Part of it too is up-skilling new arrivals, because a lot of our families have only been here five or six years; they have no friends, they have no skills,” Ms Kennedy said.

The hub was inspired by the school’s patron saint St Francis of Assisi. “St Francis is one of the first Catholic saints to recognise that all people were loved by God not just Catholic people,” she said. “There are people from many different places here, so we always say to people, respect our beliefs and share our values and you’re welcome.  “And we learn from other faiths as well.”

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