It might be a confronting experience, but for Padua College students, going on outreach with Rosies – Friends on the Street “completely changes” the way they see people on the street.
That’s according to Michael O’Brien, the college’s vice rector formation.
“Suddenly people have a name and once they have a name, the way that you see them completely changes,” he said.
“People who were nameless suddenly have a name, a personality, dreams and visions and stories to tell. The boys get to see a side of life they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to.”
Currently, Year 12 students accompany Mr O’Brien and other teachers on outreaches in Brisbane city on Sundays, Logan on Wednesdays and Aspley once a month.
Mr O’Brien said the college’s relationship with Rosies began more than 15 years ago when he was looking to expand its outreach.
“At the time we were looking at starting our own van, but someone said there were already a lot of vans in the area, so why not join something established or do something different? We took on that advice and here we are still working with Rosies,” he said.
“The boys love it and now we have more volunteers than we need. It’s really taken on a life of its own.
“Unfortunately we’ve had to put a limit on it due to the number of boys who want to keep coming back – but it’s because they get so much out of it. It’s a unique thing to do with your mates and know you’re helping someone in a small way. Our boys are good natured but the experience with Rosies is a real eye opener.
“The conversations coming home about what it was like, they’re often amazed at how polite people are. On the odd occasion a young person close to their age comes to the van, that hits home really hard.
“I’ve been volunteering for about 15 years so I like to talk to our regulars, but I’m always very careful to tell the boys I’m not team leader, there’s someone else in charge and we do what we’re asked to do. We always find the teams very welcoming.”
Mr O’Brien said he liked to step back and watch the boys interact with patrons.
“Sometimes it surprises you, it’s the boy you least think might jump in and have a go and then he’ll be nonstop talking about the night afterwards.”