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School backs refugees’ plights

IMAGINE living out of a backpack; all your necessities for daily living packed into a single bag and carried on your back.
That is the challenge before students of Chairo Christian School’s Leongatha campus but it’s a daily reality for refugees around the world.
Chairo students will take part in World Vision’s 40 Hour Backpack Challenge to raise money and awareness of the 68.5 million refugees around the world, with a special event on the weekend of September 1.
Deputy principal Christine Hibma said, “Students will pack a backpack with items they need for 40 hours, such as food, bedding, toiletries and entertainment.”
During the event at the school, students will also take part in challenges set by World Vision to mimic the hardships faced by refugees, such as losing their bedding.
Games will be contested between students, parents and staff, and activities will offer an insight into life in a refugee camp, all while students carry their backpacks.
Ms Hibma said the backpack challenge was chosen in place of the traditional 40 hour famine given lugging a backpack was easier for the school’s younger students to manage than going without food.
“We want to teach our students to care for others and to show compassion and mercy,” she said.
The Leongatha school is aiming to raise $6000 through its 140 students from Prep to Year 10, matching the sum raised in 2017.
Students gathered for a special assembly to launch their backpack challenge last Thursday and were addressed by World Vision’s Libania Montalvao, a refugee from East Timor.
She vividly recalls the day when as a 13 year old, she was presenting at a school assembly when the sounds of gunfire rang out, as war began between East Timor and Indonesia.
Ms Montalvao rushed home and the next day, she packed whatever she could into a backpack and fled East Timor to Australia with her parents, brother and sister, arriving in Melbourne.
She was later granted Australian citizenship.
“It was really fantastic to be able to call Melbourne home,” Ms Montalvao said.
Her experience has since inspired her to help earthquake victims in Nepal by raising $30,000 towards rebuilding homes and buying food, and supporting an Indian orphanage for children whose parents died of HIV.

International thinking: World Vision’s Libania Montalvao, a refugee from East Timor, inspired students of Chairo Christian School, Leongatha, taking part in World Vision’s 40 Hour Backpack Challenge when she spoke at the school last Thursday.
The students are, front, from left, Anton Shields and Amber Hubbard; middle, Krysten Chalmers, Will van den Burg and Natasha Hibma; and back, Sky Keech, Rebecca Lunn and Grace Taylor.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=25545

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