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Mercedes students spread Christmas cheer to young mums

Mercedes College students will be spreading some festive cheer to those who need it most this Christmas, delivering special hampers to young mums living at MercyCare’s Coolock Units.

As part of the College’s Year 11 Children, Family and the Community Stage one WACE course, 15 students have been learning about homelessness and its impact on the community this semester, culminating in the creation of care package baskets to assist young homeless mothers in Perth.

Mercedes College Technology and Enterprise Teacher Carolyn Vlahov said the course had been supported by guest speaker MercyCare Youth Outreach Worker Christelle Venaille, who spoke to the students about the work of MercyCare’s Coolock Units Program which assists young mothers aged 18 to 25 who are at risk of homelessness.

Through the program, MercyCare provides up to six months medium term accommodation and support services, teaching the young women important life skills in areas ranging from cooking and cleaning to budgeting, parenting skills, linking with community, emotional support and practical support and assistance to find and maintain independent accommodation or housing.

Mrs Vlahov said the project always proved an invaluable experience for the students every year, opening their eyes to support people who most need help in the local community.

“It’s about helping the girls understand that homelessness is an issue which affects many different groups in the community, beyond the stereotypical images we see of people living on park benches,” Mrs Vlahov said.

“We are looking at how homelessness impacts different groups across society for different factors such as domestic violence, mental illness, substance abuse and unemployment holistically, and then focussing our efforts to help this particular group of young women with children.”

Thanks to donations from the College community, the Mercedes girls have collated five enormous baskets of goods to assist the young mums – including items varying from home-made baby quilts and baby clothing and toiletries.

Ms Venaille said while creating hamper baskets filled with goodies might seem like a small act of generosity, the young women living at Coolock Units enormously appreciated the gesture, especially in the lead-up to Christmas.

“Many of our clients accessing support through the Coolock Units program don’t have very high incomes and they can’t afford a lot of the things that go into the baskets, so it’s a really nice thing to know that someone has thought about them,” she said.

“The great thing about this program is it gives the students an insight into some of the issues that other young people not so dissimilar to them, can face.”