Keeping Community Alive in a Pandemic
World Mental Health Day on 10 October focuses on the ongoing impact COVID-19 is having on well-being worldwide. Loreto schools continue to face the challenges of the pandemic, particularly the uncertainty of sudden lockdowns and the enduring nature of lockdowns in some areas. Young people in their care face complex social, emotional, and psychological factors. The World Health Organisation’s 2022 World Mental Health Day campaign will showcase the worldwide efforts made to provide mental health care during the pandemic. Loreto schools have navigated educating and caring for their young people in varied ways across different platforms and continue to modify and innovate to ensure the ongoing care of their students.
Loreto Vietnam faces immense challenges but uses the pandemic as an opportunity to reflect on how to live and better contribute. They moved quickly to ensure no child was left behind by distributing school packs, providing medical resources to orphanages, supporting special schools with safety and hygiene products as well as nutrition packs and initiating a health insurance scheme for poor and fragile students.
Like many schools, Loreto Toorak had to reimagine their Happy Week and Feast Day activities which were fun and creative, requiring a sense of humour, some skill, Felicity and a bit of friendly competition. Using online platforms meant that students and staff could dress up, bring their pets to school and show off their talent. Loreto Toorak also continued nurturing the spirit by including a Living More Sustainably day.
Loreto Normanhurst worked to keep their community connected and spirits high in what has been a lengthy lockdown in Sydney, with initiatives engaging students, staff and parents. Virtual community events included: It Takes a Village Parent Engagement program, a Father-Daughter Pancake Breakfast for primary students, and live-streamed Fathers’ Day and Mothers’ Day liturgies. IN-SPIRO Day (inspired by Loreto Kirribilli) was a ‘pop-up well-being day’ to provide a circuit breaker during remote learning. The students were provided with a pack of activities encouraging mindfulness, nature, creativity, prayer, meditation, and connection with family or community.
Loreto Kirribilli’s Felicity Fridays, Motivational Mondays and Workout Wednesdays helped students and staff unplug from technology and screens to keep physically active as they celebrated their community through the Tokyo Olympics. Athletes offered messages of motivation; the community participated in the Walk to Tokyo Olympic Challenge, logging over 7800 km. Connection was maintained via live-streamed assemblies and even Principal’s lunches with Year 12 students.
Because Queensland has, so far, escaped extended lockdowns, Loreto Coorparoo was able to maintain many in-person events such as Mission Day, National Reconciliation Week and whole school assemblies that build and sustain community. However, during any sudden lockdown Vit@L (Virtual Integrated Teaching @ Loreto) has meant teaching and learning and pastoral care can continue seamlessly. This includes check-ins with homeroom teachers each day, following a regular timetable and even doing PE, Science experiments and cooking at home. Sports challenges have also continued. The school instigated a school dog program with visits from a staff member’s dog on occasions.
Loreto Ballarat has faced eight lockdowns in the past two years, varying in length from a week to a couple of months. Throughout this time, the community has creatively adapted ways to keep community and spirit alive. They reinvented traditional events such as Gonzaga Barry Day, Walkathon and sport and music to fit into the virtual space. Year 12 students in 2020 and 2021 received Exam Care packages, including practice exams and other fun and memento items to inspire them.
Students have used social media to engage their peers throughout the time.
Author: Andreia Wigan, Director of Mission, Loreto College Coorparoo
Feature Image: Loreto Kirribilli students picking up their graduation package