Calvary Lutheran Primary School in Morphett Vale has big plans for the creation of a community hub – one that will help change the lives of struggling and vulnerable local families. The hub would provide a safe space where those facing challenges such as abuse, neglect and poverty could access a range of support programs and services, with the aim of reducing childhood trauma and adversity within the community. With the vision for the facility well formed, the school now hopes to find ways they can fund the project.
‘A school with a beating heart’ is how Principal Angela Branford describes Calvary. There is an overwhelming sense of warmth and genuine care at the school, something that struck Angela the moment she arrived ten years ago.
“I had been in schools that were indeed caring, however this was different,” she says. “It was like nothing I had really experienced before.”
It was an incident that happened six years ago that Angela says opened her eyes to the difference the school community can make in the lives of its families, and planted the seed of the idea that was to become the Calvary Community Hub vision.
“It was a Tuesday morning and I had just finished my morning duty and ‘rounds’ to make sure all of our little people were in one piece and settled as best as they could be in class. I had just sat down and begun to check my emails when a parent appeared in my doorway. This was not uncommon as we have a fairly open door policy, however what was different was that she was bleeding from the face and head, she had bruising on her face, arms and shoulders and she was standing there silently.”
When Angela jumped up to help, the mother began to sob. As staff tended to her, cleaning her face and bringing ice packs for her bruises, they discovered what had happened. The woman’s partner, who was also her dealer, had assaulted her in a drug-fuelled rage that morning, the attack happening in front of her two young daughters. Escaping the home with her girls, she knew the only place she could go was the school.
“She said that she knew that she and the girls would be safe here, that we wouldn’t judge her and that we would help her work out what to do next,” says Angela. “This broke my heart – she was a young, caring, amazing mum who found herself in this situation due to poor choice making and a lack of strong supportive networks.
“What made me even sadder was that the only person she felt she could safely come to was the principal of her children’s school. She had no other support network – we were it for her.”
Together with the school community Angela walked alongside the mum and her family, supporting her to attend drug rehab sessions, developing a volunteer role at the school for her so she could find purpose in her days, and helping her to furnish her home when she relocated. After several years the family moved to a new community, with their lives headed in a new, hopeful direction.
This experience, and others like it, was the catalyst for the community hub concept, one that Angela was led to through a process of research, community consultation and collaboration with architect Peter Moeck.
Peter’s design concept sees the hub at the heart of the campus, with a circular central space intended to ‘warmly embrace’ users, against a backdrop of lush garden and a green wall. The area is flexible and can be used open-plan or sectioned off with curtains and sliding doors for privacy. The ceiling features a unique sunshine pattern with radiating timber strips, reflecting the theme of hope.
It is anticipated that the hub would become a prominent support base for the existing co-located Calvary Community, using a model based on Lutheran Community Care’s Family Zone – supporting adults so that children, and their families, can thrive.
“Building trust and rapport is the key to a long-term relationship and change, for improved lifelong outcomes,” says Angela.
While the designs and plans for the Calvary Community Hub are well underway, the school is still exploring how they will secure funding for the project and welcome input and connection with anyone who may be able to assist them to reach their goal.