Chaplain is helping little children in tough times
WHILE the furore surrounding the chaplaincy program in Australian schools plays out in the courts, local Christian group Aglow recently invited Casino West Primary School chaplain Wendy Boniface to speak about the work she does.
Ms Boniface was a high school teacher for 14 years and a scripture teacher for 30 years and had seen plenty of children who needed special care. The desire to help those children prompted her to undertake training to become a chaplain.
Became a Chaplain
"I did my training down in Iluka and Maclean," Ms Boniface said.
"Then I was teaching scripture at Casino West Public School when I asked the principal if they wanted a chaplain."
The school was very keen to have "all hands on deck" and Ms Boniface assumed the role as chaplain in July 2012 while still teaching scripture.
"The chaplain is not a counsellor," she said.
"I think there should be a new word, the verb chaplaining, because as a chaplain you listen, you love, you encourage and you give them a way to help solve their issues."
In the Deep End
Ms Boniface said she felt like she had been thrown in the deep end on her first day in the role, spending time with three young children who had been suspended.
"One little girl just held my hand tightly the whole time," she said.
"As a chaplain I get to be the sunny spot in some children's lives."
Some of the issues she has had to deal with include bullying, dysfunctional family lives and stress and anxiety in teaching lessons.
"Adults have enough trouble getting through tough stuff, so little children also have a tough time," she said.
Ms Boniface runs class lessons with the children on positive thinking, communication skills and resolving grief issues.
"I also have smaller groups where we do painting, play doh, puzzles and craft," she said.
"It teaches children to play together or can highlight some of the issues to be dealt with.
"As a Christian chaplain I'm not allowed to talk with children about God unless they ask me."
Ms Boniface said she would eventually like to speak to government representatives about the children's needs that she deals with.
"I just don't think they know what really goes on sometimes," she said.