During the last school holidays, Northpine Christian College sent 75 students from Years 10-12 and several staff on their annual missions of community service. It was part of a greater youth initiative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church called STORM CO which is an acronym that stands for “Service To Others Really Matters Company.” Northpine’s participants were divided into three groups—two went to the rural Queensland communities of Eidsvold and Blackwater, and the other group went all the way to Cambodia.
On the first Sunday of the holidays, the first STORM Co group of over 20 students, staff and parents climbed into a bus and drove to Eidsvold. While in Eidsvold, they stayed at the Eidsvold Christian Centre. The Northpine students involved ran kids clubs for local children that consisted of board games, touch football, music and Bible stories. The group helped the Eidsvold Historical Centre and RM Williams Info Centre with various outdoor projects. They also helped local families with outdoor work, including gardening, mowing and rubbish removal.
While refueling at a local service station, Northpine Chaplain Neil Redman began a conversation with an employee there named Melissa. Melissa told Neil, “I wish that you could know how big of an impact STORM CO has on the Eidsvold Community. It is the best event that comes to Eidsvold.” Local children have pictures from past STORM COs on their walls, and many in the community look forward to this event all year.
At the start of the second week, a group of 20 students, staff and parents endured an 11 hour bus ride to Blackwater. They stayed at the Blackwater Anglican Church during the week. This group ran a kids club for local children at the Police Citizens Youth Club (PCYC). The Northpine students entertained the kids with face painting, crafts, games and story time. They found time to help the Blackwater Coal Centre with mulching and gardening. During this week the Northpine students helped launch Blackwater’s NAIDOC Week celebrations. They then drove up the road to Comet and helped locals with more outdoor and gardening work, all the while giving the local Woolworths a substantial amount of business.
One of the sergeants at the PCYC said that among the community Northpine students were “considered locals”. He was particularly thankful for STORM CO this year. Blackwater has endured a small number of heartbreaking suicides recently and was in need of the positivity that Storm Co brings.
As the two Queensland teams undertook their community service trips, another small group of Northpine students and staff were about 7,000 kms away in Cambodia. This is a trip that Northpine does biannually. On 25 June, they flew to Siem Reap, Cambodia via Singapore. They then found their accommodation at See Change International’s training centre in Kampong Thom. Most days, the students taught conversational English to local children. On one of the days, they carried out a well restoration project at a small school. They also did landscaping and built important pathways to walk on during the wet season to avoid the mud. Later on in the trip they planted trees at a church in need of shade.
Sarah Redman, one of Northpine’s Chaplains who went to Cambodia, says that the trip provided both the Australians and Cambodians with exciting experiences, new perspectives and lifelong memories.
“Many of the Cambodia students make beautiful braided bracelets and intricate drawings as gifts for our students to show their appreciation. There was one student who received a farewell letter from one of our NCC students during our 2015 Cambodia StormCo trip and still carried this with her on a daily basis as a precious memory of our visit.”
It wasn’t just the Cambodian students who were appreciative. Sarah said that the local school’s principal was, “so overwhelmed with what we had done! Through a translator she shared how very grateful she was and how amazed that we would come all the way to help them. She promised that the children will lovingly care for the plants we planted and will remember our visit always.”
The Cambodia group didn’t spend all of their time working. They witnessed the largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat. On another day they saw the Landmines Museum and learned about the ongoing problem the country has had with landmines. On the way back to Australia, they spent several hours in Singapore looking at the hanging gardens.
Even though all the students are back and have started Term 3, they have not stopped talking about STORM CO. It not only had an impact on the communities they visited but also affected their own lives. Year 11 student Tristan Carins said,
“I made new friends and I now have an extended family. This trip opened my eyes and I met and got to grow closer to some pretty amazing and life-changing people. I met some amazing kids in Cambodia, some of whom I got to create really strong bonds with. I came back with a stronger connection with the people around me and myself.”
Teams of students who went on the STORM CO trips have been sharing their adventures in school chapels and local church services. Multiple Bible study groups have begun among the students involved in STORM CO as a result of their shared experiences. Most of them are ready to return next year. If you would like to volunteer to help with a STORM CO trip at Northpine Christian College in the future, please contact Northpine’s Chaplaincy Office or email email@example.com.