Our friends at The Big Issue are in party mode for the organisation’s 20 year anniversary. So we thought it was time we shared the story of our relationship with The Big Issue Classroom, and the ways we work together with young people in the community.

What do we have in common?

Well, we both work with people from challenging life circumstances and we’re both all for creating positive change for people and the community.  But it runs deeper than that – empowerment and connection are at the heart of both organisations’ work, as we discovered when we went to a Big Issue Classroom session at the Centre of Adult Education with a group of young people on City Camp from Warburton Primary School last week.

The Big Issue Classroom – guest speaker with Danya Sterling

The Big Issue Classroom experience

What’s it all about? The Big Issue Classroom educates young people about homelessness, disadvantage and the challenges facing society. The workshops include activities, talks and insights from a guest speaker, who shares their first-hand experience with these issues. The speakers’ stories help break down stereotypes and promote greater understanding among the student groups according to Danya Sterling, Manager of Education Enterprises at The Big Issue.

In the classroom, things like marginalisation, the importance of work and community were addressed along with exploring the stereotypes, preconceptions and misconceptions associated with homelessness.

A central exercise of the Big Issue Classroom was building a tower block from blocks labelled with essential elements required for a happy life – things like education, family, employment, home. In doing this, young people soon realised the importance of these elements and the detrimental effects of removing one of these blocks, metaphorically and literally.

Empowerment & Connectedness

These are two powerful words. And two powerful concepts that run through the core values of both Doxa and The Big Issue Classroom.

Connecting to the community and empowering individuals to facilitate change in their own lives are both hugely important. We see it at Doxa all the time across our programs portfolios of positive life experiences, education opportunities and employment pathways. Much of the focus of our work is empowering young people who are experiencing challenging life circumstances, supporting them and providing them with the opportunity to develop personal and professional skills to get them into meaningful employment.

As part of the Big Issue Classroom we also met Shane, who experienced a long period of homelessness after his father passed away ten years ago, sending him into a spiral of disillusionment, despair and isolation. By hearing his story first hand, the young people from Warburton Primary were able to connect with the ideas and link the concepts explored so far.

Danya elaborates on this, explaining that by sharing their own stories of making positive changes in their lives, the guest speakers show student groups what is possible. She adds that it’s important for young people to recognise the value of a support network and realise it’s OK to ask for help when they need it.

Creating positive change

Once again, this is a key concept for us at Doxa – our programs are aimed at inspiring and creating positive change first in individual’s life and then facilitating a cascading effect across the wider community.

We spoke to two  young people from Warburton Primary School about their thoughts and how they would like to help address homelessness in their communities. As they found, by attending a Doxa City Camp and participating in the Big Issue Classroom experience, they gained a better perspective on social issues, community and wellbeing.

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Jasmine from Warburton Primary School on a Doxa City Camp

Jasmine, aged 12:

I learned that almost half of homeless people are women and 1 in 5 are primary school age or younger. I feel that we should do a lot more to help. I feel sad whenever I pass homeless people as I wish they had a home. Everyone deserves that.

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Dylan from Warburton Primary School on a Doxa City Camp

Dylan, aged 12:

I learned that there are 105,000 people homeless in Australia every night and just how important it is to stay happy. I wish the homeless weren’t in that position. I wish they had better lives. The Big Issue Classroom has given me a lot of perspective on homeless people. If I could help, I would give them money, food, water but most importantly a home.

The Big Issue are celebrating their 20 year anniversary this year! Find out more about that here.
And finally – huge thanks to Nicole and Danya at the Big Issue and staff and students at Warburton Primary School.