WORLD VIEW: Mount St Patrick College students Grace Smith and Billi Lansky are off to Nepal with teacher Jim Smith instead of going to Schoolies.
WORLD VIEW: Mount St Patrick College students Grace Smith and Billi Lansky are off to Nepal with teacher Jim Smith instead of going to Schoolies. Scott Powick

Charity work replacing drunken Schoolies antics

FOR most Year 12 students, celebrating the end of their school lives is done amid much partying and mayhem at Schoolies on the Gold Coast.

But a group of five students from across the Lismore Diocese, including two from Murwillumbah’s Mount St Patrick College, are determined to dispell the repution of their generation.

Instead of drinking it up with their mates, Mt St Pat’s school captain Billi Lansky, and her classmate Grace Smith plan to undertake charity work at an orphanage in Nepal.

“We all just wanted to do something different instead of the usual Schoolies,” Billi said.

“We are already so close to the Gold Coast and you never hear a good story about people going to the Schoolies on the Gold Coast. We just wanted to do something different with our time.”

Billi, who hopes to study international relations at university next year, said she and her friends had approached their teacher, Jim Smith, who does a lot of volunteer work in Nepal and India. Mr Smith, a science teacher from Cabarita, set up the charity organisation ‘The Pencil Tree’ three years ago, with aims to purchase educational equipment for poorly funded schools in rural areas of the Sub-Continent.

The organisation raises money by collecting donated mobile phones that are no longer used, and selling them in India and Nepal with all proceeds used to purchase the school equipment.

“His work is incredible and his dedication to this is something that inspired us all to embark on this journey of Schoolies with a difference,” Billi said.

“We will be travelling to Nepal to volunteer for four weeks at eco villages, orphanages, children’s homes, and schools. This will be a life changing trip which will be very different to the typical Schoolies.”

Mr Smith will chaperone the school-leavers, who will embark on their tour after graduating in November, working together with Nepal-based charity Hands with Hands, which promotes self-sustaining practices at its orphanages, including using local materials which are earthquake resistant.

“The kids are going to be working there each day with the kids, playing games, helping them with their homework, practising their English, that sort of stuff,” Mr Smith said.

This is the first time Mr Smith has taken students on such a tour, and if successful, they may repeat the event next year.

“The whole idea is it will be a life-long lesson while they are just starting their adult lives,” Mr Smith said.

“Hopefully it opens up their eyes as to what’s out there and it might even help them in the direction they are choosing to take in their own careers and lives.”

  • Visit The Pencil Tree on Facebook.


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