The Uniting Church WA has a number of positive international partnerships that congregations and individuals can support through the International Partnership and Development Commission – formally known as the UnitingWorld WA Commission. One of these partnerships is with the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka; the Uniting Church WA has currently agreed to help financially support their ‘Interfaith Preschool Project’.
South Perth Uniting Church and Wesley College recently teamed up to hold a Bollywood Dinner raising funds for this goal – building a partnership, not only with the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka, but with each other. Ten Wesley College students participated on the night, welcoming guests, serving food, clearing tables and selling raffle tickets. The school also provided the venue and decorated it in stunning Bollywood style.
Susy Thomas, member of South Perth Uniting Church and also Chair of the International Partnership and Development Commission, said that the event was a great success, raising $3 800 for the project. Not only that, but it was loads of fun.
The night included an Indian dinner, Bollywood dancing and a presentation from Geoff Bice and Kate Leaney from the Uniting Church WA Social Justice Unit, as well as opportunities to ask questions about the project.
The event was a great opportunity for members of the school community to learn more about the Uniting Church WA’s partnership.
“It was a lot of fun,” Susy said. “We were extremely happy!
“Of course we raised some money and that is a high point, but also people came to know that such a project is in existence in Sri Lanka, supported by the Uniting Church WA.
“It was advertised through Wesley College, as well as through the church, so there was a lot of the school community there.
“Many people were not aware of what is happening in the church, so that was a high point for the parents who were there, the school community and the [students].”
Susy said it is important to the congregation to build a relationship with Wesley College, as they are both part of the same wider community.
“Wesley College is basically opposite our church, and we are getting to be an older congregation like many of the other churches,” Susy said. “Church is not just a building, church is a community – we’re very mindful of that. We’ve got to be relevant in the community.
“When we have a [Uniting Church WA] school that is basically opposite the church, we feel it’s extremely important the church is relevant in the school community. When events like this are happening we can open up and say ‘these are the things the Uniting Church does’.”
Last year, Susy joined other passionate Uniting Church members and travelled to Sri Lanka to personally visit the Methodist Church’s Interfaith Preschool Project. The preschools are located in rural, war torn areas of the country, where many families are vulnerable to poverty. Through the partnership, the Uniting Church WA helps provide a local teacher’s salary, as well as one meal and a glass of milk per day for each child, in five different preschools. The project reaches about 150 children in total.
“It was fantastic to see something you’re praying for and raising money for,” Susy said. “It was a lovely trip and we enjoyed every moment of it.
“It’s a multi-faith community – Christian kids are there, Muslims, Buddhist, Hindus, all sorts of kids. It’s a safe environment and is giving them a start with basic education and social aspects.
“It was absolutely amazing to see the kids. Some kids had never seen anybody outside their community.”
As well as support from South Perth Uniting Church and Wesley College, Uniting Church in the City hold an annual Curry Lunch to fundraise for this project, and donations from congregations such as Mount Pleasant and St Stephen’s Applecross Uniting Churches also go a long way in supporting the Sri Lankan Preschool Project.
But we can do more.
Uniting Church WA congregations are invited to get involved in supporting our international partnerships by organising their own fundraising events, making a donation, or inviting the Social Justice Team to come and share some of their amazing work in this field with their community.
Susy said that getting involved with these projects is not just about raising or donating money, but about being part of something bigger – and that is an exciting thing to be a part of.
“Whatever way [congregations] can support this is amazing,” she said.
For more information on the Sri Lankan Interfaith Preschools Project, or to find out how you can get involved in this and other international partnerships, contact Geoff Bice, Social Justice Consultant at the Uniting Church WA on 9260 9800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.