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Erin Kennedy is an Advocate For Youth: A Teacher Talks About Using Painting as a Teaching Medium

Erin Kennedy is a second year teacher who specialises in drama and language. She also teaches religion at Our Lady’s College at Annerley, in Brisbane. AU. She is a keen advocate and participant of the Edmund Rice Camps for children. Edmund Rice Camps “provide quality activity based holiday experiences for kids (7 – 15) who otherwise would not be able to have such a holiday.” Because many of the kids who are participants on camps come from what could be considered as marginalised or disadvantaged backgrounds, they are not charged to come along. While kids are on camps, parents and families often experience the break from struggle as a “respite”. [Interviewed by email and in person on 2nd Nov. 2008]

The Nature of Edmund Rice Camps

So that the ministry can continue, the organizers depend on the generosity of the young adult leaders. These young people give freely of their time and talents. These young leaders endeavour to be attentive and positive role models for the children. The intention is to maintain a just environment. By acting as role models, the leaders help impart the vision of Edmund Rice. The camps last a week through the holidays and they are full of fun and laughter.

When she is on these camps, Erin and the other mentors use art and drama to vitalise the camp experience. Erin also uses an artistic approach to her work as a religion teacher.

The Value of Art as a Teaching Medium

Art is always a good way to get to know students and young children. She finds that students relax and feel free to share while they are having fun and expressing their ideas and feelings. Friendships and a love of personal investigation into all things social are kindled this way

As well as this Erin has also found another way to companion and teach young people. She is a painter and her work is often about her passion for justice. The picture you see her holding is of her latest painting.

The Synergy of “The Fire and the Spirit”

Some of those children who have come on camps as “little buddies” return as volunteers to become “big buddies”. The opportunities ERC provides for children to gain confidence, acceptance, and experience encouragement and support are all gifts that those who return as volunteer leaders are then able to give back. This is a beautiful example of how the camps experience creates a positive ripple effect that recreates itself through the growth it allows. Erin has captured this synergetic ripple effect in this painting called “The Fire and the Spirit”.

In the picture, the dove represents the Holy Spirit, which contains that potential; the child held within its core, vulnerable and awaiting the chance to be unfurled and reach out the same way they have been reached out to, to love in the same way they have been loved.

“If we know nothing else, it is that we are all here to love and be loved,” Erin says.

The dove passes through flame to reach the peace filled flowing and cool waters, and returns to the sky of the air that one breathes. The power of flame, despite its destructive ability, is its transformative power, that when harnessed, “warms us, feeds us, protects us.”

Empowerment of Children

She goes on to explain. ERC kids, like that very flame, can be misunderstood as destructive, and considered unwanted, as a flickering flame to be extinguished. But Edmund Rice Camps is about flaring up that flame to burn as it ought to burn, to bring life as it was made to bring, and to let the bird in the child to fly as it was made to fly.

These are powerful words to match a powerful image created by an inspiring young teacher.