St Mary’s pupils cooking with compassion


Serving a four-course dinner to a family facing hard times is how Chefs for Compassion instil in their young chefs the value of caring and respecting the dignity of other people.
Chefs for Compassion, according to founder Martin Smith, is a programme that gives back to the community,
and at the same time invests in young people by instilling in them the value of compassion.

Mr Smith said the idea started when he read an article about the Salvation Army noting a significant increase in the number of families needing food parcels. “We contacted them (Salvation Army) and told them we did not want to treat the families as though they were needy, but to honour them with dignity
and with respect. We know they were worthy of nothing but our respect,” he said.
The dinner menus would include expensive items like crayfish to demonstrate the families deserve the best.
St Mary’s School, Northcote, where Mr Smith’s children, Luke and Ella, study, was the first to adopt the programme.
Associate principal Judy Lane said the programme started last year. Thirty-five students, who volunteered
to take part in the programme, put up two dinners each term.
“The aim for the children is to offer the very best for a family, treating them as VIPs and welcoming them as friends. They create a four-course meal and provide an evening of joy and offer the best of themselves throughout the evening,” she said.
The students draw up the menu, present it to the family for approval, and plan the evening with the help of their parents.
They get financial help from the Rotary Club of Birkenhead and the Catholic Caring Foundation, as well as parents who own fruit and vegetable shops, and from the local butcher.
Catholic Caring general manager Darragh O’ Riordan observed the positive effects the programme had on the
“The children of St Mary’s Primary are able to demonstrate their values through the work of Chefs for Compassion while promoting caring for community in a relevant and literal way,” said Ms O’Riordan. “They also learn through this community service, that not all children are born with the same privileges or opportunities.”
On the night of the dinner, the students, who cooked the meal with the help of their parents, welcome the
families and serve them.
Year 6 student Henry Grant said he was happy to be able to serve the families.
“The joy you feel is inexplicable,” he said.
Mrs Lane said the programme also provides the children with leadership training. “They are required to speak and honour these families with dignity and decorum,” she said.
Mr Smith said the families are recognised for their courage in trying times.
The families are often nominated by the Open Home Foundation or the Salvation Army. After dinner, they are presented with certificates in recognition of their courage.

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Rowena Orejana

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