Making a difference at St Benedict’s and beyond

Pope Francis said recently, at World Youth Day in Poland, “God is encouraging you to dream. He wants to make you see that, with you, the world can be different. For the fact is, unless you offer the best of yourselves, the world will never be different.”

It is inspiring to meet Sophie Bolch, Year 6 student at St Benedict’s Primary School, Edgeworth, who already understands what Pope Francis is saying. As President of her school’s Mini-Vinnie’s, Sophie is leading others to make a difference and offering the best of herself on a daily basis.

Teacher Michelle Collins, who guides the school’s Mini-Vinnie’s team, recently nominated Sophie for the Fred Hollows Humanity Award for her work in fundraising for those less fortunate and her “kindness towards others and the wonderful leader she is”.

“When I learned about the award I immediately knew I would nominate Sophie and when it came time to write the nomination the words just flowed out of me,” Miss Collins said.

“It was an easy thing to do because Sophie is just the most enthusiastic leader of Mini-Vinnie’s. The initiatives she instigates, the ideas she brings to the table are always fantastic. She wears her badge with pride.”

Sophie was thrilled to learn that Miss Collins had nominated her, but as Sophie’s mum Gwen notes, “she’s been very humble about it”.

“I was really excited about it. I knew who Fred Hollows was as we had talked about him at home and it was a charity I thought was really great,” said Sophie.

“In term four we fundraise for a secular charity and within days of being nominated Sophie approached me and asked if this year we could raise money for the Fred Hollows Foundation. That’s just Sophie in a nutshell – she does things without prompting, off her own bat,” said Miss Collins.

Sophie’s mum Gwen notes that Sophie has always been keen to help others and as a family they often do what they can to make a difference locally.

“We’ve always discussed with the kids that while we may not be the richest family we can always give to others. Sophie has always embraced this and happily donates things each Christmas,” said Mrs Bolch.

Miss Collins is a wonderful role model for Sophie and it is fantastic to witness their mutual respect.

“Being part of Mini-Vinnie’s goes way deeper than just raising money. It is about social justice, caring for the other and being a leader. Sophie understands and exemplifies these things,” said Miss Collins.

The school has recently undertaken to put into practice Pope Francis’ call to care for the environment via his encyclical Laudato Si.

“We have tried different initiatives over the course of four weeks, Sparky, Green Thumb, Waste Warriors and Wild Child where we have conserved energy, tended our gardens, brought food to school without plastic wrapping and enjoyed lessons outside where students are encouraged to look at and appreciate our environment. Sophie and the Mini Vinnie’s Team have been instrumental in this initiative,” said Miss Collins.

You can see that this experience has had a wonderful effect on Sophie and will no doubt continue to inspire her to make a difference throughout her life.

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Joanne Isaac Image
Joanne Isaac

Joanne is a Communications Officer for the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and a regular columnist for Aurora Magazine.