Creating community with BaptistCare HopeStreet Warilla North’s Breakfast Club

In a day and age where school mornings seem like a mad dash for the door, Gaynor understands the importance of a sit-down meal. She’s seen the result of it on up to forty children on any given school day over the last four years.

Gaynor volunteers at the Breakfast Club, which serves a nutritious breakfast to children aged from Kindergarten to Year Six at Mount Warrigal Primary School, in the Illawarra.

“We see a lot of children enjoy the structure of the Brekky Club. I’m not sure a lot of kids sit down at a table for their morning meals these days. But here, they often like to spend the whole morning there,” says Gaynor.

“Over the years, I have seen children develop skills they didn’t have before. When I first started, we were doing everything for them. And while we’re always here to help the youngest, most children like to do things themselves. They get their own drinks and put vegemite on their toast,” said Gaynor.

“We also see the development of social skills; it being a social environment. Some kids have grown from being unable to connect with others, to being really social with other children.”

It’s not just Gaynor and the other volunteers that notice the change such mornings bring. Contributing further to the old adage that ‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day’, teachers at the school are witnessing a difference in the classroom too.

“We’ve had teachers give us a lot of feedback. They’ve noticed the difference between the attention span of the children who weren’t having breakfast before, but are having it now,” said Gaynor.

Beyond filling bellies for a long day of learning, the Breakfast Club creates a small reprieve for local parents.

“It’s a good program for children of working parents who have to leave for work early. It offers them a level of support too,” said Gaynor.

At school, there’s no on-duty teacher in the playground until 8.30am, so if drop-off is required beforehand, children are in the playground by themselves.

“The children can come join us, enjoy a sit-down meal and some company. It fills that morning childcare gap some families experience.”

When Gaynor’s own son, Hayden, was attending the primary school, early mornings were a family affair. “My son would come and help. It was his way of giving back to his community.”

“He would race in and set up. It encouraged other kids to pick up a tea towel and help. It also enabled him to get to know some of the children from school better.”

Her son’s presence enabled Gaynor to form important friendships too. “The best thing out of the Brekky Club was meeting a local lady, Gina. She had no family here. Her son is in Darwin and her daughter is in Perth, so Gina is alone in the area as she lost her husband twelve years ago.”

“My son and Gina became very close. Now she’s part of the family. My Hayden has become like a grandson to her.”

“Thanks to the Brekky Club, I have three strong friendships with other women who also volunteer,” said Gaynor.

Both Gaynor and Gina recently supported their friend and fellow Breakfast Club volunteer Claudia through her rehabilitation from recent major surgery.

Gaynor is central to the success of BaptistCare HopeStreet Warilla North’s Breakfast Club and encourages the other team members to build relationships with the local school age children.

“Outside of the Brekky Club, the kids always wave and say hello. It’s lovely to connect. They like to come in and tell us their news,” said Gaynor. “A few of them are playing team sports, so we get the weekend game results, and a lengthy rundown of what they did on school holidays.”

BaptistCare HopeStreet acknowledges the powerful and important work that 1000 volunteers, just like Gaynor, contribute to their communities, right across their care organisation. National Volunteer Week is from 21 – 27 May, 2018.