HIPPY helps bring hope to families

HIPPY helps bring hope to families

Starting school can be quite difficult when your parents don’t speak English very well or don’t really understand the Australian Education system. Children can lose confidence and become lonely in these early years if everyone else in the class seems to know what the teacher is talking about and they don’t.

That is why Uniting runs school readiness and HIPPY (Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters) programs for parents and children before they start school. There are programs in Liverpool, Fairfield, Chester Hill, Bidwill and on the Central Coast.

Every second Friday day at Fairfield Public School 30 active 4-5 year olds with a parent have fun engaging in learning in the Fairfield HIPPY program. Marta the co-ordinator and the parent tutors set up activity areas for the children with craft, reading and comprehension, maths and science activities. Parents are encouraged to engage in new activities with their children so they can learn together, listen to guest speakers and meet other parents. When parents have been coming for a year they may be invited to become a home tutor. The children are visited by a tutor fortnightly with structured activities to be done at home to create a positive approach to education and learning.

Tarek was four and didn’t speak at all. He often became frustrated because his family didn’t understand his needs. His mother, Souzan, consulted doctors and specialists and was told there was nothing wrong with him. When Souzan and Tarek started the HIPPY program they were encouraged to spend 10- 15 minutes a day doing HIPPY activities and were referred to a speech pathologist. Activities were adapted to Tarek’s interests and way of learning and he particularly enjoyed sorting out shapes and identifying colours.

One day at the HIPPY group meeting Tarek was eating a biscuit. A home tutor went over to him and said “You are eating a biscuit with red and blue smarties … my biscuit has yellow and red smarties”. Tarek looked at his biscuit and said “I got red and blue”. Souzan was ecstatic to hear her son speak. As time went on Tarek’s bond increased with his mother and so did his speaking and learning.

HIPPY isn’t only for children, parents often benefit as they build confidence and extend their learning. Parents are taught about the Australian Education system and how to grow their child’s confidence, relationships and learning.

Before becoming a HIPPY home visiting tutor, Elva had migrated to Australia with her husband and children and had no family or relatives here. Life was busy with her three children but thought it would benefit her daughter to enrol her in the HIPPY Fairfield program. After attending for a year she was asked to apply to become a paid casual HIPPY home visiting tutor. She asked her husband’s permission and applied for the position. “I applied for the job and it opened a new era of my life which is so amazing and gave lots of confidence and self -esteem in my life”. Elva went on to do a Diploma in Children’s Services at TAFE. She said “The magic door of my life is opened”.

The Fairfield HIPPY program is a place of opportunity and hope for young families. Fairfield has a vibrant multicultural community with 84.8% of the population born overseas. It has a high number of refugees with about 5000 arriving in 2016 and 1700 in the first five months of 2017 (Fairfield City Council).

Alongside the Church’s advocacy for refugees and asylum seekers Uniting programs like HIPPY and the ministry of Uniting Church congregations in Fairfield, Cabramatta and Abbotsbury are touching lives and bringing hope, in different ways, but all a part of God’s mission in the broader Fairfield community.

(Pictured) Irfana a refugee to Australia became a HIPPY tutor and completed Cert 3 in Children’s Services, she is pictured doing HIPPY educational activities with her daughter.

Tina Rendell-Thornton

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