Before coronavirus sent students at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School Randwick home to learn remotely, they rallied for a day to support a school hours from their own that was devastated by the bushfires that swept NSW this summer.

The school held a day of fundraising activities that spanned all areas of the curriculum and raised close to $20,000 for St Mary’s Primary School Moruya, on the NSW south coast, and wildlife rescue organisation WIRES.

Year 3 teacher Melissa Curry, one of the event’s coordinators, knew of the community after living in nearby Mollymook as a teenager and visiting Moruya to play basketball.  She said the principal of St Mary’s was overwhelmed by the offer of help at a tough time.

“Her school had also been evacuated in week three of the term because of the torrential rain. It had been flooded,” Ms Curry said.

“Last year we had a fundraiser through our parish to help build a bridge in Zambia, and I think we’ve kept that sentiment going. We’re building bridges with another community, and it is another community that the children could meet and holiday with.

“We’re going to become pen pals and forge a bond with St Mary’s that will last a lifetime, hopefully.”

Kindergarten student Elijah Frangi followed the footsteps of his older brother who has started his own charity and contributed $750 to the total raised through a walk-a-thon, read-a-thon and stalls during the March fundraiser. He said his family contributed the money “so they can continue their learning”.

We’re going to … forge a bond with St Mary’s that will last a lifetime.

– Melissa Curry

The fundraiser’s activities also helped hone students mathematics skills, literacy and creative side through the creation of two books with thoughts, prayers and drawings each for St Mary’s and WIRES.

The bushfires also tied in with science lessons on the environment and sustainability, aboriginal history and the gospel value of stewardship, with the students asked to consider how best to care for the environment.

The walk-a-thon ticked PDHPE goals. During the read-a-thon students started to record hours for the Premier’s Reading Challenge, an activity that many students are continuing remotely due to the government’s efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

Everyone was having so much fun, but it also benefits another school.

– Zara Paterson

Year 4 student Nicole Damiani opted for an entrepreneurial approach to the social justice initiative and held her own cake stall.

“I made cupcakes and my grandma’s famous chocolate balls,” Nicole said. “St Mary’s is going through a lot of trouble and I wanted to help out a bit.”

School captain Zara Paterson, in Year 6, said Moruya was special to her because members of her extended family had a holiday house nearby and she knew people from the community.

“They’re so happy that our school had the kindness and generosity to support them,” she said.

“In science we look at endangered species and most of them are from bushfires and loss of habitat. I really liked the walk-a-thon. You could tell that everyone was having so much fun, but it also benefits another school.”