Thursday, 18 December 2008

schoolies, red frogs and all that

Every year, in what has become a traditional rite of passage, thousands of teens who have just completed their schooling, descend on a number of beachside locations and generally go nuts. The biggest location is "Surfers", the beachside location of Surfers Paradise south of Brisbane.

It's almost a coming of age ritual, a way of celebrating the end of the tension of completing the Higher School Certificate, and, for some, a way to party until they drop. It's called "Schoolies", or "Schoolies week". And along with the fun comes the inevitable problems - drunkenness, drugs, high-spirited behaviour gone wrong, accidents, even exploitation by sexual predators. Local communities can benefit financially, but can still be wary of the cost.

A decade ago, a Brisbane church wanted to do something to help the kids have their fun, but provide support from those at risk. And so Red Frogs was born, and it has now grown to a nationwide movement with almost 2000 volunteers, 9 tonnes of confectionery, and a big welcome from schoolies and local communities.

No doubt the system varies a little in different places, but it basically involves:

  • young volunteers spending a week or two living in the big schoolies locations - in many cases, they live in the same hotels and apartments as the kids and act as "hotel chaplains";
  • the volunteers give out Red Frogs (this year donated by Nestle who makes them), a confectionery popular with the kids, make pancakes, hold BBQs, clean rooms and generally make positive contact with the kids;
  • the stay up late and walk kids home who might otherwise be incapable of getting there themselves, or who might be vulnerable, and are on call to help out in any way necessary;
  • on occasions, they are able to intervene in more serious situations, such as illness, accident or attempted suicide.

From all reports, the Red Frogs teams are well received and well respected. Some of the schoolies find the week away isn't exactly what they wanted, and the Red Frogs team can provide welcome relief which can develop into ongoing friendships. It's a great example of christian kids putting their faith into practice by doing something that is seriously useful.

Check out the Red Frogs website, the Citipoint church Red Frogs page, and reports by national and local media.

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