Lucy's frontline mission
Early childhood educators are so often the unsung heroes of our communities, and if this pandemic has taught us anything, it is just how crucial their work is for our modern society to function.
Throughout this stressful and uncertain crisis, early childhood education staff have not only had their own individual positions to be considerate of, but also the various situations facing each and every one of the families they are in contact with every day.
At a time where no one can be blamed for putting personal health and happiness first, 28-year-old educator Lucille Kent wanted to do something special for her Hawthorn Early Years (HEY) colleagues, to show them just how much they are appreciated.
Feeling inspired after attending a Beyond Blue ‘BeYou’ meeting, Lucy came up with the idea to create wellness packs and began to reach out to businesses for donations.
“When sending out the first few emails I did not know what I was getting myself into,” Lucy admits.
“I was blown away with the response, support and love that I received.
“I spent most of my spare time over the next few weeks replying to hundreds of emails and shortly after, the donations started showing up.
“The packs contained a lot of wellness products such as, magnesium bath salts, sleep spray, organic skin care samples, collagen and protein powders, skin care face masks, lip balms and vegan chocolates.”
When Lucy approached Own Kind’s Nick Austin with her idea, telling him of the work she and her colleagues had persevered with while the pandemic was in full swing, he jumped at the chance to be involved.
“It was a no brainer to show our appreciation for, not only the teachers, but especially for Lucy’s selfless act,” Nick says.
“It is times like these true characters shine right!”
While she says she faced limited challenges in setting up the initiative, Lucy confesses her greatest test was trying to keep it a secret from her fellow staff!
“I’m not very good at keeping secrets at the best of times, especially when it’s a secret that was as exciting as this one,” she laughs.
“It was a total surprise for everyone at HEY when I went around one day and handed each other team members their very own wellbeing goodie bag.
“It was a day full of tears of enjoy, laughter and smiles.”
Staff were elated to receive the gifts.
Fellow HEY employee Charlotte Lewis says it felt as though her Christmas and Birthday had all come at once.
“It really made my day,” she beamed.
“It's incredibly moving to know that so many businesses are showing their support despite the challenges they are potentially facing during this time.”
The COVID-19 situation has been hard on everyone, Lucy says it has impacted each employee and family of the HEY community in different ways, but she is proud of the way they have all come together with love and support for one another to get through it.
“I feel closer to my work colleagues and families at HEY because we have all learned from one another through the everyday challenges that we have faced,” she smiles.
She admits that early educators do often feel forgotten as frontline workers and she hopes that more people can come to understand just how much they service the community as a whole.
“All over the world, we were deemed as essential workers very early on in the world-wide pandemic – but our sector is often overlooked when it comes to acknowledging the efforts of the frontline workers during COVID-19,” she says.
“While many organisations shut their doors as the pandemic accelerated, early education organisations were required to stay open to support other essential workers.
“Other frontline industries stayed open and continued their roles in relative safety by wearing face masks and implementing social distancing, which is just not an option for us in early childhood education.
“We were also one of the first industries to lose Job Keeper payments which was a safety net for most of the industry.”
While times can often be tough, Lucy holds nothing but positive thoughts and feelings for the future and looks forward to a long career in the industry she loves while connecting her local community even further.
“I hope this is just the beginning for me - next year I’ll have a new classroom, a new age group and new opportunities,” she says.
“One of my main goals to connect further with the wider community, I personally believe it’s important for not only the children, but families and ourselves to be aware of the world around us, offering our individual support and kindness where we can.
“A short term goal of mine is to set up a food drive with Foodbank Australia and HEY, as well as putting together a project with the children and families of HEY to remember our journey together through COVID-19.”