Chappy Stu saving young lives, one at a time
AS BRYLEE Eather spoke of what her school chaplain meant to her, the room stopped.
Here was a young woman pouring her heart out in front of 120 people.
The 18-year-old former Caloundra State High School captain told of how cruel school could be at times, particularly for young girls battling with self-esteem, self-doubt and the need to make friends and fit in.
"It's a place where rumours are created like spider's webs, where being rude becomes cool and where making one friend usually results in losing many,'' she said.
While Brylee said her own confidence and self-belief had helped her to enjoy her schooling, there were plenty who were not so lucky.
For one particular friend, a "bottler" who buried her emotions, it soon became too much and she "exploded".
As Brylee took on the darkest days of her friend's battle, she realised she couldn't do it alone and it soon became too much to bear.
Her friend had been spiralling down fast and she was going there with her.
"She was attacking herself with negative thoughts and convinced herself that she was an expendable piece of the world's puzzle - that she didn't belong and nobody wanted her or cared about her," Brylee said.
"She felt alone and numb."
It was then that Brylee walked into chaplain Stuart White's office and sat down, initially saying very little as he offered her a listening ear - and a hot chocolate.
Over the following weeks, Brylee met with "Chappy", who then started meeting with her friend, helping her through, encouraging belief in herself.
Brylee said her school chaplain had taught her that it was okay to feel sad and lost, but how she should never let that determine her attitude to the world around her.
She said he had helped both her and her friend to see the beauty in life and themselves.
"My friend went from rock bottom to completing high school with outstanding results,'' she said.
"She has grown into a beautiful and confident woman who embraces the future with both hands.
"Chappy helped me save a life and that's something I will be forever grateful for.''
So should we have chaplains or counsellors?
WITH his distinctive dreadlocks, Stuart White looks more like someone who would fit in a reggae bar than in a high school or church.
But talk to any of the students, teachers or parents at Caloundra High and you'll soon realise Chappy, as his called, has a heart of gold and a work ethic to match.
The list of activities he's involved in include rock and water activities for boys, rugby league, volleyball, Russian strength training, 40km treks, breakfast and lunchtime programs, Schoolies, holiday camps, as well as special events like the World Vision 40 Hour Famine.
And despite some federal government funding, every year he has to organise events to secure his own salary - so he can feed his family of seven children.
It's part of the job he would obviously rather not have - often having to ask friends and local businesses to dig deep to keep the chaplain service going.
Across Queensland there are about 800 schools with chaplains.
Some are only funded for two days a week.
If they were replaced with counsellors or psychologists, as some suggest, the cost to the taxpayer would be enormous.
A chaplain like Stuart White might cost taxpayers as little as $20,000 a year.
Parents and teacher say the cost to the community of not having him would be far greater.
Caloundra State School teacher Heather McDuff, a parent of two boys and vice president of the P&C, said counsellors may be better trained, but would not have the impact of chaplains.
"Chaplains are more than just counsellors or psychologists.
"They are musicians, dancers, cooks, sportsmen or women, icy cup makers, barbecue chiefs and tour guides.
"They are a jack of all trades and always answer the call: "Hey Chappy can you just do something for me?''
WHAT STUDENTS SAID ABOUT CHAPPY
When my Nan passed away it helped me a lot talking to Chappy
If you have trouble at home it's good to talk to him
He can help people when they are sad.
He tells jokes
He's nice because he doesn't yell
He cooks a yummy breakfast for us every week
WHAT PARENTS SAID
They must have a love of helping children, especially those in need or they wouldn't put their hand up to do this work
Chappys never push their beliefs as Christians onto staff, students or parents - they just walk the walk.''
CHAPLAINS NEED SUPPORT
Despite the recent announcement of federal funding for the next four years, there are still almost 500 schools in Queensland without a chaplain
Scripture Union Queensland has placed chappies in 56% of all Queensland state primary schools and 87% of state high schools.
Federal funding only provides part of the cost with schools and churches and chaplains themselves fundraising to secure a salary.
Some chaplains are only funded for two days a week
About 376,000 Queensland students are served by chaplains
To support chaplaincy, go to www.suqld.org.au/donate