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Students of St Euphemia College band together to build library for flood-ravaged Lismore

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In the playground of St Euphemia College (SEC) in Bankstown, Sydney lies a 20-foot shipping container spanning almost six metres in width.

By Christmas, this metallic prism will undergo a complete transformation. It will become the ‘Library for Lismore’ and will be donated by SEC to Lismore South Public School in regional New South Wales.

The Library for Lismore arriving at St Euphemia College Bankstown, 27 March 2022. Photo: Chris Spyrou

An Inspired Project:

The idea for this Lismore Library first came to fruition in February this year, when SEC partnered with Upschool to raise $10,000 to convert a shipping container into a library for Gyan Ganga School in Sambhal, India.

As part of this initiative, the funds raised will go towards paying for a team in Bangalore to design and convert the container into a library, before delivering it directly to the Indian school.

Speaking to The Greek Herald, Year 7 student, Alexander Plakias, says that the Gyan Ganga fundraising project allowed him to understand educational inequality was not only a global issue but a local issue as well.

“By looking at the schools in developing countries without working electricity, clean water or even roofs on their classrooms, we understood straight away that we are extremely privileged. But we realised our privilege even more during the floods [in NSW and Queensland this year],” Alexander says.

“We only experienced minimal flood damage whereas places like Lismore suffered a lot more and it actually stopped them from getting the education they need.”

Lismore, March 1 2022. Photo: David Lowe

In March, The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) estimated the flood damage in south-east Queensland and in New South Wales would exceed $1 billion.

For Lismore South Public School, their primary and preschool require a total refurbishment and have been temporarily relocated over the next 12 months.

The co-founder of Upschool, Gavin McCormack, praised the students for taking on this extra initiative in building a library for the Lismore South community.

“When that library appears in Lismore, the people of Lismore will learn one thing – that even though they were going through a very hard time, there was a group of children on the other side of the state who knew what was happening and wanted to help. That is very powerful,” Mr McCormack told the students when he visited the school.

WATCH St Euphemia College’s Director of Learning, Mr Matthew Panayotopoulos, explain how the Library for Lismore came to be

‘A Library of Resources’:

But what will this library look like?

Year 7 SEC student, Irini Ifandoudas, tells The Greek Herald that once the shipping container is converted, it will be more than just a storing place for books. It will also be “a library of resources” and a functional classroom.

“We’re going to fill it up with books and also pack it with desks, stationery, whiteboards, laptops and anything else the school might have lost in the floods,” Irini says.

To make this possible, SEC has set a $30,000 fundraising goal for the ‘Library for Lismore’.

So far, $16,000 has been raised through student-run lemonade stands, bake sales, Bunning’s sausage sizzles, and outreach to community members and businesses such as McDonald’s, UTech and First Education.

“The students have shown incredible initiative. They’ve been knocking on doors and calling businesses, securing not only money but also items that will be auctioned and raffled off over the next few months,” SEC’s Director of Learning, Mr Matthew Panayotopoulos, tells The Greek Herald.

Shipping container experts, the Bearded Bakers, are also involved and co-founder, Ameer El-issa, tells The Greek Herald, that “it’s such an honour to be a part of this project” because it is about “doing what we can to support a community in need.”

L to R: SEC Director of Learning, Matthew Panayotopoulos, SEC Principal Fr Peter Mavrommatis and Ameer El-issa. Photo: Supplied.

“This container is our stage,” the entrepreneur and architect says.

“While it is being designed and all the planning is going on, we’re going to make use of it: using it to hold more bake sales, to run workshops, to host live music events – really anything we can to raise more money.”

To follow St Euphemia College’s journey to building a library in Sambhal India, and converting their 20-foot container into the ‘Library for Lismore’, head to the official SEC Facebook page, as well as their student-run Instagram: changemakers.sec.

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