Strong is your only choice

Some will recall the June Aurora cover depicting teacher Michael Eccleston and students from St Joseph’s Lochinvar participating in #3weeks2days, an imaginative honouring of John Sandy’s walk for three weeks and two days in order to make a phone call to his wife. John came to Australia as a refugee from Sierra Leone and is now a project officer with CatholicCare Refugee Service.

Since the Refugee Awareness Run, in which many students and teachers participated, Michael Eccleston’s connection to John and to Refugee Service has only grown stronger. Michael recalls, “Personally, the run was a great struggle as I had a stress fracture in my shin and couldn't complete training pre #3weeks2days. The injury was a blessing in disguise as I have a greater appreciation of struggle and the importance of support during tough times. It is not until being strong is your only choice that you begin to realise how much you can push yourself.”

Asked about ‘a memory that stays with you’, Michael says, “Dallas Collins (Maths Co-ordinator at St Joseph’s High School, Aberdeen) and I were running through heavy rain and talking about the quality of our rain jackets. At this time John Sandy passed us some food and water and I asked John if it rained much on him during his walk. After a long pause he said with a big smile, "Oh yes". It was another reminder to be grateful for what we have. At the end of that day I went home, had a shower, enjoyed a warm meal with my family and slept in my bed. John did not have any of these luxuries.”

Perhaps most significantly, Michael’s #3weeks2days initiative has had a long term impact on students and other teachers. From selling wristbands and writing songs to public speaking, advocacy and “drawing on John’s story to dig deeper when experiencing adversity”, all who were part of #3weeks2days have been changed.

Michael continues to support CatholicCare Refugee Service, specifically the Community Care Van which serves those who are homeless or down on their luck in Islington Park on Saturday evenings. Demonstrating the enduring bond between himself and John, he says, “I am blessed to have met John. Recently he helped me move house!”

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Tracey Edstein Image
Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein is a member of the Raymond Terrace Parish and a freelance writer with a particular interest in church matters.

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