Service at Dilworth: Empowered to empower others

Date: 14 Nov 2023

Since taking up the reins in March, Service Coordinator Hayley Hibbert has played a strong role in strengthening the school’s service culture and fostering community spirit. We chat to her about why the art of giving is a top priority.

Hayley, tell us about yourself
I was born in New Zealand, grew up in the UK, and have been back in New Zealand for the last 20 years. I worked as an English and Drama teacher in London and after we moved back to New Zealand I got the chance to set up a Drama department in a small rural school in Canterbury.

Shortly after the earthquakes, my husband, children and I moved to Dunedin, where I established Acorn Performers – a Drama academy designed to boost the confidence of primary school students. In 2020 we relocated to Auckland (just in time for Covid lockdowns!) and in March this year I joined the team at Dilworth. This position looked incredibly interesting and meaningful.

What does your job entail?
Dilworth has five values – compassion, excellence, integrity, respect and service - and the school was keen to increase its focus on service learning for students. Krista Mortensen wrote the initial vision of service for Dilworth and I’m taking the great foundations she built and developing them further, creating meaningful student experiences, building relationships with external organisations and cultivating a culture of service at Dilworth. It’s about fostering that heart of giving through a Christian lens and using our strengths and abilities for the benefit of others.
As it says in the scriptures, Do not withhold good from those whom it is due when it is in your power to act. (Proverbs 3:27). We’ve been doing some wonderful stuff!

Tell us about some of your recent projects
We’ve been supporting a local low-decile primary school. One of our senior prefects Harrison Collins started an initiative ‘Breaking Down the Barriers’ with a vision of supplying schoolbags for children in need. Keen to promote his great work, we launched the ‘Acts of Kindness’ project at the Junior campus giving students full ownership. They were responsible for picking school bags, lunch boxes, drink bottles, stationery and toys for new-entrant children, working to a budget and writing cards of encouragement to each child. Two of the Junior leaders accompanied Harrison and me when we presented the bags – 40 in total! It was great for them to see the looks on the children’s faces and realise the impact their kindness had. My focus is on developing a heart that wants to help others, and projects like this are extremely powerful – in fact so much so that we’re now turning ‘Breaking Down the Barriers’ into an annual event.

Also this year we developed a relationship with Ambury Farm. They had a 10,000 tree planting initiative and this has provided a unique service experience for Dilworth students. So far our Year 11, 12 and 13 students have planted and mulched 550 grasses and trees and in a couple of weeks our Year 9 and 10 students will also be doing the mahi. The experience has been great because the boys get to use their strength and skills for good, outside of the school gates, and they can also see the impact of their efforts.

In the future, they’ll be able to visit Ambury Farm with their families and will feel proud of the contribution they’ve made. We’ve also got some keen conservationists at Dilworth so visiting the farm opened their eyes to some exciting future opportunities and pathways.

Tell us about Dilworth and Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC)
Dilworth has been a long-standing supporter of RMHC and every fortnight a small group of Dilworth students and I visit Ronald McDonald House to run games and activities for the children there. I go in as support but our students take leadership of the programme. They’re working with children and families who are going through some incredibly difficult challenges, and it’s a service experience that has taught them all so much, from pastoral care and awareness right through to the importance of health and safety.

This year Dilworth established its first Service Committee. Tell us more.
Comprised mainly of students with a couple of staff members as support, the committee gives students a voice and the chance to pursue service projects they’re passionate about. We want students to develop leadership in service so they’re able to drive things, and they’ve done an amazing job this year - from running barbecues and selling ribbons to support Daffodil Day and Gumboot Friday to building long walls of cans for the Anglican Trust for Women and Children (ATWC) can drive. Next year I hope to take the committee away for a couple of nights of service and team building at Dilworth’s Mangatāwhiri Campus. I think that would be a great start to growing Dilworth’s service culture in 2024.

Do you have any other exciting plans in the pipeline?
Yes! Our final initiative for 2023 will be packing Christmas treat boxes for RMHC, ATWC and Presbyterian Support Northern. We’re calling this project ‘From our whānau’ because all of our donations are from the whānau of our boys. Year 9 and 10 will get the chance to wrap and pack these boxes in their upcoming activity week. It’s a great way to get students thinking about how we can bring a little bit of Christmas joy to families in need.

Next year I’d also like to link Dilworth with another school that has a service programme that’s full of life, full of heart, and making a difference. Together I believe we could achieve so much.

You’ve been in the role for eight months now. What are you proudest of?
Aside from the students themselves, I’m proud to be part of a school where staff are so invested. There is a real heart of service at Dilworth, and it’s amazing to see that up close. People here give so much and carry out their roles with great integrity – they care deeply about the students, their families and what we are building.