By Shelby Brooks

A WOOLAMAI-based children’s program has won a community philanthropy award for its work in engaging kids in their local community.

Woolamai locals Dr Andrea ‘Ande’ Lemon and Andrea Rieniets are co-directors of the organisation Kids Thrive.

Their program ‘Kids as Catalysts’ that they delivered to a school in Geelong received the Community Philanthropy Award at the Philanthropy Australia awards last week.

Kids as Catalysts is a multi-award-winning child-led social change, schools and community-based program that equips children aged eight to 12 with real-world experience in leading positive community change.

“We empower kids to be able to direct action in the community they care about,” Dr Lemon said.

Students, usually in grade 6, identify what they care about, look outside of the school to people in the local community who also care about the issue and learn how to design a project to benefit the local community.

They budget and plan the project to actually make it happen.

“It’s real-life learning,” Dr Lemon said.

Dr Lemon and Ms Rieniets set up Kids Thrive because they were tired of kids always being seen as people who needed help and support.

“They do need help and support, but they also have the capacity to be active players in our community,” Dr Lemon said.

“Kids have a deep-set fairness and love for their community and have a passion to be part of that community. The community needs to invest in kids.”

Dr Lemon said 80 per cent of students involved in the program saw an increase in their personal confidence, empathy, education engagement, literacy and numeracy, and leadership.

“It helps set kids up to succeed in the future.”

The Kids as Catalysts program won the philanthropy award because of the contribution of fund partners Geelong Community Foundation and Give Where You Live Foundation to the project and for the project itself supporting kids to become community philanthropists.

“We think of philanthropy as a broader sense – investing time and talent rather than treasure,” Dr Lemon said.

For more information about the program, go to kidsthrive.org.au.