Steering youth to safety with Red Frogs
The Archdiocese is harnessing the power of confectionary in its desire to connect with youth and young adults through a new partnership with the well-known chaplaincy support network Red Frogs Australia.
Archdiocesan Pastoral and Mission Formation Coordinator Christian Nobleza said support for Red Frogs would include running pancake-shaker drives in parishes, recruiting teams of volunteers and raising awareness of Red Frogs’ work in guiding the next generation towards safer – and ideally more faith-based – life decisions.
Red Frogs, which grew out of a response to Schoolies Week on the Gold Coast nearly 25 years ago, helps young people safely negotiate a culture of alcohol and drugs. Its volunteers – or ‘Froggers’, as they are affectionately known – attend events, such as music festivals and university orientation weeks, where young people gather to party. They offer Red Frog lollies, water and other practical assistance, along with comfort, company and conversation.
Red Frogs Marketing and Communications Manager Bek Gilchrist said the volunteers followed a “serve-and-connect model” of support. This came with its fair share of cooking pancakes, cleaning up vomit and walking people home, as well as listening and “loving on” any young person who needed help, from the practical to the spiritual.
Some might be circumspect about the Froggers’ motives but they soon realised there was no agenda. “That really speaks loudly to them,” she said. The idea was to steer young people into safer territory and “connect them into a community where they feel accepted and loved unconditionally”.
Red Frogs Leader for the ACT Caleb Reid, who oversees about 55 Red Frogs volunteers, said the work was “a direct way of showing the next generation they are valued” and its gentle missionary nature lent itself to a “natural partnership” with the Archdiocese. Another dimension to Red Frogs’ approach was school programs “that empower students to make positive life choices and be a voice of change in their own culture”.
With young people returning to social life as restrictions ease, Christian said partnering with Red Frogs was a key part of the Archdiocese’s strategy of creating community among young people and enabling them to make a difference in their own lives.
The Red Frogs approach worked because the support was about unconditional service. “It’s not about coming across with an overt religious message,” he said. “It’s more about showing ‘we care about you and we’re here for you’.”