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Young People Making a Difference is In the Spotlight

by PeakCare Qld on 29th October 2015

Home -> Articles -> 2015 -> October -> Young People Making a Difference is In the Spotlight

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Formed in 2012 in Central Queensland, Young People Making a Difference (MAD) is a not for profit organisation. All MAD staff, support adults and young leaders are volunteers. MAD is a program that reaches out to young people aged 12 to 18 years of age. It is based around peer support and adult mentoring. Young People Making a Difference recently won the Youth Category of the 2015 Queensland Child Protection Week Awards.

Each year MAD plans and operates 5 weekend camps. Young people can attend as many camps as they wish. Each camp runs with a specific theme. These themes range from self- belief and confidence, to building trust, family matters and the plethora of issues that are relevant to young people and their holistic wellbeing.

On average 30-45 young people attend each of the camps held at Tannum Sands. The peer support and adult mentoring model of MAD recognises that many young people experience significant challenges including neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, alcohol and drug issues, domestic and family violence, mental health issues, homelessness, self-harm and suicidal ideation. The MAD program provides young people with avenues to express their concerns and work through their issues in an environment that ensures safety and confidentiality. In doing so a peer support model is employed.

MAD recognises that it is essential to have Young Leaders leading the camps. Young people have been crucial in planning the activities and content for each camp. They are encouraged to both seek and give advice to each other with the goal of mutual assistance through complex life experiences. As well as being offered unique experiences of seeking assistance and support, young people are offered strategies to integrate their experiences into their lives. A focus of non judgementalism and ensuring no preconceived ideas about each individual is key to this process. Young people developing a sound support system accepting of who they are and where they are at and where they aim to be is a significant aim of the camps and the organisation.

When dealing with the life issues that young people note they are experiencing, strategies for overcoming these issues are offered. Each participant is linked in with a supportive adult. An extensive support system for every young person is available following their attendance at a MAD program. Ensuring they can remain on track and be supported by peers and adults in reaching their goals is key.

Ben Lodewikus, Co-ordinator of Young People Making A Difference states: “MAD is supervised by the support persons who bring young people to the programs as well as Leaders who are trained to deal with issues that may arise over the weekends. MAD offers a drug and alcohol free program devoid of religious or political affiliations. It recognises each individual's right to pursue their own beliefs. The majority of Young People who come through the MAD program walk away with a better outlook and ways to deal with what is happening in their lives. That there is support for them if they want it. Often comments from our Young People are that it good to know they are not alone, and that they can move on seeing others that have dealt with these issues. MAD IS Peer Support.”

Young people echo Ben’s sentiments:

“MAD has honestly impacted my life in the short time I've been here. I know that I am not alone and I've been able to express myself in ways that I never thought of. I have made so many new friends and become so much closer with my old ones as well.”

“Without coming to this program, I would steel feel alone, worthless. I have learnt its ok to talk and people care. It’s ok to not be ok!! These people are family! It’s as inspiration and life changing experience.”

As we enter November as Transition to Independence Month, it’s important to note organisations like MAD who work with young people, many of whom live independently from a young age. Ben notes that some young people MAD supports have lived on their own since the age of 14.

“As a team of volunteers everyone is passionate about working with young people. Those involved as either adult or peer support leaders give up their weekends and significant amounts of time ensuring that the programs offered are consistently evolving in line with feedback received from young people”.

Ultimately MAD aims to be a peer support group in its entirety. As more young people come through the program and are trained into leadership roles, the more the focus of the organisation is on young people mentoring young people.

MAD receives no formal funding. It is able to operate due to the generosity of volunteers and small grants offered by Thiess, Arrow Energy and Bundaberg Lions Club. Individuals sponsoring young people to attend the camps also provide important assistance to young people benefitting from MAD.

Those interested in sponsoring a young person can go to the sponsorship section of the MAD website

For more information on Young People Making a Difference go to http://www.youngpeoplemakingadifference.org/