Kleenheat is committed to supporting communities in which we operate, especially within regional WA where we service communities and businesses with our LPG products and services. One Pilbara-based organisation we currently partner with is the Youth Involvement Council.
The Youth Involvement Council
The Youth Involvement Council (YIC) is an NGO, located in South Hedland providing education programs, support services and accommodation for disadvantaged and at-risk youth.
Areta Ellis has worked with YIC for thirteen years and is currently Manager of the Youth Services at YIC. Ellis said YIC is predominantly funded to work with at-risk youth, aged between five and 25 years old, across three key services and programs. These include their Youth Services, the Youth Accommodation Program and the Social Enterprise Division or ‘work-readiness program’.
Kleenheat sponsors the Deadly Hearts program, a component of the Youth Services, which caters to children aged five to eight years old.
We recently travelled up to the Pilbara to see the Deadly Hearts program at work and discover how the Youth Involvement Council makes a difference in the local community.
The Deadly Hearts program runs five days a week, based out of the Youth Involvement Council. The program offers diversionary and recreational activities for the children, between 2pm when school ends and 5pm each day. The team at YIC then transport children home with the Mingle Mob bus service, which they also operate. Approximately 30 to 40 children attend each day.
“…A typical day includes a structured approach to sensory and learning play.”, Ellis said. “Children are fed a wholesome meal every session, which is provided by the on-site work readiness program Fresh Start, before being transported home at the end of the day.”
Apart from playing with sport equipment or on playground equipment, painting, crafting, playing with toys and interacting naturally with each other, the program also acts as an intervention to any behaviours that may be detrimental to the children. The children are educated about health and hygiene, healthy relationships, how to communicate with each other, what’s respectful and what’s expected of them.
The children are encouraged to realise the importance of self-worth, value and voice. When anyone misbehaves, the staff operate from a trauma informed approach, discouraging punitive punishments and encouraging open conversations or ‘time-out’, as an alternative. The next day is always considered a brand new day, to start over.
A safe and happy place
Karen Cooper, the Deadly Hearts Program Coordinator, says it’s important for the children to know they have a safe place to go to. Karen loves working with the little ones, teaching them about empowerment, confidence and other life skills, to set them up for success in life.
“Some of the more important things we do here at YIC is sometimes as simple as taking them to a doctor’s appointment because they don’t have anyone at home to take them. Little kids who need their hair brushed, or someone to wipe their nose. Little things like that.” Cooper said.
Cooper knows that she’s succeeding in her day when the young kids come up to her and announce that they’ve just had the best day of their life. “Those are the moments; where you know you’ve given a kid that little bit of happiness or joy, that they aren’t getting elsewhere.” She said.
Community need and impact
For more than 25 years the Youth Involvement Council has been making a positive impact within the Hedland community. Based on attendance and self-referrals coming into the organisation, it is a much needed service within the community.
The children and the community build a very positive relationship with YIC. Cooper sees that the program is far reaching, helping the community to connect, no matter race or socio-background.
“The Youth Involvement Council is just the community helping to raise the community, we’re all working together.” Cooper said.
Marie – one of many success stories
However, we met with one staff member from the Council who is a great example of what the Council endeavours to achieve with every child or young adult seeking their services and support.
Marie, who is now a full-timer with YIC, grew up in South Hedland and helped her mother raise five siblings from a young age. Marie often sought out respite and refuge at the then, Youth Centre, where she could eat and then sleep safely, taking time out to refocus throughout her teenage years.
After leaving Port Hedland for a few years, and having her own children, she returned, and began working with YIC in case management as a family support worker. Marie now supports older teenagers and young adults leaving the care of the Youth Involvement Centre.
The value YIC provides
Marie claims the staff at YIC saw her potential before she did. “When I was a teenager, it was really good having somewhere to go, for respite. It was the extra support and a place to be you. It gave me the chance to talk to people who weren’t family or friends, without judgement. It’s unbearable to think where I would have gone or what I would have gotten up to if the Youth Centre wasn’t available to me.” she said.
As an organisation that has played a big role in her own life, Marie is now proud to work for and advocate the YIC.
Marie’s two children attend the Deadly Hearts program, which she is happy to support as a full-time working mother, because she loves seeing her children in a safe environment, learning and engaging with other children.
“It’s the best thing I can do for them when I’m working full-time – and they love it. They learn how to socialise, and learn other skills like meditation; the program empowers them.”
The Council works with over 550 young people across their programs. Ellis emphasised that the team at YIC are role models for the children and young adults, as well as like family. As a result it’s important to have young people and Aboriginal people working at YIC.
Currently YIC have a staff of 40 part-time and full-timers, of which about 35% are Aboriginal and almost half are under 30 years old.
Funding and challenges
Red tape in legislation and funding are two key challenges according to Cooper. “Sometimes legislation is restrictive or unrealistic, and affects the coordination of our programs.” She said, “If we don’t have the resources to provide activities it can be a challenge to engage with the children and run various activities. Ultimately the young people lose, because the YIC can’t access the resources needed.” She said.
“The smallest sources of funding are really important in terms of resources and consumables available at the centre,” Ellis said, “…Funding and donors help the Youth Involvement Centre deliver additional programs and resource programs, to this much needed service within the local community.”
Kleenheats’ current two year partnership with YIC extends till April 2020.
More information on the Youth Involvement Council is available at www.yic.com.au.
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