Father Chris Riley, the chief executive officer of Youth Off The Streets, shares the experiences of a group of young people who have just returned from an eye-opening trip to East Timor.
I HAVE recently returned from a trip to an orphanage in Timor Leste (East Timor) with six young people from Youth Off The Streets Year 11 and 12 educational program, Step Up.
After months of planning and fundraising, the young people made the almost 4000km trip to a small village in Timor Leste, Baguia, to provide support to orphans at an orphanage there that has been funded by Youth Off The Streets Overseas Relief Fund since 2002.
During our time there our young students cared for these kids, cooked for them, read to them and provided other educational and recreational activities (including craft, sports and physical activity).
These children face many challenges due to their location, including impoverishment, unemployment, poor and non-existent social services, low standards of living, low literacy levels and little access to general and mental health facilities. The village where we stayed is so remote that the nearest water source is half a kilometre away.
The experience has been a real eye opener for our kids and they have learnt a lot, not only about how other people live in the world, but also about themselves.
The young people that come into our programs have often experienced a lifetime of abuse and neglect by their parents and/or loved ones. The absence of a caring role model makes it difficult for our youth to in turn care for others.
Experiences like the trip to East Timor help our young people to learn about empathy for others and boost their self-esteem and confidence, and are part of Youth Off The Streets Service Learning program.
Service Learning is delivered across all of the services provided by Youth Off The Streets because it focuses on the root causes of challenging behaviours presented by young people by engaging them in community-serving activities. The purpose is to help our young people to develop a lasting moral framework for positive behaviour and self-esteem by showing them that they can contribute to their community and helping them to understand that there are other people facing difficult life challenges.
Some other activities that we do include trips to local retirement homes, hospitals and animal shelters, walking the Kokoda Trail and providing gardening services. For more information about our Service Learning program contact us on info@youthoff the streets. com.au or 02 9330 3500.