PUMPKINS are changing young lives.
A few years ago, Armidale-teen Corey Carpenter was homeless and couch-surfing before ending-up in a youth refuge.
He said he was still in the process of sorting out his life, but once he gets there, perhaps he’ll look back and ponder the pivotal power of the pumpkin.
Mr Carpenter is taking part in the “pumpkin run”, trekking from Armidale to Sydney, giving away the fruits of his labour cultivated and harvested from Armidale’s Tilbuster farm.
Tamworth was the first stop on the run and while farm’s yield was given-away, Mr Carpenter said he’d found something more valuable than cash.
“I feel like it’s a better payment than getting a cheque, it makes you feel good inside,” he said.
“It just feels good to see something you’ve worked for to be able to help someone.
“It’s also made me more keen to try, just getting out and doing things makes you feel really good, it clears your head, you can get caught up in your thoughts if you’re not doing much.”
Tania Willis, senior manger for child and family services at Pathfinders, said the youngsters who came through the program understood how much something as simple as a donated meal could mean.
“It is that opportunity to give back,” she said.
“Because they get services and support, I think that they have a real understanding, because these are kids that are off the street or kids that don’t have family.
“For some of these young people, this is the first kind of family they’ve had.”
Darren Hepper works with youth through Pathfinders and he believed the pumpkins made a difference to the growers and the recipients.
“A lot of the privileged kids wouldn’t know where a pumpkin comes from,” Mr Hepper said
“Not only that, they wouldn’t think about what meals that pumpkin could actually produce.
“Where a lot of these pumpkins are going, one pumpkin is supporting a family for one or two nights and that actually makes a difference.”
He said generosity was one of the four pillars taught through Pathfinders’ programs including, “mastery, belonging and independence”, and noted giving back had an “immediate effect”.
“If you can master those four things, you got a really good chance of getting up there in life and doing well,” he said.
“A lot of these boys coming from disadvantaged backgrounds haven’t felt that they have been a position where they could be generous.”
Pumpkins can be picked-up from The Youthie in Tamworth, as the run makes its way to Newcastle before stopping in Sydney.
Since its inception, the Pathfinders Pumpkin Run has delivered over 20 tonnes of pumpkins, fed thousands of meals to men, women and children in need while also showing young people in their programs the nature of generosity in giving back.
Pumpkins are grown at Pathfinders’ Tilbuster Station working farm for young people, which is utilised as a venue to continue the work that Pathfinders does with at-risk youth and local families.
Young people will be giving back to the local and broader communities by donating this produce to nursing homes, soup kitchens and other charities as well as cooking up hot meals for those who need it.
The demand for food relief is rising, with over 3.6 million Australians experiencing food insecurity at some point every year, 216,000 of those being children.
And just as grim is the fact that in 2016 more than 116,000 people were experiencing homelessness across Australia, and now almost 28,000 young people are homeless on any given night.
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