In 2007, The Bloomfield Group Foundation and Rainbow Foundation engaged a company to conduct a needs analysis of the Hunter Valley region – with a focus on youth services.
A year later, a second analysis was undertaken, which confirmed that Weston and Kurri Kurri was the area most in need of a service for young people. While the needs analysis was taking place, Youth Off The Streets was invited into the region to consult with the community about the local needs of the young people. A series of ‘street walks’ were held to build the trust of local young people and to find out what was needed. Long-time supporters Suzi Messner (The Bloomfield Group Foundation) and Felicity Thomson (Rainbow Foundation) were on-hand to help make the ‘street walks’ successful.
As a result of these activities, in 2009, The Bloomfield Group Foundation and Rainbow Foundation decided to fund a full-time program manager for the Hunter Valley Outreach to establish a youth service in the area. The first step for Jennifer Jackson, the new Hunter Valley Outreach Manager, was to hold community and stakeholder forums in conjunction with The Bloomfield Group Foundation to discuss what was needed most in the community.
In addition, she approached three local high schools and received feedback from around 600 young people about what they wanted in an outreach program. Valuable insight was gained and, armed with some first-hand information about what was wanted, Jennifer set a launch date of October in 2009.
The first Outreach was held in Kurri Kurri and was a great success with many young people turning out for the occasion. Jennifer had a full contingent of volunteers at her disposal.
The final piece of the Outreach puzzle was funded and secured in 2010. Thanks to The Bloomfield Group Foundation, the Rainbow Foundation and Cessnock Motor Group, an Outreach vehicle and a custom built trailer was made available to Hunter Valley Outreach, which began operating in Kurri Kurri and East Cessnock. This gave the Outreach the ability to easily transport equipment, resources, young people and provide food at the different Outreach locations.
In 2012, the new Hunter Valley Outreach office was opened in Weston to provide further resources for our staff to assist young people in need, while the following year saw the first talent competition held during Youth Week. In 2013, the first talent competition ‘Take the Stage’ was held during youth week. The Bloomfield Group support then hit the $1 million mark in 2015.
In 2016, a Social Return On Investment (SROI) report was commission on the Hunter Valley Greater Futures Program – funded by the Greater Charitable Foundation. The report found that for every $1 invested in the targeted Hunter Valley Outreach programs, $2.40 was returned in social value.
Last year, the new drop in centre for Hunter Valley Outreach was launched in Weston to recognise the need for a safe space for our young people to engage in positive diversionary activities.
This year we were delighted to be successful once again, with our application to Greater Charitable, which enabled us to open a new school suspension program – again, another first of its kind for Youth Off The Streets. The school suspension program helps young people make positive life choices of staying on course with their education while on suspension with 1:1 case workers to address the underlying causes of the suspension; we can make a meaningful contribution to the education of low educational outcomes in the region.
We are proud to be celebrating the 10 year anniversary of Hunter Valley Outreach and reflect on our wonderful progress within the community.
Thank you to all those involved including Outreach program managers past and present, Jennifer Jackson and Kim Lenard, , and all the staff and volunteers over the last ten years. The program continues to engage local young people in a positive, safe environment.