Ryan* was still a teenager when he became the primary carer and provider for his younger siblings during his parents’ challenging divorce. With so much responsibility resting on his shoulders, Ryan turned to his local Youth Off The Streets’ Outreach team for support, developing a strong bond with our youth workers who set him on a path to success.
Read his story below to see the real and life-changing difference that your donations are making.
“My home life growing up was difficult. Dad was often violent and abusive towards my Mum. Even when I was home and he was in an OK mood, I couldn’t focus on my schoolwork because I didn’t know when he would snap. When I was at home it seemed to make things worse, so I stayed out as late as I could – I figured everyone would be safer that way.
I’d just turned 18 when Dad left our family, and I had to become ‘the man of
the house’ while my parents went through an ugly and messy divorce. It was a difficult time for me as I had to look after both of my sisters – a one year
old and a ten year old, while I was still going to school.
I was incredibly stressed for the better part of two years dealing with becoming an adult myself and helping take care of my family.
I first went to Youth Off The Streets because I heard they could help young people like me who might be struggling to pay bills or had other money problems. When I wasn’t staying at home I slept on trains and racked up a lot of fines. I couldn’t afford an Opal card let alone pay the fines so I didn’t know what to do until I heard about Youth Off The Streets’ brokerage service.
While I was getting help there, I formed some good relationships with the Outreach youth workers and they encouraged me to come along one afternoon.
I thought Outreach would give me something to do and have fun, but it became so much more.
The friendly banter I had with the team turned into longer and more serious conversations with two of the case workers I felt very comfortable with. I looked forward to meeting with Sarah and Tommy every week. I opened up to them about my issues – how I had serious anxiety, about the violence at home and having to look after my sisters while I was also struggling at school.
They didn’t judge, or interrupt, they just listened. After I finished they extended a hand and reassured me that they could help.
From then on I knew everything was going to be okay because I had people that cared and were willing to help me in whatever ways they could.
I wanted to share this experience with my family, so I brought my sisters along to Outreach, who loved playing games and having people to talk to. The team eventually organised psychologists and counselling sessions for us and this gave me even more strength to get my life back on track.
School was becoming more and more difficult because I didn’t have a computer or internet at home, and had been using my phone and free Wi-Fi in public areas to study. It was hard to concentrate but it had been better than being at home when Dad was there.
The youth workers organized a laptop for me and internet at home which helped all of my family. Study became much easier with the right resources and I finished my HSC with good marks.
It was one of the happiest days of my life when I found out I’d been accepted at university to study Law.
But then Covid-19 hit. Mum lost her job and was struggling to put food on the table.
I had no choice but to drop out of my degree and work two jobs to provide for my family. It was here that the Outreach team stepped in again, and referred my family to a bunch of support services that truly made a difference.
This included helping us to apply for rental assistance and the youth workers also gave us vouchers to go and buy groceries. They also provided counselling to myself and my sisters to better cope with our mental health.
I even joined their Leadership Program where we run fundraisers, volunteer work and other activities to give back to the community.
From all of this love and support, my confidence and belief in myself grew.
I have now resumed studying a Bachelor of Law, and am also looking to start my first job at a law firm. I want to give back to my community and I have decided that is the type of lawyer and person I aspire to be, someone that will help anyone in need.
I owe Youth Off The Streets so much. They are a huge contributor to my success today and for that I am truly grateful, and I want to extend my deepest thanks to the team.
The work that you guys do does not go unnoticed in the community. It may be hard to change the world, but I really want you guys to know, from the bottom of my heart, you changed mine.”
Your support keeps our programs running. If you are able, please make a generous donation today. Your gift can provide kids with the ongoing support they need.
Thank you for helping young people like Ryan go on to thrive.
*Name and images changed to protect the privacy of the young person.