Each month Cocktail Revolution celebrates the achievements of one young Aussie who is starting to make their mark on the world. Here is Sarah’s story.
At first glance you may think Sarah is just a ‘typical’ 20 year old, but she is far from it. At 20 years of age Sarah has completed a diploma in social services, set up her own business in art and photography and begun a Bachelor of Social Work and Social Planning at Flinders University. Somehow, Sarah also manages to find time to act as a youth advocate. Some people would take these achievements for granted, however for Sarah it is something she has had to work hard for, overcoming obstacles many people will never have to encounter in their life time.
In order to avoid an abusive situation Sarah left her school, job, and town, and become one of the many hidden homeless young people in Australia who couch surf in order to avoid ‘sleeping rough’ on the streets. She left a small rural farm town and moved to a big city, where she was literally alone, and suffering from severe anxiety and depression. At this point, Sarah couldn’t see a future for herself, she was 17 and homeless.
It was at this point Sarah accessed HYPA, standing for Helping Young People Achieve, a youth service provider based within South Australia. Here Sarah was assigned a case worker who helped her identify some goals to work towards, obtain safe accommodation and eventually move into HYPA Housing, a transitional housing initiative that enables young people to reengage in learning and/or work. For Sarah, “HYPA were the first people who actually listened to my side of the story, and they were the first people who made me understand that it wasn’t my fault, that I had done all that I could, and that I had strength and ability beyond anything I could imagine.”
Sarah, with the support of HYPA signed up to a complete a Diploma in Youth Work and begun looking for employment. “HYPA was unique in that, not only did they give me a house, but they gave me a new chance in life. They gave me opportunities to meet people and feel connected to my new community.” Sarah has now completed her Diploma in Youth Work and has commenced study at Flinders University where she is undertaking a Bachelor of Social Work and Social Planning. Sarah hopes this will assist her to create a new way of thinking about self-care using new forms of mindfulness, incorporating art and animal therapies as well as ‘tapping’ and therapies such as ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy).
Currently Sarah owns an art and photography business called Sarah Jean Creative, which has been operating for just over three years. Photography is a passion of Sarah’s, it wasn’t until a rough period in Sarah’s life however when she realised just how much she valued photography. “I had left home and I had no possessions, the one thing I wanted most was my camera, which made me realise how much I value photography. The friend I was staying with gave me a camera and took me out to a farm to take pictures. I stayed at the farm just taking pictures of animals for a long time, and making things beautiful that aren’t ‘typically’ beautiful. I can still vividly remember taking pictures of a cat on a haystack, it was a memorable day.” Sarah’s main photographic interest is in capturing macro and wildlife images. “I enjoy capturing an animal’s personality, and showing what they have to give to the world and what the world can give to them.”
Sarah has been able to use her passion for photography to support another passion of hers, advocating for young people who are homeless. Sarah has just completed a photographic narrative showcasing a journey through homelessness, loosely base on her own experience of homelessness. World Homeless Day is held on the 10th of October each year, which inspired Sarah to create this photographic narrative.
It is because of Sarah’s experience with homelessness that she is motivated to give back, “I wanted to have the chance to speak to other people who were going through similar things I had experienced, and let them know that things could get so much better.” It made sense that Sarah then went back to HYPA, as they had assisted Sarah to see she had a bright future ahead of her if she wanted it. This led to the formation of HYPA’s Youth Leadership Team (YLT), which consists of young people who have previously, or are currently engaged with HYPA services, with an aim to bring young people together and empower them.
On September 15th to 17th of September Sarah attended the Youth Conference hosted by Volunteering Australia, held at the Gold Coast. ‘It was such an incredible experience to be in a room with 100 inspiring individuals from 25 different countries with such vast and varying experience as volunteers. I learned so much not just about volunteering but what’s possible, and just how much power we have as young people, and how much change we [young people]are making as a collective.’
Not many 20 year olds can say they have had been fortunate to have had so many great experiences and successes as Sarah has, yet the journey wasn’t easy. A state of homelessness is now behind Sarah and she sees her future as assisting others overcome the difficulties life throws at them. Sarah’s advice to young people who are experiencing homelessness, unstable or unsafe home environment and/or difficult times is to remember, ‘it’s not your fault, and you deserve so much better – the great news is that you can get it! Reach out for support, and keep reaching until you find the right person. Things will be better, just keep going.”
HYPA, standing for Helping Young People Achieve is a part of SYC, a growing and dynamic not- for- profit organisation, which has a long history of helping young people change their lives for the better.
Since 1958, HYPA has helped thousands of young people find a safe place to sleep, deal with personal issues, finish school and reconnect with their families. HYPA’s programs and services extend to learning, working, housing and well being, predominantly for vulnerable young people between the ages of 15 to 25, who are supported with vital clinical support services.
For more information or interview opportunities please contact:
HYPA Communications Advisor, Amy Phillips
Telephone: 08 8405 8698
Mobile: 0427 457 304