The LINKS program was initiated in response to community support agencies across the state reporting a significant need for teenagers who have disengaged from the education system and other community structures. LINKS aims to assist agencies in supporting these young people and also aims to assist where a community experiences traumatic events which significantly affect young people.
Norval conducted the first LINKS program from August to October this year and although the final assessment of the program is not completed the feedback has been very positive.
The 2008 program consisted of four preparatory sessions and a four day wilderness journey. A total of twelve young people participated in various parts of the program with six completing the whole program including the wilderness journey. Participants came from the Warracknabeal, Stawell, St. Arnaud and Ararat communities. Several community organisations contributed funding and significant practical support to the program including Horsham On Track Learning Risk it program, Warracknabeal Secondary College, BGT Youth Pathways, Yarriambiack Shire and Victoria Police. The following is an excerpt from the draft report:It was close to dark when we arrived at the bush camp near the summit of Mt. Gar, the rain had almost stopped but the mood of the group was somber to say the least, on unpacking some group members discovered that everything in their pack was wet, spare clothes, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, food, everything! It was difficult to get a smile, it was getting dark, many were cold, wet and hungry, some went straight to bed, (wet sleeping bag and all). Of course we could not allow them to stay there, with some coaxing and some harsh tones the need for everyone to eat was accepted and dinner was completed.
The Uniting Church 2007 Lenten Appeal provided substantial funding to enable the program to be developed. This funding covered a significant part of the program costs and more LINKS programs will be conducted at UCC sites in the future.
Tony McEwan Christian Program Coordinator Norval