Kleenheat is committed to supporting communities in which it operates, especially in regional WA where it services communities and businesses with its LPG products and services. One Pilbara-based organisation Kleenheat currently partners with is the Youth Involvement Council (YIC).
The YIC is an NGO based in South Hedland that provides education programs, support services and accommodation for disadvantaged and at-risk youth.
Areta Ellis has worked with YIC for 13 years and is currently Manager of Youth Services. Ellis said YIC is predominantly funded to work with at-risk youth, aged between five and 25 years old, across three key services and programs - Youth Services, the Youth Accommodation Program and the Social Enterprise Division or ‘work-readiness program’.
Kleenheat sponsors the Deadly Hearts program, a component of Youth Services, which caters to children aged five to eight years old. A Kleenheat team recently travelled to the Pilbara to see the program at work and discover how the YIC makes a difference in the local community.
Deadly Hearts runs five days a week after school and offers diversionary and recreational activities for the children. The team at YIC then transport children home with the Mingle Mob bus service, which they also operate. Approximately 30 to 40 children attend each day.
“A typical session includes a structured approach to sensory and learning play,” Ellis said, “Children are fed a wholesome meal, provided by the on-site work readiness program Fresh Start, before being transported home at the end of the day.”
The program encourages the children to play with sporting or playground equipment, paint, craft, play with toys and interact naturally with each other. Deadly Hearts also acts as an intervention to any behaviours that may be detrimental to the children. The children are educated about health and hygiene, healthy relationships, how to communicate with each other, what is respectful and what is expected of them.
Realising the importance of self-worth, value and their own voice are also key lessons, as well as how to handle disagreements. When anyone misbehaves, the staff operate from a trauma-informed approach, discouraging punishments and encouraging open conversations or ‘time-out’, as an alternative. The next day is always considered a brand new day, to start over.
A safe and happy place
Karen Cooper, the Deadly Hearts Program Coordinator, says it is important for the children to know they have a safe place to go to.
“Some of the more important things we do here at YIC are sometimes as simple as taking them to a doctor’s appointment because they don’t have anyone at home to take them,” she said.
Cooper knows that she’s succeeding in her day when the young kids come up to her and announce that they’ve just had the best day of their life. “Those are the moments, where you know you’ve given a kid that little bit of happiness or joy, that they aren’t getting elsewhere,” she said.
Community need and impact
For more than 25 years the YIC has been making a positive impact within the Hedland community.
Cooper sees that the program is far reaching, helping the community to connect, no matter race or socio-background.
“The Youth Involvement Council is just the community helping to raise the community, we’re all working together,” Cooper said.
Marie – one of many success stories
The Kleenheat team met with one YIC staff member, Marie, who is a great example of what the organisation endeavours to achieve.
Marie, who is now a full-timer with YIC, grew up in South Hedland and helped her mother raise five siblings from a young age. Marie often sought out respite and refuge at the then Youth Centre, where she could eat and then sleep safely, taking time out to refocus throughout her teenage years.
After leaving Port Hedland for a few years, and having her own children, she returned, and began working with YIC in case management as a family support worker. Marie now supports older teenagers and young adults leaving the care of the YIC.
Marie claims the staff at YIC saw her potential before she did. “When I was a teenager, it was really good having somewhere to go, for respite. It was the extra support and a place to be you. It gave me the chance to talk to people who weren’t family or friends, without judgement. It’s unbearable to think where I would have gone or what I would have gotten up to if the Youth Centre wasn’t available to me,” she said.
As Marie works full-time, her two children attend the Deadly Hearts program. She loves seeing her children in a safe environment, learning and engaging with other children.
The Council works with over 550 young people across their programs. Ellis emphasised that the team at YIC are role models for the children and young adults, as well as like family. As a result it’s important to have young people and Aboriginal people working at YIC.
Currently YIC have a staff of 40 part-time and full-timers, of which about 35 per cent are Aboriginal and almost half are under 30 years old.
Kleenheat's current two year partnership with YIC extends till April 2020.
More information on the Youth Involvement Council is available at www.yic.com.au.