BeanThere? Podcast – Young at Heart
Bean There? Podcast LIVE Broadcast from Cafe Y, Menai
Cafe Y is situated within the grounds of the Project Youth complex, 34 Allison Crescent Menai. Next door to the Menai Marketplace. The cafe offers a range of meals for breakfast and lunch and has recently re-opened after the Covid19 restrictions were lifted. Not only does it serve Reformatory Caffene Lab Coffee it is a place that provides education, training and employment for young people faced with some of life’s challenges such as family dysfunction, domestic violence, drug, alcohol and mental health issues.
Many of these youth are often forced to deal with temporary displacement from their homes, overcoming trauma, homelessness and unemployment. Cafe Y helps young people to reengage at school or take other pathways of education including completing a Cert 2 in hospitality in conjunction with the Loftus TAFE. They do their practical hours in the Cafe and build the skills and confidence they need to move forward in their career and life.
Project Youth clients are supported by youth workers, volunteer mentors and community organisations like Club Menai, Sutherland Shire Council and in turn support other charities like the Dandelion Support Network who refurbish baby furniture like cots and car seats to be redistributed to families in need. They also take donations of cash, clothing and nappies that go towards ensuring families facing hardship provide a safe place for babies to sleep and travel. The Dandelion Support Network is hosting their annual High Tea at Doltone House on the 17th of October and this is how we can show you the depth of community connection.
Head of Training, education and employment, Karen already has her ticket to the High Tea and is also a member of Club Menai. During our chat she shared how Project Youth is grateful for the community support and the funding from IMB to run give back enterprises like Cafe Y. The programs at Project Youth are a platform for volunteers and they try to naturally match their youth clients with mentors, whether it’s a connection they make or based on similar interests.
Youth Worker Justin shared that the kids are referred by Family Services, the Police and places like Headspace in Miranda. Project Youth has three centres including Hurstville and Miranda and are open on Thursday and Friday nights for drop in. They have a basketball court and are just about to start a community garden.
The support that Project Youth provides has seen the lives of many teens transform. Natasha was displaced from her family home just before she started year 11 and lived in supported accomodation whilst she reengaged with school. At the beginning of Year 12, she transitioned into independent living in Cronulla and successfully completed her HSC. She has since started her hospitality certificate and was recently working at the Shangri la Hotel, in the city. Karen received the feedback from her manager who said ‘she changed the face of the front foyer with her bubbly personality and enthusiasm’. She has returned to Cafe Y as an employee since it reopened on the 1st July, and said she would not have been able to achieve anything without the support of Project Youth.
Karen also shared that this was just one of the reasons those young people often come back and volunteer their time to the programs, ‘because they know how it helped them through a difficult time.’ Karen is acutely aware of what these kids are going through and offers a listening ear and a kind heart to help them understand their true value in the community and the potential they have to create a worthwhile life.
“We know they are going to play up.’ Karen chuckles. “With our Label Y, they are not going to be the best employee but, hopefully they will be. We work closely with the employer to help them understand what these young people are dealing with and how they cope. So if they turn up late for work it might be that they had no where to sleep last night or they’re cold.”
The employers we have are amazing and supportive and are often the only adult mentorship they have in these kids life. We are truly grateful for them.’
Project Youth is participating in environmental projects with So Shire in August that will see them learning about and cleaning up our beaches. And Sarah-Jo also coordinates Plastic Free Sutherland Shire joined us in the conversation and was on location with helpful advice and solution about sustainability and recycling.
Cafe Y is currently accepting donations for their sustainability garden and welcome any donations of second hand goods that they can recycle with their Youth Housing Projects. Furniture, Clothing and house hold items help them and the young people they are helping.
Cafe Y helps hundreds of young people every year and have supported thousands of families since they started out as small group of thoughtful citizens who opened up the first shopfront on Beachpark Arcade, Cronulla back in 1992, under the name Eastern Area Service for Youth.
Project Youth has been nominated as a finalist in the Local Business Awards for the Sutherland Shire.
If you would like to volunteer, donate or help this worthwhile cause, visit www.projectyouth.org.au
You can listen to the podcast on ShirePOD.Podbean.com or directly from this website.
We also spoke with Nicole Dargie, a teen empowerment coach and yoga instructor at Inside Out Yoga and Annette Testa from Portico Services, a youth housing consultant.
Menai is a Great Place to Bring up the kids’ says Annette Testa who is a local and the owner of Portico Services. She has raised her four children in Menai and says “it’s a safe space, they can right their bikes and the schools are fantastic.’ Portico Services offers refurbishments to youth housing, often turning around apartment rooms in 24 hours. “My brief is to give them a home, something they don’t have anymore or maybe never had before. It’s a safe place for them to learn life skills as they transition through supported accomodation into independent living.”
Annette uses her interior design and styling skills to create durable, cleanable, uplifting rooms for young people who have been displaced or find themselves homeless because of family or domestic violence and mental health issues.
“I work closely with case workers and care services and get to know these kids so when I am doing their room I make it personal and it’s amazing the look on their face when they see it. They are grateful and take ownership straight away whether it’s art work on the wall or a rug on the floor. In one situation I returned to do an audit of the apartments and one of the girls who was quite disengaged and angry had added more plants to the ones I had placed in her room and became a real green thumb.”
Annettes work is an integral part of valiadating the worth of these young people who are vulnerable members of our community because of their inexperience or the trauma they have been through.
Annette loves what she does and she sees the difference services like Project Youth are doing, “I want to do it and do it well and that’s how we create the change we want to see in the world, doing what you can.”
We invited Nicole Dargie, a yoga instructor and youth mentor from the Empowerment Project Podcast, to be apart of this conversation as well and what transpired was a meaningful conversation. Grateful for the childhood safety she has been able to provide her children, Nicole is passionate about being that support person for young boys and girls as they navigate those challenging teenage years.
Nicole offers a safe place for young people to explore who they are and who they want to become. She honours this space by being confidential of disclosures and encouraging her students to be kind to themselves. She understands how children need ‘supportive parents and a stable environment, but as a mentor she is not a teacher their parent or a friend, I am a neutral element, without judgement.’ She has Codes around her practice to ensure confidentiality – ‘what is shared in the course stays there, unless they are a danger to themselves or someone else’. This is an ethic shared with Project Youth and other youth services.
Nicole says her students ‘feel safe to open up as they are without expectations or pressure to achieve’. ‘There are so many opportunities for them to learn from the struggle, but if they haven’t been given the life skills to deal with stress, they can crumble and don’t try.’ Says Nicole.
Nicole runs teen empowerment programs during school holiday to help young people ‘form an identity of who they are and that shapes who they become as well as create new ways of thinking and ideas for themselves based on their own values and not those of anyone else.’ She also has deep insights into the huge impact of social media – it’s a way they see the world, a version of what they think it is. But it’s not and I want them to understand that.’
The Empowerment Projects are liked to the butterfly busting out of the cocoon, teaching them the 9 key life skills that build confidence and positive self image.
Resilience, Curiosity, Adaptability, Insight, Empathy, Emotional sensing, Entreprenueral thinking, Conviction and Vision.
A spontaneous conversation between Nicole and Annette shared similar experiences when dealing with young people.
Nicole and Annette both agreed that young people are cautious about adults, especially if they have experienced some trauma with their own parents. Nicole’s insight was that kids think ‘We don’t know who you are.’ A fear that is often instilled in parenting practices when they are young stemming from stranger danger, a method designed to keep children say.
Young people may have fears and be nervous about rejection, signs of low self esteem and their ability to deal with situations outside their comfort zone. Nicole shared these three statements that young people want to know about adults.
- Can I trust you
- Are you any good
- Do you care about me.
Annette shared her story about a girl who would not engage and was oppositional to anyone helping her. ‘I love when I crack a really naughty one.’ She said with a smile. ‘I know their life is a challenge, so I might ask them to help me or include them, if they feel that it changes the dynamics.’
Both Nicole and Annette expressed their deep admiration for the carers of these kids and how they just accept who they are walking with. ‘They don’t try and make them who others might want them to be.
‘That is a bit of a lesson for parents and was for me as a parent to my own children, once I started working with them.’ ‘Both kids and parents need to learn this.’
‘The difficulty for some parents is accepting a shift in identity, because we are a product of our environment.’