The YMCA Bridge Project supports, trains and mentors young people from the justice system, helping them cultivate a meaningful life and find stable employment with external organisations or with YMCA ReBuild.
The program holds an annual YMCA Bridge Project Breakfast to connect business leaders and government officials with the work they do, as well as connect young people with employment opportunities. In 2019, the sold-out event attracted over 400 people, who breathlessly listened to two young participants, Cam and Rav, share their personal stories of how the YMCA Bridge Project and YMCA ReBuild helped them.
Cam has faced many challenges in his life. He had a big family full of love, but his role models were involved in a life of violent crime. At a young age, Cam was already involved with the criminal justice system.
But that all changed when he joined YMCA ReBuild whilst imprisoned at Ravenhall Correctional Centre. Our staff at YMCA ReBuild believed in Cam, helping him to learn skills for employment in the outside world and turn his life around. Cam shared his story in the following video at the 2019 YMCA Bridge Project Breakfast.
YMCA Bridge Project participant Rav, whose father was in the police force, braved the stage in person to share his story of how you don’t have to come from an abusive home or troubled upbringing to go down the wrong path.
When Rav attended high school, he started getting into trouble and hanging out with the wrong crowd. He went from being a grade A student to being kicked out of school at the age of 15. Things only got worse from there and his decisions eventually led him to being incarcerated at Ravenhall Correctional Facility.
For the first few years in prison, Rav was in denial but after an incident that almost cost him his life he decided it was time to turn his life around.
Before I knew it, I had an interview with YMCA ReBuild… I never thought I would be employed within a month and a half of coming out of prison. The crew leaders at ReBuild are patient and supportive and they would challenge me by giving me responsibilities.” Rav
After nine months, Rav regained his confidence mentally and physical and the YMCA Bridge Project put him forward for a position in construction at Winslow. He has been able to mend the broken relationships with his family and now spends time with them regularly.
Not everyone in prison is a bad person, they just make mistakes. Employment gives young people something to strive for… I encourage you to give young people like myself the opportunity to turn their lives around. Just like I did.” Rav
Talking about something so personal takes a lot of courage and is a testament to the success of YMCA Bridge Project and YMCA ReBuild. Our participants are so keen to give back in whatever way they can – even if it includes public speaking in front of hundreds of suits!
More on how we're changing lives
Whilst the Y's reach has been impacted by COVID-19 this past year, our programs and services have still impacted the lives of thousands of Victorians. Here's a snapshot of what we achieved in 2019-2020.
As always, we have many stories to tell. From the tragedy of the bushfires, to hosting a successful Queer Soiree at Carlton Baths, to launching Virtual Y in the face of COVID-19 lockdowns - it's been a big year.
YMCA centres are more than just physical buildings and services. When a community is struggling, the Y can provide a safe space and connection to help. Derrimut YMCA Early Learning Centre has been supporting a vulnerable community experiencing socio-economic deprivation, homelessness and violence.