The Teenage Girls Retreat is a five-day program run by YMCA Peninsula Youth Services that offers a range of workshops and activities to help participants build confidence, increase self-esteem and develop strategies to navigate the challenges of their teenage years.

The retreat doesn’t provide counselling or prescribe medication. Instead, it focuses on teaching preventative strategies to help manage unhelpful thoughts and still the mind.

When Indie, 16, attended the Teenage Girls Retreat for the first time, she was inspired to make changes in her life that would improve her mental and physical wellbeing. After a year of implementing these changes, she returned to the retreat the following year, determined to continue her journey while supporting and helping fellow participants.

When I went to the first retreat a year ago I wasn’t eating well, I didn’t exercise and I wasn’t sleeping well. The retreat taught me so many different ways to look after myself. I began to see that people supported me and wanted me to do well, which made me want to become the best version of myself. Over the past year, I have actually been doing the things I learnt and now I feel like a completely different person.” Indie, attendee of Teenage Girls Retreat

Jeanette Horsley, YMCA Peninsula Youth Services Manager, created the vision for the retreat eight years ago, and for the last three years, it has been funded by the Johnstone Family Foundation and prior to that the George Hicks Foundation. The funding removes financial barriers for attendance and provides opportunities to girls who would otherwise be unable to participate.

Offering a safe, consistent and nurturing space for teenage girls to reveal and explore their physical and mental health challenges is one of our core retreat aims. Routine, time and love support the many activities we include in our five-day program. The changes from simply being heard - something we all need - is often extraordinary and the courage we observe in the girls inspiring.” Jeanette Horsley, YMCA Peninsula Youth Services Manager

The Teenage Girls Retreat is only one of the many ways in which YMCA Peninsula Youth Services engages and supports young people living on the Mornington Peninsula. Having opened the doors to a new purpose-built youth space named 'Jimmy’s' in December 2019, Jeanette and her team of passionate staff have expanded their services to provide activities, experiences and opportunities for all young people.

When Jimmy’s had to close its doors due to COVID-19, the team quickly pivoted to providing wholesome and uplifting content across their social media channels, including live yoga sessions and virtual aromatherapy classes. While the content provided connection for the young people in their community, the team at Jimmy’s wanted to do more to help those who are struggling throughout this pandemic. So they partnered with their local IGA to deliver care packages and meals to young people and families in need.

Hannah O’Brien, who is a staff member at Jimmy’s, said the deliveries gave her a chance to connect with the young people who usually visit the space.

This pandemic has produced a lot of negatives. However, what it has shown is just how resilient our Y service, community and young people are in times of crisis.” Hannah O'Brien, staff member at YMCA Peninsula Youth Services

While the pandemic is not over, the team at Jimmy’s will continue supporting their local community where they can. When doors can reopen, young people living on the Peninsula will once again find a safe space at Jimmy’s where they have the support they need to feel empowered and have their voices heard.

How we're empowering young people