A thought that often plagues my mind is...I wonder how much of "me" has been shaped by the life I was born into. Would I be the same if I had grown up in poverty? What if I had an abusive parent or experienced some sort of trauma at a young age? What does it feel like to truly have no hope? How would my needs be different?
I know that I can’t attribute the achievements in my life simply to my stand-alone efforts, and my recent visit to Mission Australia’s Creative Youth Initiative (CYI) was an important reminder of this. Let me elaborate…
CYI is a unique service that runs free art and music courses for young people aged 16-25 years who are facing many and varied challenges in their lives. The program harnesses the power of the arts to transform young lives by using self-expression as a tool to develop creativity and self-esteem. The reality is that for some young people attending CYI, it is the only stable and positive aspect of their lives.
This is certainly true for Jared* who is currently thriving in the art program there. It was a real highlight to have him showcase his collection of stencils, prints and paintings that he’s been producing in his weekly classes. Although not very vocal himself, his art spoke a million words; one featured a bison, another starred ‘The Hulk’. There was no doubt that these images were oozing themes of strength and endurance. Jared is 24 years old and has been through a lot over the course of his young life. He was born into a cycle of disadvantage, and at the moment he is being cared for at a men’s homeless service.
CYI’s student support coordinator, Emma, shared with me that she initially thought it was going to be quite difficult to get Jared to engage in the program, given all that he has been through. On the contrary, he has been setting his own alarm in the mornings to make it on time! For Jared, CYI offers stability, a listening ear, and a place to express his emotions and build skills. Importantly he is with people his own age who are also facing challenges. He is not alone.
This was a powerful reminder of the value of this program. More than art, it offers young people a safe place to heal, develop and grow.
And so I come back to my original contemplation: what would I be like had I grown up in different circumstances? What would my needs be? With this perspective I could be Jared…and I can see the value of having a program like CYI to turn to.
Thank you for supporting young people as they navigate through challenges and find paths to a brighter future.