Alek passing life's tests thanks to the Salvos
12 February 2018
Engaging in alternative schooling through The Salvation Army seven years ago gave Alek extra confidence, new friendships and allowed him to graduate from Year 10.
Struggling with mental health issues, Alek wasn’t getting along with teachers at his old school and was “getting picked on by students nearly every day”. He dropped out and retreated for a time into the world of video games, where he says he “felt like a king” because “it seemed better than the normal world”.
He knew, however, that he had to eventually deal with the normal world again and, in 2010, he agreed with his parents to try The Salvation Army school run by its Youth Outreach Service in Lawnton, north of Brisbane.
The service operates a wide range of education, court support, accommodation, learner and open driver licence support and assessment, and referral programs for young people aged 12 to 25.
YOS Lawnton is a special assistance school that works with young people who are disengaged from mainstream education due to individual, relational and social factors.
“From day one, it seemed like it was the school for me,” said Alek, who is now in his 20s. “They had a great support network. They supported me through many things (including that) I had a mental health history.”
At the end of the school year, Alek was presented with the service’s prestigious Community Spirit Award because, according to one of the service’s youth workers, “he was always helping people … he would help other YOS students, YOS staff and even community members and often without being asked, and was often the first person to ask if someone needed some help”.
Despite the satisfaction of graduating from Year 10 and entering the workforce, Alek continued to suffer from mental health issues and in 2014 was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He spiralled into a deep addiction to the drug “ice” and eventually landed himself in prison.
At this point, The Salvation Army YOS were once again there for Alek.
Marti Fordyce, YOS Advocacy and Justice Support Youth Worker, says: “When Alek found himself in legal trouble, we began to even more intensively work with him to provide advocacy and court support and prison visits. It has been on and off probably over the last year and a half and he’s gone on a really massive journey of turning his life around.”
Alek is now making positive progress, volunteering at YOS and the wider Salvation Army, delivering furniture, packing Christmas hampers and more. He is once again looking for paid employment, and says he is really thankful to The Salvation Army for its ongoing support.
Marti says: “The methamphetamine addiction impacted on every aspect of Alek’s life. He was really hurting and he’s really working through that now in a really positive way.
“He’s an amazing young man,” she continues, “with such a big heart and so much to give and just has so much potential. It has just been such a pleasure to walk alongside him (and also in the background to pray for him). He has had many really difficult moments and it has been a long journey, but so worth it.”
Over the past year, Marti has also worked with around 300 young people to navigate legal issues and act as an advocate. Many, she says, have been let down by the mental health system, the legal system, or have come from highly troubled and or disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Even at the very darkest moments, Alek would still turn up at YOS and I see us as almost being a beacon of hope for Alek and many other of our young people.
“I have worked with over 1500 young people in my career and truly believe (as does the wider YOS team) that every person deserves the opportunity and support to improve their life circumstances – not just based on a second chance, or a third, but as many as it takes.
“We see so many – so, so, many … an amazing number of young people come through out of the tough times because they’ve had that ongoing support from people who were just unwilling to give up on them!”
By Naomi Singlehurst