GERALDINE Moran was recovering from cancer when she witnessed a little girl getting kicked along the street.
“My husband wouldn’t stop the car to let me get out to help, but I never forgot it,” she said. Seeing that incident proved a life-changer for the 2016 Lake Macquarie Citizen of the Year.
Once she was well, Ms Moran studied psychology and did a coaching course. She wanted to find a way to help young people, like that girl, to know their real worth. Centre For Hope was born as a means of giving disadvantaged young people some strategies to help them deal with adversities.
It began with mentoring 12- to 16-year-olds, mainly in the Lake Macquarie area, but they soon found introducing the programs earlier helped to pre-empt some difficult situations. The programs have since grown to include primary school children throughout the region, as well as Marrickville and Gilgandra.
“As we kept working we were asked by a local school who’d had young students as young as six being taught to chrome, which is inhaling aerosols,” Ms Moran said. “We adapted our program to meet that requirement, and started working in primary schools for children aged six and up to start conversations about how to say no, what’s good for me, what things are going to hurt me. And from there, it grew.”
Centre For Hope set up a bike shed project called Wheels For Hope and opened a drop-in centre at Lake Macquarie Fair in Mount Hutton. “We take old bikes in a reasonable condition, and the kids work together with mentors to re-condition that bike and make it their own,” Ms Moran said. “It’s a wonderful way for a young person to work side-by-side with an adult in a way they can still chat about what’s going on, but it’s not like they’re being questioned.”
Thanks to a donation from the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation, there is now a Wheels For Hope shed at Kurri Kurri, and another is opening at Raymond Terrace.
Ms Moran said they also encouraged students in their programs to work on a fundraising project for international charities. “We’re hoping the flow-on for them is that it allows themselves, and others, to see them in a different light,” she said.
The success of Centre For Hope was a double-edged sword, Ms Moran said.
“For one thing, we’d like to think that there weren’t so many people that need this service. But it is lovely to think we are reaching them at a different level to other organisations can.”