Eastern Melbourne PHN has commissioned a unique initiative with Youth Support + Advocacy Service (YSAS) that combines outreach services, day programs, recreational activities, family support and connection to counselling services helping to support and improve the lives of young people aged 12 to 21.
YSAS SHERPA team leader, Kellie Ferris, said the Supporting the Health, Education, Recreation and Personal Autonomy (SHERPA) initiative aims to encourage young people to “…come and hang out with us until you find people you’d prefer to hang out with”.
“Many of the young people are experiencing issues such as disconnection, trauma, domestic violence, problematic alcohol and other drug use,” she said.
“SHERPA aims to help people find their passion or purpose, and establish a positive future and connection to whatever that is.”
Since mid-2017, the SHERPA initiative has seen more than 20 young people participate in a range of activities in out-of-office settings including outdoor experiences, healthy eating and nutrition initiatives, and visits to attractions.
In addition, there is weekly group work, one-on-one counselling, access to a nurse and assistance accessing a range of wrap-around services.
When commencing in the SHERPA initiative, goal setting is undertaken to determine the key issues the young person wishes to work on.
Youth workers work alongside them to help identify what they feel is having a negative impact on them and assistance is provided to reduce these factors.
Issues often relate to family dynamics, education and employment, health and wellbeing, or problematic alcohol and other drug use.
Connection to family or other support people is key to a successful journey, and SHERPA youth workers work closely to educate carers and families on ways to support young people to improve overall health and wellbeing rather than just addressing a ‘single’ issue.
“SHERPA provides the opportunity for participants to connect with a group of people in a positive, supportive setting among peers, while receiving help accessing the resources and supports to encourage them to work on the issues they are struggling with,” Kellie said.
“Regular activities assist young people and their carers or families familiarise themselves with routine which, in turn, assists in building capacity and confidence to engage in education, work or training.
“Three months into the program and it’s great to hear participants come to the realisation about what they need to do to make their future better.
“They are doing some great work turning around their lives in a way that is self-led and sustainable.”
Following participation in SHERPA, young people report they’ve had a great time and that they wish to continue doing the things that connect them to others and help them get outside with nature.
One young person said they have been having the time of their life. Another participant said “I feel like I can’t do other stuff like go to school but I love being with YSAS; they help you and you know they care about you”. Another during an outing at Sugar Loaf Mountain said “…this is so much better than doing nothing and just thinking about all your problems.”
To find out more about the SHERPA program, please contact YSAS directly on (03) 9415 8881.