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Reflecting on Horizons

I’ve been to Sydney many times before. The harbour is always beautiful, the beaches are inviting and, no matter how parochially Victorian I might be, I can’t deny how good the weather is.

 

But, my last visit to the NSW capital is one that I’ll never forget; because I saw the city through a new lens.

 

I was lucky enough to meet up with Year 9 and 10 students on one of Community Spirit Foundation’s Horizons camps. These young people had travelled there from our partner communities in the Northern Territory and Queensland. And, for those who had never been to a capital city before, it must have felt like they had journeyed to another world.

 

Using an Opal Card to board a train might be second nature to many of us. But, for some of these young people, it was their first time doing it. In fact, some of them had never ridden public transport before, but soon discovered the joy of ‘surfing’ in the articulated section at the middle of the bus. Walking with thousands of others during peak-hour might be part of our daily commute, but some of these students would never have seen so many people in the one place at the one time. Even speaking English as their primary language is something that many of the students don’t do at home.

 

While these young people could have been completely overwhelmed, they demonstrated an astonishing amount of courage and resilience. It’s true we work hard to design our programs to ensure everyone on our camps is, and feels, safe and supported, but they must draw on their own internal strength while they’re there.

 

In Sydney, the young people tested their brawn indoor rock climbing, viewed a special rehearsal of Bangarra Dance Theatre, visited Google’s office, saw behind the scenes at Taronga Zoo, heard from the University of Technology Sydney about pathways for further education and listened to Olympian, and friend of the foundation, Steve Hooker about goal setting. They also scaled the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and, while I was taking deep, calming breaths at the summit, they were taking the view, and the height, in their stride.

 

Some young people celebrated the new skills they learned: “Surfing is really hard but it was fun”. While others used the camp to focus their ambitions: “When I leave school I would like to be a teacher”. Others saw the potential in themselves as well as their peers: “When I leave school, I would like to meet each kids that came to CSF camp at university”. And some made connections that will endure: “I don’t want to leave people who I made friends with”. 

 

Pleasingly, 10 of the 13 students who attended camp said they wanted to attend school ‘more’ when they returned home, nine felt prouder of themselves and more confident, and nine were more committed to trying their best at school than when they arrived. It fills my heart with joy to see the impact this program is having on these young lives.

 

This year, Community Spirit Foundation took more than 80 students on eight camps. That means that 80 young people, from some of Australia’s most remote locations, met role models, connected with pathways to work and further education, and saw what opportunities exist for them outside of their community.

 

We are so proud of the Horizons program we’ve delivered this year, and of the young people who have taken part in them. But none of this would be possible without the support of our Horizons funding partners. We thank you.

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