Homegrown trust for youth

Otago Youth Wellness Trust mentor John Schofield, who began making boomerangs as a teenager in...
Otago Youth Wellness Trust mentor John Schofield, who began making boomerangs as a teenager in Melbourne, shows some of his collection to Nicolas O'Neill (13). The pair have been enjoying activities together since earlier this year. Photos by Linda...
Anna Bragg, of the Otago Youth Wellness Trust, says we often hear when things go wrong with young...
Anna Bragg, of the Otago Youth Wellness Trust, says we often hear when things go wrong with young people but public support for the trust's mentoring and holiday programmes paint a different picture: ''Actually there's a lot going on where things are...

The Otago Youth Wellness Trust is a homegrown initiative that started 18 years ago and now works with about 300 young people annually.

The community-based service says its clients, aged 11 to 18, have multiple needs, anything from the effects of isolation and family or relationship issues to not attending school and not accessing healthcare.

Mentoring is one intervention. Others include referrals to specialised services such as drug and alcohol counselling, mental health services or family therapy.

The trust also runs holiday programmes that organiser Anna Bragg says are well-supported by local businesses. In January some of these gave their time to take young people horse riding and rock climbing.

Founded by educationalist Dame Pat Harrison, the trust initially focused on providing assistance for those lost to the education system but now has a broader focus. Many of its referrals are from schools, GPs and family members.

After having their needs assessed, young people are supported by caseworkers who work across all areas of their lives. The 20 staff have backgrounds in social work, occupational therapy, teaching, nursing and psychology.

Manager Barbara Payton says the service is free because it needs to be accessible. Funding is provided by government service contracts but it also relies on community donations.

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