Posted in At-Risk
Twelve-year-old Mathew Sumpton has experienced a lot of hardships. His 15-year-old sister, Tiffany, tragically died after an asthma attack last year, and his dad, Darran, was almost killed in a workplace accident six years ago.
These challenges crushed Mathew’s confidence, and he coped by behaving badly at home and school and withdrawing from those around him. “There’s tape on my door because Mathew head-butted it after his sister locked him out. That was before he started changing his attitude, and he’s been doing really, really well,” says Mathew’s mum, Vanessa.
Vanessa and Darran attribute Mathew’s transformation to Connect – SU QLD’s program for at-risk youth. “It’s been a big six years. I don’t even know how Mathew has pulled through,” Darran says. “But lately, he’s changed. For the first time, he won a ‘Super Star’ award at school for best behaviour.”
Mathew’s one-on-one chats with Connect facilitators Peter Earnshaw and Tim Everett, as well as challenging activities and camping trips, taught him how to overcome life’s challenges. “On the first camp, he was writing Tiffany’s name in the sand and kept to himself. But by the end of it, he was joining in,” Darran says.
Peter was privileged to witness the change in Mathew. “At the start of the year, he was very volatile in conflicts and would just ‘blow-up’. He didn’t get along well with the other boys and always wanted to be on his own.
“But over time, I saw this remarkable young guy transform because of his determination to overcome his anger and be part of the group. And as his behavior changed, I saw the group start to accept him. Mathew learnt that his peers cared for him and that he was accepted.”
“I’ve learnt teamwork, responsibility and communication,” Mathew says. My favourite parts were canoeing, camping and four-wheel-driving. Once we got bogged at Rainbow Beach because the teacher forgot to put it in 4WD.”
Mathew’s relationship with his dad has also improved. “He used to be a little terror; he had attitude and would just walk out of the classroom. But we’ve had no problems lately,” Darran says. “He has good grades, is learning to play the guitar, and has made some friends. He has mostly good moments lately, rather than bad. It used to be the other way around. He’s even involved in his school’s ‘Break Buddies’ program, where he helps teachers look after Prep students.”