13 November 2017

From at-risk to life with No Limits

Posted in At-Risk / Chaplaincy

That moment when silence speaks louder than words…

Earlier this year a group of girls from Ipswich State High School made their way to the top of a hill to look out over the horizon to watch the sun set, not only on the day that was, but on their troubled pasts.

It’s the moment Ipswich State High School chaplain Debbie Grey calls ‘the magic show’.

“It’s this amazing moment where you have these young people staring out in awe at this beautiful view with the sun setting. There’s just silence. They’re not looking at their mobile devices, they’re just fixed on this special moment,” Chappy Debbie says.

This moment for many in Debbie’s No Limits program (developed by VITAL Projex) for at-risk youth is the catalyst for some major breakthroughs.

It’s a moment far removed from the students’ everyday lives.

These young people may come from broken homes, they may have a parent in prison, or they’ve been exposed to alcoholism and substance abuse. Some have been kicked out of every school they’ve been in, while others are struggling with self-esteem.

For many, Chappy Debbie’s program offers them the closest thing they’ve had to a loving and supportive family, a chance to escape the noise that is their daily life. It’s why that moment on the hillside is so special.

“We discuss what we witnessed, the colours and how the scene changed before our very eyes. Everything changes and the group begins to open up and share some amazing things,” Chappy Debbie says.

It sounds simple, but as Debbie explains, that moment perfectly illustrates one of the central messages she impresses upon her students.

“Today might have been a terrible day, but tomorrow is a new day that marks the rest of your life. Let’s see how we can do better,” she says.

Debbie runs No Limits throughout the year for at-risk girls and boys, but also others who are struggling to fit in at school.

The adventure-based learning program helps students face their fears, grow in confidence and learn how to trust and respect others.

Supported by volunteers from local churches (Catalyst and Centro) – and Ipswich State High teacher Tanya McKenna – Chappy Debbie says she feels immensely privileged to be in a position to support young people to make positive life choices.

“I’ve seen boys who at the start of the program wanted nothing to do with each other. By the end of it, they were great friends. I’ve seen shy, scared young people who are unsure of themselves and are not fitting in at school, grow in confidence and see themselves in a new light and living up to their potential,” she says.

Your support equips school chaplains like Debbie with the tools needed to bring hope to at-risk Queensland youth. Keep this support going and visit suqld.org.au/donate.

Casey Seaton

Media & Communications Delivery Manager

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