STORIES

Hear how the YMCA Bridge Project has impacted the lives of young people, not just by connecting them with employment opportunities, but by offering them a second chance.

Will

When I was a teenager, most days revolved around me and my mates just getting high and doing crime to get money to pay for it. I stopped playing sport and went downhill. I didn’t realise the impact it was having on me and my family. I ended up in front of a judge, who sentenced me to four months at Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre.

Once released, I started to appreciate the small things in my life that I had taken for granted before. But over time I found myself hanging around with the same people as I was before. I didn’t have that extra support that I needed.

Luckily, not long after my release my Department of Human Services worker introduced me to the YMCA Bridge Project. They asked about my goals and the type of work I was interested in. Before I knew it I had an interview for a job which I secured not long after.

Having a job helped me get into a good routine: waking up early, working hard and being around good people. I have managed to save money, buy a car, get my licence. Throughout my employment I have had ups and downs but the YMCA Bridge Project has always been there and had my back.

Jenna

I am an Indigenous woman from a small and remote community on the Tiwi Islands. I made the decision to leave what I knew and move to Melbourne to give myself and my children more opportunities.

I was set up to do an Indigenous program for a banking role. After two job interviews I was told I had the job. Then my police check came back stating I had a criminal record and they changed their mind. I was devastated. I didn’t want to let my past define me. I remember thinking, ‘all I want is an opportunity.’

YMCA Bridge Project gave me that opportunity. An Indigenous employment officer had given my details to the YMCA Bridge Project, and they set up an interview and I was offered a job as receptionist.

I was so happy to start working, but it was not easy at first. The support I received from YMCA Bridge Project was phenomenal. I had regular phone calls and catch ups with my case worker and they even took me out to get my first work clothes.

Thank you to the YMCA Bridge Project for making this possible, for putting in the time and effort to really change my life for the better.

James

I grew up in Preston with my mum and dad and siblings. I was a good kid, I went to church every Sunday, and I played rugby and did a little athletics.

It was at 15 that things started to go wrong, I started to go out partying and drinking with my mates till 4am. At 16 I was arrested for the first time which killed my parents. They knew I had been a bit mischievous but not to the extent that I had gone. 

By 19 I served 2 years in prison for a series of armed robberies. When I got out I was lost and angrier than ever because of whom I had been surrounded by for the last 2 years. Within 8 months I was back in Prison.

I had a lot of time to think about changing my ways but didn’t know how to take the first steps. I remember doing the Bridge course in jail and when I was released I decided to contact the Bridge who organised a job at Rebuild for me. 

I was now for the first time in a long time surrounded by positive people. I started to get into a routine and actually enjoyed coming to work. It made my transition back into society easier where I had fallen down in the past.

Rose

I’ve always found it difficult to make friends. My family has a background of mental illness, and I suffer from depression and anxiety.

My father committed suicide when I was a baby, but up until I was 15 I had been told he died falling off the roof. Finding out the truth really took its toll on me. I was working in a corporate role for a well-known organisation when I began to steal money meant for people in need of support. Over time it became a substantial sum. I knew what I was doing was wrong.

When I was sentenced and realised I had to go to prison I was terrified, humiliated, and felt very alone. My mum said to me, “I may love you, but I don’t like you very much right now.”

After serving my two and a half year sentence, it was difficult to get back on track. I was scared to leave the house in case somebody recognised me. I attended the YMCA Bridge Project BEST Program, and I’m not scared anymore. I have changed and made positive steps to become a better person.

With the help of YMCA Bridge Project, I have now secured employment and was honest about my background. I know I have made mistakes, but all I ask is for people to keep an open mind, and give people like me a second chance.