The YMCA Bridge Project 10 Year Anniversary Dinner

  • Date: 24 August 2016
  • Category: News
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Helping break the cycle: YMCA Bridge Project Manager, Mick Cronin, with ten year Bridge Project Patron Mick Malthouse and Channel 9's Alicia Loxley at the 10 Year Anniversary Dinner

On track to raising $180,000!

When former YMCA Bridge Project participant James stood at the podium on Friday night in front of packed Melbourne Town Hall, he paused a moment before he spoke.

Visibly nervous, he shuffled his speaking notes and looked sideways at Bridge Project Manager Mick Cronin, Mick wasn’t visible to the chattering crowd, he was there to give James final words of encouragement, “you start speaking and they’ll listen’’.

With that, James focused and began his speech.

James spoke about spending his teenage years caught up with the wrong crowd. He spoke about the years when he distanced himself from his family and crime entered his life.  He said after his first experience in prison he felt lost upon release. He felt alone and disillusioned.

“There was part of me that wanted to change, but I didn’t know how”, he said.

James ended up back in custody, but this time he met a case worker from the YMCA Bridge Project.

“It was at this point I started to believe more in my future,” he said.

James found someone who believed he could change and was there to help him.

James told the room he now worked full time and had recently completed a diploma in construction. He was now eager to take the next step in his career.

The desire to change and take on new challenges had to come from within, but like Mick Cronin at the side of stage before his speech, James had the Bridge Project by his side for the length of his journey.

For the past ten years, the YMCA Bridge Project has worked to provide training, mentoring and ultimately meaningful employment to young people at risk of being stuck in a cycle of crime and imprisonment.

The theme at the ten year anniversary dinner was Behind each face is a story, after hearing from James the 400-strong crowd also heard from Bridge participant Jaime.

Jaime described how he now walked with pride when considering how far he had come. He said Bridge ultimately helped find him work, and with work came hope and structure.

“I’m proof that the cycle of offending can be broken.’’

The historic town hall was also adorned with artworks of Bridge Project participants’ faces, accompanied by their stories. Seeing the faces and reading the stories was a reminder that these are young people that have had a hard time, have already overcome so much and deserve a second chance.

Channel 9 News presenter Alicia Loxley, who had donated her time to host the event, reminded the business and community leaders in the room that today, there are more than 2530 young people on community based orders and 174 young people in custody. Of the young people in detention 61 per cent have prior offences, indicating a cycle of reoffending.

For young people who take part in the YMCA Bridge Project this reoffending rate drops to just 3 per cent.

Employment Minister Wade Noonan reflected on the history of the Bridge Project and how for the last ten years it has given young people who’ve been through the judicial system a reason to believe that they can change their futures for the better.

Ten year Bridge Project Patron and AFL coaching legend Mick Malthouse drew a parallel with young football stars he had coached and mentored “You’ve got to have great belief in people and you’ve got to let them grow,” he said.

The YMCA Bridge Project cannot make a difference without the support of government, business and the community.

Thank you to all those that attended on the night and to all those that have supported the YMCA Bridge Project during the past ten years. It has truly been a successful decade, but the job is not over.

There are three things you can do to support the YMCA Bridge Project:

  1. Make a donation and help us help more young people
  2. Provide a job for a young person at-risk
  3. Hire or recommend our maintenance service, YMCA ReBuild - a social enterprise that directly employs young people through the Bridge Project and provides quality facility maintenance services.
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