Annemarie Noonan, Manager of Merriwa’s Child Youth and Family and Disability Support Services Divisions says, “The young people we welcome into our homes are given a safe and nurturing environment, particularly during challenging times in their lives.

“Our dedicated team of Youth Support Workers are on hand around the clock to support, encourage and empower the kids. We try to give them a normal family life. We eat meals together, go on outings and attend school events with them.”

Merriwa’s Youth Support Workers teach life skills, including cooking and budgeting. They encourage the youngsters to stay in school and advocate on their behalf, meeting with teachers and arranging access to services such as counselling – and potentially employment as part of Merriwa’s workforce of 240 people.

“The work we do in Community Services is challenging, but very rewarding. It is wonderful to see the kids thrive,” says Annemarie.

Jacob (not his real name) is a great example of just how young people can flourish, given a chance.

A little over a year ago 14-year-old Jacob and his siblings were no longer able to live at home. Jacob and his brother were immediately welcomed into a Merriwa home.

“Since then, we’ve seen Jacob transform from a shy person into a socially confident young man who has a bright future. Jacob is now attending school much more regularly, is actively looking for a part-time job and is studying to take the Learner’s driving test.

“He is learning new social skills, having recently joined a local sporting club, where he is enjoying the team comradery and revelling in the physical exercise.

“Jacob has even embraced the cooking lessons we provide. He is quite adventurous, making his pizza bases from scratch and being creative with sushi,” said Mrs Noonan.

In addition to Jacob, Merriwa’s Community Services Division currently hosts ten other young people. In recent years the demand for Merriwa’s supported residential care servicers has grown. “There is unmet need in our community.  Our vision is to open more homes, so we can help more kids to lead the best lives they can,” said Annemarie.