Tiffany’s upbringing has been tougher than most – at 13 she moved out of home and by 15 she was living on the streets.
The 17-year-old tells a harrowing story, but the brave teenager has turned her life around thanks to a Wishlist-funded program running on the Sunshine Coast for at-risk youth.
“At 13 my parents made the decision that they just didn’t want me,” the Sunshine Coast teenager recalls.
After being expelled from school and eventually dropping out, Tiffany’s life spiralled even more out of control.
“Like a lot of kids that were on the streets, I just took it day by day,” she said.
“I looked after myself and then I was referred to the SCKoping program which helped me learn how to cope – it pulled me through so much.”
The Sunshine Coast Koping Program (SCKoping) was established in 2002 to support children and young people in a family system affected by mental health and/or drug and alcohol conditions.
Recently, the program was boosted by a $10,000 grant from the Westpac Foundation.
SCKoping Project Officer Sharon Thomasson (pictured below) said the grant would be invaluable in helping at-risk youth access annual Getaway Camps to build a more supportive network.
“This support allows youth like Tiffany reduce individual risk factors, strengthen coping and resilience and give them a chance at life,” Ms Thomasson said.
“SCKoping makes a huge difference in the lives of these impressionable young people.
“The kids love the camps as it gives them a chance to hang out with others like them, and it gives them confidence that things will be okay.”
Tiffany went on her first camp three years ago and has made lifelong friendships.
“I still text them now and say ‘I’m having a bad night’,” Tiffany admitted.
“You know there is no judgement there. Everyone has had a similar upbringing, everyone has a story.
“We drag each other through things and we keep each other’s heads up high.”
Tiffany is now a second-year hairdresser and said through the support of SCKoping and her friends she “sorted life out”.
Regional General Manager for Westpac Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay Geoff Dick (pictured below) said he was proud the community grant had been awarded to a local grassroots program.
“This program is life-changing and it is vital in helping disadvantaged youth on the Coast.”
In the past five years, Westpac Foundation Community Grants have provided more than $707,000 to Queensland not-for-profits who are making a difference locally.
Wishlist CEO Lisa Rowe said through the help of the generous Sunshine Coast community, Wishlist had been able to direct more than $220,000 to fund the SCKoping program and camps.
“The camps provide a respite option for children aged nine to 18 years,” Ms Rowe said.
“We are extremely grateful for Westpac Foundation’s grant and of course, the support of our community. These camps don’t happen unless people donate.”
Wishlist is the Sunshine Coast’s hospital foundation which directs more than $1 million each year to create the best possible healthcare for local families.
Wishlist’s operational costs are covered by Nambour General Hospital’s multi-level car park, therefore 100 per cent of donations directly benefit the Sunshine Coast’s public patients.
Can you help? Donate now by selecting the ‘donate’ tab at www.wishlist.org.au.