Ambassador with a passion
19 March 2014
For 16-year-old Jodi, being a Salvos’ Youth Ambassador has deepened her passion to make a difference to others – and brought more stability to her own life.
Jodi is one of 28 young people from 14 schools across NSW who are halfway through the one-year pilot Salvos’ Youth Ambassador (SAM) program.
After Jodi’s parents went through a bitter divorce, she lived mostly with her mother in her grandparents’ house. When Jodi was 14, her mother remarried and Jodi ‘lost her mum’ to her new stepsiblings. Fights ensued and Jodi spiraled into depression and anger, resulting in self-harm and periods of homelessness.
She eventually joined a youth group at Menai Salvation Army and later found herself a Salvos’ Youth Council at Wollongong.
At the conference, she heard a talk by SAM co-founder, Bee Orsini, and immediately signed up for the ambassador program.
“I wanted to get more involved with the Salvos and volunteer wherever I could. I’m a massive fan of helping other people, and wanted to show that people our age can make a difference,” says Jodi.
Working with SAM has helped Jodi realise that she was not alone in her problems. Today, she is back at school, reconciled and living with her mother – and determined to make a difference in the world.
The youth ambassadors also benefit from personal development workshops with professionals in areas such as public speaking, media training, suicide prevention and counselling.
Bee Orsini says the ambassador program is already making a difference to thousands of young lives.
“The program aims to support the next generation of history makers by equipping, educating and empowering young people to lead at the forefront of social justice issues,” says Ms Orsini.
To date, the ambassadors have worked on an urban mission and with Oasis Youth Support Network to launch The Couch Project in the glass cube at Circular Quay. They have also helped organise a school tour by Australian boy band What About Tonight, which reached over 8,000 young people in schools, talking about homelessness and other youth issues.
The latest SAM project is a social justice conference at The Salvation Army in Auburn for 200 year 9 and 10 students.
Ms Orsini says each of the ambassadors brings unique ideas and qualities to SAM. She says some feel like they have a privileged and blessed life and want to be able to share that. Others have been bereaved by suicide or have family or friends who have experienced severe hardship.
“Then you have others like Jodi, who are in a place where they want to be able to use their past, no matter how tough it’s been, to help make sure others don’t fall into that same trap,” Ms Orsini says.
“Jodi has gone through a very tough time in her young life and is now using her experience to help others through SAM. She is one of the most passionate and dedicated young people I've ever met. She has put her hand up for every opportunity the Salvos have offered her since she started with SAM.
“For someone who has been through so much, she is incredibly brave and fearless, underscored by a deep passion for helping others – it’s awesome.”