Adija keeps her eyes on the prize

Posted on 29 March 2016 by Louise Carson

MacKillop Lead Tenant Joe has provided valuable support to Adija while she has been completing her schooling.

Studying for final year school exams, keeping a cool head and dealing with the stresses of being a teen is challenge enough for most young people.  

But when you came to Australia as a refugee at the age of 13, don’t have the family support many take for granted, and live in a house for homeless young people, completing your Higher School Certificate is an almost unthinkable achievement.

But this is just what 19-year old Adija (pictured above with Lead Tenant Joe) has done. You may remember that Adija came to live at one of MacKillop’s youth homelessness houses in Western Sydney a year ago. She had left her home because of family problems and needed a stable and safe environment which supported her.

MacKillop was able to provide that by placing Adija in a Lead Tenant residential property. Two adult volunteers, Emma and Joe, live permanently at the house with up to four young people. The idea is that the volunteers act as positive role models for young tenants, both in managing their day-to-day commitments and helping the young people be the best they can be.

“Where do I start with Emma and Joe”, said Adija. “They have been so supportive. I had days when I just wanted to give up but Emma and Joe, as well as my teachers and case worker, would remind me that I was doing this for myself and to think how good it would feel when I had completed my final exams.

“Before I received support from MacKillop, I was planning to drop out at the end of Year 10. I wasn’t coping at school. I was having panic attacks every day so I thought it would be best to leave. But Emma and Joe kept telling me ‘this time is not about your family; it’s about you. You want to complete your final exams. You made a promise to yourself to keep going’.

“So I kept going to school and if I had a bad day I told myself what happened today has happened, see what tomorrow will bring.”

Like all final year school students studying was a big part of Adija’s life. So the most valuable support Emma and Joe were able to provide her was a quiet, supportive, and settled home environment so she could concentrate on her studies.

“Emma and Joe always encouraged me to keep studying. They made sure the house was quiet when I was preparing for exams, they would practise questions with me, make sure I ate regularly and that I had my own space”, said Adija.

“After I finished my last exam I was so relieved! It was the best feeling ever. I couldn’t stop loving myself! I felt so proud of myself.”

Now Adija is concentrating on looking for a job, perhaps in child care.

“I have a couple of interviews lined up and I am excited for the future. Long term I would love to work for an organisation like UNICEF and get back to Tanzania.”

The Blacktown Hills Youth Homelessness Service is an integrated youth homeless service supporting young people aged 16-25 years who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Referrals can be made by phoning MacKillop’s Sydney office, based in Blacktown, on (02) 8881 4800.