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Hope: it's what keeps you going

Aleisha is a young Aboriginal woman with a fierce amount of determination and positivity. Yet she hasn’t always been able to hold hope for herself – her life was a huge struggle and the difficulties with her family were too great.

At the end of 2020 when she’d just completed Year 11, Aleisha hit an all-time low. She was living in crisis accommodation, commuting more than two hours morning and night to attend school.

Her teacher and principal could see how much Aleisha was struggling. So a few days before Christmas, they contacted MacKillop’s Specialist Homelessness Service in Sydney to share their concerns for her welfare.

When Aleisha came to MacKillop she was so guarded she could barely speak. Tammy Momdjian, House Supervisor for MacKillop’s Specialist Homelessness Service, said Aleisha’s stress levels were extremely high and her defences were up.

“At that point Aleisha didn’t want to do the assessment so I just told her about the service and left the door open to her. When I called her three days later, she was ready and she moved in,” Tammy said.

The team wrapped around Aleisha with therapeutic care and slowly, once she felt supported, she began to open up. She turned to creative writing as an avenue to express herself and unpack her feelings.

This turning point was the start of a transformation from someone who had lost hope in life, to a flourishing young person with incredible resilience and optimism. Aleisha began to smile, engaged with other residents, and learned about others’ experiences and her own emotional intelligence.

With a renewed energy for life, Aleisha returned her focus to her studies and learning valuable life skills. She spent three months in MacKillop’s home and during this time she learned about conflict resolution and compassion, along with practical life skills like cooking, cleaning and taking care of herself.

From here, Aleisha was offered a permanent home by a teacher at her school, as a person in her family, not a resident at her house. This was a life-changing moment. She had spent time in out of home care as a child and had been removed from her parents and siblings. To be part of a family which, as Aleisha says has “proven to devote their love to me” has helped to heal the displacement she experienced earlier in life.

Aleisha has gained early entry to a Bachelor of Social Work which she has chosen as a way to give back.

I know there are a lot of people struggling and I really want to be able to help them in the way MacKillop helped me.

– Aleisha

For a 17-year-old, Aleisha possesses an incredible amount of self-awareness. She understands the importance of hope from the experience of having very little. “Our resilience can show us that it isn’t always easy, but it is worth it.”

Aleisha acknowledges that she was a completely different person after her time with MacKillop. “I was smiling every day and ready take on the world. MacKillop literally saved my life, they completely turned my life around,” she says.

MacKillop may have helped turn Aleisha’s life around, however her positivity and hope are the true keys to her self-determination. She continues to thrive and inspires those around her as she determines her own future.