Hilary Burden 2017-12-20 01:01:21
A decade ago, Courtney Hill was a rebellious 14-year-old from a broken home. She coped by drinking too much, smoking marijuana, riding in fast cars and fighting with her peers. It was hard to keep her in school, and she was suspended from two. The future looked bleak. “I was pretty far gone,” Hill says. “Mum gave us everything she possibly could, but she and my dad split up when I was seven. It was hard growing up without a dad and just mum trying to support four kids.” “She was a bugger of a kid,” says Lion Dale “Toby” Crawford, sharing a smile with the young woman who today stands proudly with him and his daughter, Louise Eiszale, at his home in Tasmania, an island state of Australia. “She knows where she was then. Thank goodness we helped her to move on, to talk about her problems and overcome them.” “I was a big ‘blockie’ [low-income rural] person,” says Hill, who says she wasted her time driving aimlessly. Now a leader of LYNX workshops, she is a devoted mother of three and a part-time teacher’s aide. Hill is one of 100 troubled youths who has benefited from LYNX (Lions Youth Network Express), supported by Australian Lions. LYNX helps youths derailed by drug and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse and tattered family relationships. A 56-year-old builder and longtime member of the Penguin Lions, Crawford helped set up LYNX. LYNX workshops are run by youth leaders with guidance from adults. Young people share their stories with peers and then access resources through LYNX. “Our program has an 80 to 85 percent success rate,” says Crawford. “You hear of so many people up before the courts blaming their crimes on a poor upbringing. But I want to ask them, ‘Did you make the right choices to try and change that or was it just easier for you to go the way you went?’” So what kept Hill in the program when nothing else worked? Toby, who became a surrogate father for her, and Louise, too. “They never made me talk or forced me to do anything,” Hill says. “Growing up, I found it hard trying to fit in with what people called ‘normal.’ At LYNX you didn’t have to fit in with that.” “Courtney is living proof that you can change your future,” says Crawford. “They may have changed without LYNX, but we give kids an opportunity to talk openly about their problems so there’s no bad egg sitting and rotting inside their soul. The young people in the program have a lot of issues to do with trust, and it takes time to build that up. Some take five or six years to open up. In time they’re comfortable to talk to anyone freely about their life.” Hill lives on a 30-acre property north of Launceston with her husband, Hugh, and their children Daniel, 6, Jake, 4, and Savanna, 2. “I love my family. They’re everything.” “She’d do anything for them, which makes me so proud when you look at where she’s come from,” says Crawford. “We’ve always said family should come first, then your job, then Lions and service work. I get frustrated when people say they haven’t got time, and yet they sit around doing nothing. You can always find time.”
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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