Youth Insearch weekend camp

Hear from Executive Officer Paul Olds about his recent experience at Youth Insearch weekend camp

29 September 2022

I recently attended a Youth Insearch weekend camp (Fri night, Sat and Sun).  I’ve wanted to share this incredible experience for a while now, but I’ve struggled to give it justice in writing. Hopefully this conveys just how special the experience was.

Youth Insearch Chincilla Dalby bus

Photo: The youth group attending Youth Insearch weekend camp

Youth Insearch is one of the Foundation’s charity partners. They run programs that allow young people to help young people. Their aim is to empower those aged 14 to 20 to turn their disadvantages into their advantages, enabling them to reach their full potential.  The camps are an important part of their overall program which also includes weekly support groups, leadership training and social work case management.

The camp was held just outside Kilcoy in south-east Queensland. It was your standard school camp set up with cabins, a meeting hall and dining room.  It was attended by 22 youth from Dalby, Bundaberg, Chinchilla, Hervey Bay and surrounding areas.  The youngest was 14 and the eldest was 18 years old.  This camp was facilitated by two Youth Leaders (young adults) who are previous attendees who have undergone extensive leadership training.  The Youth Leaders were extremely well supported by two Youth Insearch staff, a psychologist, two social workers and two adult support workers.

You can’t hide from it, the youth who attend these camps are there for a reason. They have all faced significant trauma in their lives - domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, death, severe bullying or extreme social isolation.  They are there to support each other and move forward on their journey to reclaiming their potential.

I found many of the topics discussed and the experiences shared by the kids extremely difficult to hear and confronting. In the safe space created, both the participants and the support team courageously shared very personal stories.  It would have been very easy for emotions such as anger, shame, frustration and resentment to control the weekend.  Thankfully the environment created and the structure of the program didn’t allow that happen. There was time to vent, but the focus was on supporting the participants to move forward.  Everyone had each other’s back providing insights, encouragement and reassurance that could only come from personal experiences learnt from dealing with similar situations.

It was very obvious attendees were all at different stages of their journeys. Through the expertise of the facilitators, they were able to interact at a level that supported their needs.  Some mainly observed and derived strength from the group, while others communicated with a level of emotional intelligence and self-understanding well beyond their age.

It is impossible to leave an experience like this with without some reflection: 

  1. I won the lotto with my parents, family and friends. The opportunities, values and role modelling provided during my youth definitely provided me a massive head start in life and help set my trajectory. 
  2. There is no quick fix to the trauma these kids have endured.  Organisations like Youth Insearch are critical in helping them rebuild their lives, they are providing that connection many of the participants are searching for.
  3. Given the right platform and structure, kids are really good at helping other kids.  They are insightful and compassionate. 
  4. Both the Youth Insearch staff members participated in Youth Insearch program’s during their teens.  Having that lived experience of the program brings an elevated level of belief and confidence in the organisation. 
  5. You have to be bold and be prepared not to skirt around the difficult topics.  Challenging and inspiring the attendees to be that intergenerational change was an extremely powerful message.
  6. The Youth Insearch program saves lives.  

I often say I’m in a very privileged position as I get the opportunity to witness first-hand how our contribution to our charity partners is making a difference. 

I sincerely hope this brief overview of my weekend with 22 courageous kids has given you a small glimpse into the power of the Youth Insearch program. I’m very proud that the collective Heritage Bank community, which the Foundation is a part of, has been able to play a role helping Youth Insearch build stronger communities.


Paul Olds

Executive Officer

Liesel, Paul Olds and Chloe
Photo: Leisel, Paul and Chloe at the Youth Insearch weekend camp
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