We had a double whammy at the meeting this week with presentations from our most recent RYLArian, Julia McGrath, and Community Worker Nicole Blaik from Highlands Community Centres.
Julia gave us an excellent summary of the activities they undertook at the most recent RLYA get-together in Canberra in January.  This was the first one that combined attendees from both Districts 9700 and 9750, and by all reports, it went very well with around 50 participants.  Berrima District was well represented by our District RYLA Chair, Lyndall Dalley, ably assisted by Bridget Cosyn and Melissa Meredith.  Julia obviously enjoyed herself and participated in all the exercises with suitable gusto.  There is no doubt that this is a great Rotary program in promoting self-improvement and self-confidence in our youth and we should continue to actively support it next year. Lyndall tells me that they are planning to limit the numbers to around 40 next time so the can provide better individual attention to each RYLArian, so is likely to be a long waiting list next time now that 9700 has some clear air to plan ahead.
Nicole, given the nature of her work, was perhaps a little less upbeat as she gave us a rundown on her activities at the HCC. Firstly, she described what a community worker actually does, which is a combination of supporting clients who need a great deal of help with their lives, providing referrals to other organisations, running programs to increase resilience of those in need, organising relevant events and liaising with the wider community.  She then went on to tell us about a couple of the programs she runs. 
The principal one is My Life My Dreams which goes under the banner “a program to empower women to live their best lives”. She profiled the candidates for us – aged from mid-30s to mid-50s; nearly 50% from single parent households; main source of income usually a pension or social benefits; often have mental health and substance abuse problems; most had experienced domestic violence. MLMD gives these women reason for hope by providing employment opportunities, better education and improved life skills. It also provides better health outcomes, an increased social network and a feeling of empowerment for the women who participate.
The other program she covered is On Track which our Club has made a major contribution to. This program picks up young people who usually have just left school and are searching for some direction in their lives. With one of the highest unemployment rates in Australia (25.4%), the Highlands are not well-placed to provide such direction.  On Track provides practical skills, well-being and soft skills such as managing emotions (often anger management is an issue), self-esteem, confidence building and goal setting.  It then provides work experience opportunities in a choice of aged care, retail, hospitality or construction which are the four biggest employers in this area.  Nicole sounds like a great asset to the HCC and we hope to see more of her in the future.