Helping Young People Belong

Helping Young People Belong

Making friends can be harder than you think.

Last year we had a young man coming to our youth group. He didn’t have a faith background, he was simply a kid whose parents wanted him to have the opportunity to make friends. 

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This kid, let’s call him Matt, simply wanted a friend more than anything else in the world. Such a simple desire but the impact of which we take for granted. 

Matt has numerous barriers to friendships. He has a disability which means his maturity, social skills and interests are that of someone much younger. Over the first few weeks that we got to know him, we found it hard at times because his language and interests were plainly so weird and uncomfortable. Our youth and volunteers often didn’t know what to do or say. 

However, his school experience was even more difficult. Bullied and picked on, manipulated for lack of understanding, his daily experience was to have the other students tell him that he has to harm himself in order to be allowed to play.

Imagine being told regularly that you’re worthless and you should just end your life. 

helping young people belong
helping young people belong

Your Impact. 

Thankfully due to the generosity of people like you, we were able to sponsor Matts ticket which enabled him to come to our Summer Camp. It was the first camp he’d ever been on. He’d never even been to a sleepover. Over the coming days he had a great time doing the activities and being around everyone, but true friends remained elusive for him. 

On the final night he broke down in uncontrollable sobbing. The ache of his heart for value and friendship had simply become too much. As our volunteers and some of the youth sat with him, they too couldn’t hold back the tears as they heard his pain. Hours were spent that night simply giving the gift of being present, there was no service delivery or counselling. 

The next day we were walking together and he said; “I’ve got no friends”, to which I replied, “of course you do, we are friends.” As I say this we round the corner and come into the common area and there’s a group of about half a dozen of our youth who stop and see him; and they start smiling. “Hi Matt”, they say.

He then responds to what I said with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen from him.

“Oh yeah, I do have friends”. 

Obviously there will continue to be plenty of up’s and downs as Matt returns to school and the boys who’ve bullied him for so long. 

But I wanted to share this story with you to encourage you. Without the outrageous way our volunteers loved someone who was so different to them, he wouldn’t have encountered any of this. He wouldn’t have come back to Youth Group, or come to Youth Camp; he wouldn’t know that there’s a place where he will always belong. Without the generosity of community he could easily become one of those horrible statistics of young people who can’t find hope.

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