Youthwork over three continents

Natalie Dell Prospect youth group

Youthwork over three continents

JUNE 2015 | Joanne Eisemann

“I AM trying to be an ethical traveller (by being) aware of the negative impacts that overseas volunteers sometimes have.”

Nineteen-year-old Natalie Dell of Blackstone Heights is bucking a trend by giving much of her time to improving the lives of other young people here in Meander Valley and overseas.

Her interest in volunteering began in 2008 when she started attending a Stepping Stones Camp organised by Meander Valley Council. “I never would have gone abseiling or rock climbing without Stepping Stones… I’ve always pushed myself to step outside my comfort zone (and) the camps allowed me to do that. It’s a great opportunity to grow and develop,” shares Natalie.

Prospect Youth Group has grown out of the Stepping Stones camps she had attended. Its catalyst crystalised during the second year Natalie was a camp leader; her conversations with participants and other leaders made her realise that a youth group was needed.

Young people wanted a place to hang out and do some fun things together in between camps. Thus, Natalie, with co-leaders, Josh Lippis and Keygan Reed, formed the group. “I’ve grown up in Prospect and there hasn’t been that much in that area. So we see this as a great opportunity,” she adds.

Held fortnightly on a Wednesday at Summerdale Primary School in Summerhill, from 7.30 to 9.00 pm, the numerous activities offered include ‘Humans Versus Zombies’, ‘Survivor’, ‘Airtime’ and ‘Circus’ – each with a focus on face-to-face interaction rather than that with devices.

All youths in Prospect and beyond are welcome to join in, have some fun, learn new skills and make new friends; contact Prospect Youth Group through their Facebook page. Meander Valley Council Community Development supports the group and it, in turn, publicises some of the other activities Council runs for young people, such as Stepping Stones Camp.

Natalie’s yearning to help others does not stop at Tasmanian shores. A keen traveller, she has volunteered in Cambodia and Vietnam by working in orphanages and teaching English. “I’ve always been interested in giving back… (At the same time) I am trying to be an ethical traveller (by being) aware of the negative impacts that overseas volunteers sometimes have,” says Natalie.

She further shares, “The (Cambodian and Vietnamese) people are so friendly and so happy (despite having so little)… we seem to get caught up in all the materialistic things. (Yet) when you look at their lives, our problems seem tiny in comparison.”

By the time this is in print Natalie will be in Maine, USA, on a lakefront, teaching water sports to young people in the American Summer Camp program. “I’ll be living in a cabin with 7 to 9 year-olds for two months straight.” she says.

“I think (this US trip) stemmed from going to Stepping Stones camps. Because I love that, but they are only 3 days long and I wanted (them) longer,” she explains.

Natalie is keen to learn more about American culture and enjoys the adventure of new places and new people: “I always tell mum, ‘I’m having a gap life and not just a gap year’.”

Follow Natalie on her travels on her blog

 Mike Moores