Saturday, July 13, 2013

Youth set to take on Kokoda track

AN EXCITABLE group of at-risk Geelong youth are preparing to embark on an educational trip of a lifetime that'll see them retrace the footsteps of Australian war heroes.
Ten youths, aged 16 and 17, were recently selected to walk with police and sponsors for eight days along the rugged Kokoda track in Papua New Guinea.
Kirsty O'Loughlin, Leah O'Brien, Kassandra Cowle-Henry, Tyler Sheaf, Lachie Todd, Jackson Barlow, Blake Barry, Alesha Henare, Cameron Blacksell and Ben Deluca will head off in September to complete the gruelling eight-day trek through the same tough terrain as World War II heroes more than six decades ago.

Policeman Michael Reid with youth training. From left: Kirsty O'Loughlan, Leah O'Brien, Kassandra Cowle-Henry, Tyler Sheaf, Lachie Todd, Jackson Barlow and Blake Barry.
Leading Senior Constable Andy Brittain said the program was a first for Geelong following a number of similar initiatives run in Melbourne.
He said the 10 teens were selected from a shortlist of 81 and were eagerly preparing for their life-changing mission.
"They've all had struggles in their lives but we hope this experience will change them forever," he said.
"These kids want to help themselves, they just need a bit of guidance."
Kassandra Cowle-Henry said while the intensive training program was getting easier the looming addition of bugs, heat, limiting showering and no hair straightening irons was unsettling.
"It's going to be a challenge," she laughed.
"But I feel honoured to be going.
"I didn't realise until I started training how much stamina I actually had."
Leah O'Brien said the group was already bonding after just a few weeks of training practise.
Senior Sergeant Michael Reid said it was a daunting challenge the kids were embracing with open arms.
He said all 10 had progressed through the Operation Newstart program before acknowledging they needed further guidance.
As part of the program the teens will also raise money for an Isurava school, identified by Kokoda Track Foundation as a school requiring assistance, he said.
"What we hope they'll get out of it is to be able to see that when they put their minds to anything they'll be able to achieve the most challenging of challenges now and into the future. They'll really get to understand how another community and culture live as many have never experienced that before or even left the country," he said.
"Their confidence is growing and you can see that when speaking to them each week.
"It's already having an impact."
The sponsors include Hodges Real Estate, St Laurence, Geelong Rotary, St John of God, R&R Group, Decuba, Costa Group, Leopold Uniting Church and Karingal Yo

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