Wednesday, 1 October 2014
La Trobe Electorate: ECHO Youth and Family Services
On Saturday, 5 July I went to the ECHO Youth and Family Services organisation to celebrate their 30th anniversary. I had a wonderful evening with a great group of local people. I must first pay special thanks to Pastor Peter Crawford from St Mark's Church, and Wayne Collins, the Director of ECHO. They are doing a fantastic job, as well as the entire ECHO team. Wayne and Peter came up with the vision of ECHO 30 years ago. ECHO is a Christian not-for-profit organisation set up to help youth at risk and families in crisis. It is located at St Mark's church in Emerald, in the hills region of my electorate. It provides a vital service through the Eastern Dandenong Ranges of La Trobe. ECHO has a very simple mission:
To build community by helping families and young people navigate through the most difficult parts of their lives and to equip them to make healthy and constructive life choices.
I believe everyone agrees that this is a fantastic motto to have.
In January this year, ECHO won the Cardinia council Australia Day Award for Community Organisation of the Year, and well deserved it was for this great local organisation. ECHO has three main areas of community development. It has programs and activities for kids, youth and families. For kids it provides after-school and preschool programs along with a school chaplaincy program funded by the federal government. These programs provide opportunity for kids, along with their stay-at-home parents, to build social networks and develop other interests. For local youth, ECHO not only provides after-school activities and the chaplaincy program but also provides youth camps where they learn about working in teams and becoming leaders. Life groups are an important part of what ECHO does with local youth. Small groups of young people meet with a young adult leader to discuss and share interests, concerns and issues in an atmosphere of trust and confidentiality.
ECHO have also taken on other projects, like the pilot Emerald Community Resilience and Recovery Project. Funded by the federal government, this program is about building community resilience to cope with major disasters such as bushfires. They provide the community with a no-interest loan scheme, and they also produce a fantastic local magazine called Signpost. They have been of great service to the Emerald community. I am very proud to have worked with Wayne and Peter for so many years. ECHO, you are doing an amazing job. Keep up the fantastic work. Thank you.