Tag Archives: Joely Mitchell

48. Joely Mitchell and Annie Pendlebury

9 Jul

48. Joely and AnnieJoely Mitchell and Annie Pendlebury are two really inspiring young women.

They first met in high school and shared a common interest; writing. They became close in year nine and they started talking about how they could create a platform where they and other young people could meet and write together about issues for a younger audience. Both share a passion for writing. Annie has always been more interested in books and editing, whilst Joely had her mind set on hard news and journalism. Annie and Joely wanted to create a place for young people where they could write and advance their creative skills together. They knew there had to be other young people who felt the same way about writing and they started to think about creating a project to meet like minded young people.

Reflecting on where it all began, Joely remembers that “we were both really desperate to break into the industry and we knew how competitive it was but we struggled to find opportunities to get experience. So we decided to create our own. We wanted to create an outlet for young people to express themselves and gain writing experience, but also a platform for young people to turn to so they could read about issues related to them”.

Annie and Joely were inspired by Banyule 100 having written some features of their own for this website.  They decided that they wanted to create more opportunities for young writers and it was through their involvement that they got to know people at the Council including youth worker; Naomi Simmonds. She was extremely supportive of the idea of a blog created for and by young people and started working alongside them through the planning process. Within a few months of their initial meeting, they received notification that their blog would be funded by the State Government through the Engage! program.

After this, the hard work really began. There was a long process to get everything up and running. Annie and Joely started to look for other young people who were interested in writing and they decided on a name for the project and a logo. They engaged a journalist as a mentor and they also started to design the blog and create a Facebook page. The vision of Truth 4 Youth turned into reality.

Almost three years later, Truth 4 Youth is still up and running and it has become so much more then what Annie and Joely could ever have imagined. 100 articles, 800 Facebook followers and 35,000 visitors to the site count among their achievements. They’ve worked alongside a batch of young writers and photographers that are as passionate as they are. Truth 4 Youth have monthly meetings at the Banyule Council where they brainstorm, edit articles and talk about marketing strategies. There have been four hard copies editions of the magazines published, a regular monthly feature in the Ivanhoe and Valley Weekly Review and each year Truth 4 Youth attends Youth Fest to attract new readers and members.

One of their biggest achievements so far was when they won the Group Volunteer Award at the Banyule Volunteer Awards in 2014. “Being recognised for our contribution to the community was humbling and an honour” says Annie. “Joely and I stared at each other as we won the award, knowing neither of us could have expected such brilliant events to have unfolded when we first started dreaming.”

So, what is the secret behind the success?

Besides all the hard work put in by Annie and Joely along with everyone on the Truth 4 Youth team, they’ve created something that filled a gap. A forum for young people to express themselves and a place come to for an enjoyable read on matters that concerned them directly. The goal for Truth 4 Youth has always been to engage and entertain the community and at the same time voice their opinions.

Truth 4 Youth have just achieved another round of State Government funding which will take the project through until the end of 2017 at least. Both Annie and Joely are in their twenties now, attending Uni and writing for other publications, but they both plan to remain part of Truth 4 Youth as contributors and as mentors for young writers.

Truth 4 Youth always welcome new members, so if you like the sound of what Joely and Annie have created get in touch via the website.

Words: Linn Bengtsson and Lawrence Phelan

Photo: Sean Porter

45. Jess Sayers

17 Feb

_MG_3542-EditOnce you get her talking, there is no stopping her. Jess Sayers, 29, is a youth worker for the Banyule Youth Services and I would be impressed if you could find someone who loves their job more than she does.

She is involved in many Banyule youth programs and initiatives, but is most notably the facilitator of Street Art, a program run for young people designed to deter them from illegal graffiti.

Street Art is a crime prevention program, under our graffiti management strategy that encourages young people to participate in legal graffiti options,” she said.

“We have weekly workshops and every term we do legal murals. There are a few main core guys we see, it’s amazing seeing their journey and watching them grow.”

Jess says that her career choice was almost inevitable; she has always been savvy with young people. Her choice of career may have come organically, although it certainly didn’t come quickly.

“I actually had no idea what I wanted to do when I left high school,” she said. “I decided to do disability studies at university once I finished school, but I didn’t love it, so I stayed for a year and then went travelling.”

Once she returned back to reality (after just under a year travelling Europe- how amazing), Jess did some soul searching and decided she wanted to do something that helped people.

“I’ve coached netball my whole life and loved it more than anything,” she said. “I made a lot of great relationships with the young girls there, and they were always naturally drawn to me to discuss any issues they had.”

Jess finally found her calling, she wanted to work with young people. “I didn’t even know that youth work was a thing,” she said, “but after enrolling in a community services course at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT), all of my options all of a sudden became a lot clearer.”

Her passion is contagious. She gushes with pride and excitement when she talks about her job. No conversation is dull when it is with Jess, she is incredibly bubbly and energetic, you can’t help but want to open up to her.

Jess completed her Diploma of Welfare and began placement with the Banyule Youth Services, “and I’ve been her ever since!” she laughs. She’s only been full time with Banyule for a bit over two years, but in the meantime has worked there part time and with other councils, Nillumbik and Whittlesea.

“When I first started my placement at Banyule I was really fortunate because they were just about to start a Youth Summit. There was so much happening, so I was able to keep saying yes to everything.”

After that, Jess continued to help out at Banyule a couple of days a week, the remainder of her days spent at her other job, Subway. She has always been a hard worker, that’s for sure.

“Literally for about three to four years I was kept on at Banyule because of maternity leave positions, until I was finally offered a permanent position,” she said.

Since working at Banyule, Jess went back to university to complete a degree of youth work in her spare time.

Once Jess became an official member of the team, she started to get her own programs. One of her fondest programs was the young mother’s group.

“I loved working with the young mother’s group,” she said. “I liked the fact that the group was non judgemental and was a place young mums felt safe to be themselves and comfortable with their peers.”

“The main thing that I’ve been doing, that I love more than anything, is the Street Art program,” she said. “That’s probably been the biggest chunk of my role. I love it, it’s the best.”

“A lot of them don’t typically have a lot of family support, so after getting support from us, they’re able to link in and get jobs. If they are linked into something positive, like education or employment, then everything else seems to settle a bit around them.”

Jess says that there is no such thing as a typical day in the Banyule Youth Services’ office. “You definitely get the occasional day where you’re stuck in the office all day, but most of the time my day is jam packed with meetings, catch ups, seeing my individual support clients and getting out and about running the programs.”

When asked what her biggest accomplishment in her career so far would be, Jess couldn’t pinpoint one. “The main thing that comes to my head is seeing a young person grow and become confident and to accomplish things they never thought they could.”

“The most beneficial thing is seeing a young person reach a happy place and finally become content with life,” she said. “Even in Street Art, some of the boys dropped out of school really early but are now actually working full time and just kicking butt! They’re the sort of people that would have probably gone to drugs to cope with their problems, but they have learned to come and talk and use words to get through tough situations.”

Jess says that some of the hardest situations she has had to face as a youth worker are the deaths of young people. “They were really hard because you have had relationships with them and their families and it’s even harder because you are watching everyone else struggle to get through it and understand it.”

You would have a hard time finding someone more suited to their job than Jess. She is a self-confessed chatterbox and people person; young people love her just as much as she loves them.

In fact, she can’t ever resist the urge to help young people out. At the end of our interview she quizzed me about my future aspirations and after telling her that I was looking for a media internship, she hooked me up with a friend of a friend in the media industry. She lives and breathes her job.

And she’s not alone. Jess says that she works amongst a team of inspirational people. “There’s been some amazing people come through,” she said. “Everyone at Banyule is so diverse, with different, interesting stories to tell. They make coming to work every day easy.”

“I’m not young anymore, there are still occasions where I’m not sure whether my ideas will appeal to a younger demographic, but the best way is to get them involved. Unless you are actually going out and finding out what young people want, it doesn’t work.”

What’s next for the Banyule Youth Services and Jess herself? “Who knows really? We do plan ahead but there are always 100 things that just come up. We’ve got all of the Summit recommendations, so we want to start putting them into practice. I will keep working with the Street Art program, the older boys are now getting into mentor roles, which is really nice to see.”

Ironically, Jess will soon be taking maternity leave from the position she got through maternity leave vacancies. So there is room for a new mini-Jess to warm her seat until she gets back… At least one thing is for sure, they will have big shoes to fill.

Words: Joely Mitchell

Photos: Sean Porter

34. Amma Boakye

21 Jan

_MG_9964-EditBorn and raised in Australia, Amma Boakye’s upbringing was no different to the majority of teenagers her age. Although a trip to Ghana with her family in 2002 completely changed Amma’s perspective of the world.

As we sat down for an interview, the seventeen year-old Loyola College student described what the current situation in Ghana is like. “The country itself is breathtakingly beautiful,” she said, “although it lacks many basic services such as a good public health system and easily accessible roads.”

Amma’s parents, Cecilia Yeboah and Nana Boakye were both born in Ghana so the trip in 2002 was the first since their settlement in Australia. Being their first trip, Amma says that the experience was a culture shock for her and her siblings as they were all used to the Australian norms. “We found the Ghanian culture, which is completely different, a little confronting,” she said.

As overwhelming as the experience was, she believes that it was just as educational and insightful. “I saw Ghana as a country with great potential for future development,” she said, “because of its access to natural resources like gold, cocoa and fertile land.”

Amma’s aunty lives in a rural town near one of Ghana’s larger cities called Seikwa. According to Amma, the journey there was long, bumpy and rough. “A trip by car which should have taken about 15 minutes ended up taking about an hour due to poor road conditions,” she said.

On arrival, Amma’s family was surprised to discover that her aunty, Veronica Appiah- Kubi and uncle, Akwasi Appiah- Kubi were the sole basic medical care providers for the small community including maternal and child health. Amma’s aunty is a qualified midwife and a nurse practitioner, but almost all of the services that she was giving were free of charge.

With little financial support, the funds come from Veronica and Akwasi’s own pockets. “Witnessing the simple care provided by my aunty, my parents initiated their support by donating some money to help my aunty with the great work that she was doing,” Amma said.

“After our visit, my parents continued to periodically send donations,” she said, “although on our second visit to Ghana, I came up with the idea to create a charity organisation to help with the running costs and improve the condition for my aunty and her few helpers.”

Since returning back to Australia, Amma has kept her promise to pursue this charity. “My involvement in the charity is, through networking with friends and their friends, and also other experienced charity workers, is locating and contacting organisations who are able and willing to support us by donating money or healthcare equipments,” she said.

Every two years, Amma and her family return to Ghana to deliver the goods and funds that they have collected through their charity, Nyarkoh Family Health Fund. Amma says that these goods may include nappies for the infants, stethoscopes and other medical tools and of course, money to help them support themselves.

Leading a busy lifestyle, it’s surprising that Amma is able to fit the charity work into her schedule. Although she said that she is relieved that her friends offer their support for the charity whenever they can, often assisting in contacting local businesses.

Amma has just completed her year 11 studies and is currently enjoying her final holidays before she begins year 12. She admits that she is a very creative person, so subjects such as textiles and studio arts will be a breeze. With two languages already under her belt, Indonesian is another subject that Amma says she should do well in.

“I usually dedicate my spare time to sports such as athletics and basketball but have stopped participating regularly to try and keep up with my school load,” she said. She has also completed drama and acting lessons over the duration of the year.

When asked what she wants to do when she’s older, Amma has more direction than most. “I have always dreamed of becoming a professional actress,” she said, “but I wouldn’t mind going into the law profession due to the social justice appeal of it.”

Amma is a strong believer in charity work and endeavors to encourage more Australians to get involved. “Charity work could possibly be the very thing that makes people feel worthy in society and therefore turn into better people,” she said. “I think it’s something that would help them appreciate what they already have and make them generally more sympathetic to the needs of others.”

Amma’s ambitions are certainly not minor. She plans to take a break from the charity throughout year 12, but will resume straight after, hoping to expand and develop it to achieve more to help not only Ghana but the whole of West Africa. “I believe that if more Australians were involved in charities, we would be a step closer to making, restoring and creating world peace.”

Words: Joely Mitchell

Photo: Sean Porter

25. Harry Prout

21 Feb

Screen Shot Harry crp[We had heard a lot about the impressive accomplishments of Brother Harry Prout, yet as our interview commenced, I don’t think either of us were prepared to be quite as blown away as we were by the amazing tales of a life of generosity and compassion that Harry had to tell.

Raised on a dairy farm, Harry’s own life had modest beginnings. His family life consisted of simplistic things such as growing potatoes, or “spuds” on their farm, looking after their flocks of sheep and riding bikes around – “we were generally pretty feral actually!” Harry jokes. But his childhood was also one of work, as he recalls having to milk the cows early each morning and then head off to school. On his return from a day of classes, Harry continued working, taking over the milking from his mother before dinner time. Such dedicated, hardworking attributes shone through early in Harry’s life and it is easy to see how he has carried this selfless attitude into later life. Not only that, but growing up on a farm enabled Harry to gain “a sense of nature, and God’s presence in nature”, what with new life surrounding him all the time, as calves that were born came into milking and eventually had babies of their own.

Harry’s strong beliefs and a desire to find a new life led him to join the Marist brothers. The institute of the Brothers was created in 1817, originally with a focus on educating poor and rural children in France, an aspiration that is still true of the organisation nowadays. Harry describes how their goal was to help the poor and the powerless. For Harry himself, he had always felt a particular pull towards helping the outcasts and the poor amongst society, “standing up for justice” in the same way that his other family members did. His charitable instincts could perhaps run in the family, as his mother was a nurse who cared for Aboriginal mothers who had their children taken away, while his father worked in Aboriginal Affairs.

Helping the young did not stop with his involvement in the Marist Brothers. Throughout Harry’s life, he has been actively involved in retreat work all around Australia, particularly at school camps. Harry believes that this sort of experience has enabled him to realise that sometimes it is necessary to just stop and ask an individual how they are going in life. The response to this question is sometimes shocking, particularly when it comes from such young people who are incredibly ambitious, aspiring individuals who have unfortunately suffered throughout their lives.

Harry has a background of teaching and has taught in 4 different schools across Australia. With a chuckle Harry acknowledges that aside from a smattering of English, History and Religion; he used to teach dance and movement for a while. “One of the things I miss most, actually, when I gave up teaching, was producing musicals… Such a great community building activity [where] the natural talents of kids really shine through.” Through years of being a teacher, Harry gained an understanding of the importance of education and learning being present in a child’s life – making him all the more valuable in his current position. When asked how he came to be in West Heidelberg, Harry explains that he had been working at a retreat centre in Mt Macedon, in a position of leadership. When he was approached by a woman named Sister Sally, who was accompanying a group of students, to come and work in their community, Harry felt ready to move on from his current position and accept a new challenge. Moving into the new area proved to be a big change for Harry, not merely because of the different surroundings but the people he lived with were not just other Brothers, but people from around the area. Harry notes, “It was actually the first time I had lived with women, so that was a big learning curve for me!”

Harry’s initiation into the community wasn’t easy. He had grown up and lived in a middle class society; therefore this new environment was confronting and at times “awkward”. He reminisces on the very fond memories of being assaulted up as he tried to intervene in a fight between young boys. It was a long journey for Harry, but he eventually built a good rapport with all groups in the community. These relationships have led to a lot of mutual trust and respect; they would all do anything for each other.

According to Harry, coming to West Heidelberg has helped increase his sensitivity and compassion towards those with disabilities. It has given him “a richer” understanding of mental illnesses, something he considers a “blessing”, and has also been in close contact with other less fortunate people. “In the neighbourhood, 20% of the population are Somali refugees”, remarks Harry, and it is because of this he has come to understand a lot more about their plight. A quiet kind of pride seeps into Harry’s voice as he recalls the Somalian refugees he has had contact with. He notes that unfortunately, in war-torn countries, usually it is not the poor and the disadvantaged who manage to escape, but those with a higher standing and some wealth. Therefore the refugees who have settled out here are the ones who already value education. “They know about education and they aspire to education.” Harry conveys to us a sense of their bravery and resourcefulness in making a life for themselves in Australia, and explains how even though they have known what it is to be educated, often out here they cannot afford such luxury and this can be very degrading for them. We, two privileged young girls who have just successfully completed Year 12, were stunned to hear about the ongoing conditions for these refugees and the fiery passion that Harry harbours in regards to looking out for those who come from war-torn countries was nothing less than inspiring.

West Heidelberg, the suburb that Harry currently resides in, is one of the most disadvantaged areas in Victoria. The level of poverty experienced by the town is very confronting. The number of individuals who have or do suffer with mental illness, abandonment, divorce, or alcohol and drug reliance is extremely high. Harry believes that sometimes bad experiences lead to even worse experiences, for example a single mother may consume unhealthy amounts of alcohol in order to “numb the pain” of her situation. This domino effect only contributes to the cycle of poverty in this small town.

Harry informs us that one major issue in the community is increasing obesity, particularly amongst youth. Living conveniently close to many fast-food restaurants has resulted in the community’s large consumption of foods high in saturated and trans fats. This unhealthy diet leads to the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and many other health problems later in life. In order to tackle this issue, Harry has proactively promoted healthy eating by teaching them the convenience of healthy alternatives. He opens his house for “drop in lunches”, providing healthy meals to the community. Harry also raves about the Summer BBQs which are regularly held in his backyard. Harry believes that the popularity of his services has merely been spread through word of mouth. The number of people who drop by Harry’s house for lunch continuously increases, enough so that the visiting list has extended to over 300 families.

It took Harry a while to adjust to his new lifestyle, but he quickly learned that what was needed most in the community was someone to listen and allow the local people to give voice to what they really wanted. “I soon came to see that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason, so I did a lot of listening.” Most of the young people claimed they just wanted somewhere to go and “hang out”, so the house Harry lived in, the very house we sat in for our interview, became like a place of refuge and rest, where all were welcome. It was touching to hear Harry describe how the house would sometimes hold big gatherings with up to 20 people, who would all come along to enjoy a meal and support each other. When prompted to talk about winning the Jaga Jaga Australia Day Award, he quickly asserts that it was awarded to “the whole community”.

“[It was] just a recognition of the volunteer work we do,” Harry modestly tells us. The award was presented as a token to acknowledge how he and the other workers managed to “identify with people who are poor, to see if we could help them in anyway. … We just wanted… to journey with the people… understand what it’s like in their boots.”

The small, modest house that we sat in for the interview was the home that Harry had slept, cooked, showered and invited people into over the past few years. It was a very small abode, although it had a cosy, welcoming atmosphere that everybody who walked through the door felt. Harry explains how his home and the many neighbouring houses were built over 56 years ago for the Olympians of the 1956 Olympic Games which were held in Melbourne. Harry acknowledges that the houses in the Olympic Village were not “built to last”, resulting in many maintenance issues, mould and extreme temperature conditions during the hotter and colder months. Despite this, Harry graciously lives in his small home, taking advantage of the luxuries that his life has been granted with.
Harry’s work amongst his community is very important. Sadly, education isn’t regarded as a priority like it is for those in higher socio-economic areas. Very few in Harry’s area actually finish year 12. There’s not a lot of encouragement to go to school, and even if they do, they don’t achieve very high results. Harry believes that education is the “key to confidence” and in order to promote learning amongst the community, he wanted to provide a safe haven away from the chaos and mess at home for young kids to get their homework done to a sufficient standard. This eventuated in the local homework club, which enabled children to get help with their Maths and English at a proper working table. The club grew, although Harry recognised that the kids who desperately needed the help weren’t coming and taking advantage of the amazing services. In addition, hardly any kids are involved in sports, despite Harry’s best efforts to start up a netball team a few years back. The cost for the right footwear and uniforms is just too expensive, and some children don’t even have access to a car to go to the games or parents willing to go along and encourage them. Harry therefore helped push for the creation of the Bike Shed, a project funded by the council that enabled them to loan out bikes to children, and maintain the scooters and bikes that kids already owned. It also provided a designated destination for young kids to feel welcome to come and bond with Harry and other volunteers over their bikes and scooters, allowing them to open up about their circumstances at home.

Harry sounded very excited to report that they recently received a grant from Bendigo Bank for a whole new selection of scooters. The benefits of such a program have been astounding and while he waves away much of the praise that he is given, it all comes down to the hard work Harry has put in to making his community a better place.

Words By:Annabelle Pendlebury and Joely Mitchell

Photo by: Sean Porter

21. Stephanie Holder

13 Jun

Launching her career began early on for Stephanie Holder when, at a very young age, her wondrous fantasy story “Sage: The Power Within” began to flow from her fingertips into an impressive 500 page novel.

 Detailing the adventures of heroine Sage, who gets sucked into the underworld of her continent Zone, Stephanie says of her novel “to sum it up, it’s a story about duty versus life” and the blurring of borders between right and wrong. The difficult life journey and choices that Sage must make means that she undergoes an evolution as a character, a journey of sorts that Stephanie hopes her readers can relate to. Stephanie is brilliant at creating characters and giving them stand-out personalities to make them impressionable. She thinks it is important to create characters which the reader feels strongly about, “whether you like them or absolutely hate them!” As two young women trying to make our way in the world, it was exciting and refreshing to discover a novel based around such a strong and inspirational female protagonist, but we think anyone reading about this courageous new heroine will definitely be able to relate.

 It was surprising to hear Stephanie inform us that once she was simply a girl who was easily distracted in English class, a “troublesome” student, frustrated due to the “restricted” nature of essays with such rigid structure and requirements. However, outside the classroom, Stephanie has certainly found an outlet, a way to go beyond the formulaic expression of English essays, as she discovered the delight that the world of fantasy had to offer, and what’s more, that this was an area in which she excelled. When asked what attracted her to the idea of writing, Stephanie explained how she loves the imaginative possibilities that come with writing: “When I couldn’t find books that had the ideas and concepts I’d love to read, I decided to write my own.” Having complete control of her own story is something Stephanie loves is and says “strangely enough” she finds it “really therapeutic”. Stephanie doesn’t regret writing one line of her successful, 500 page novel; although she admits that one of her weaknesses is that she tends to be a bit too wordy and flowery with her sentences. Although we think when you’re writing such a detailed novel, that ‘weakness’ would certainly be no disadvantage! Other than writing, Stephanie exclaims that “camping is [her] ultimate hobby”, so when she’s not scribbling pen on paper, no doubt she’s in the outdoors enjoying the serenity nature has to offer.

Despite Stephanie’s obvious strength in writing, as a child she originally wanted to become an actress. She describes it as one of those “typical childhood dreams”, but the link between her current career pathway and her previous aspiration is clear. Stephanie loves being able to indulge in other characters’ stories and lives and that is why she isn’t surprised that she loves writing as much as she loved acting when she was little; she admits herself that her “imagination [still] gets to run a little wild”.

Not only does Stephanie love to write, but comments that she has always loved reading, qualities that for the author go hand in hand. Taking her inspiration from “life situations that [she has] exaggerated” has lead to the makings of her novel; however the books she has read have also shaped her career as an author.  While in her life she has read many wonderful books and had multiple favourite authors that have inspired her, one particular favourite author stands out in her memory: “When I was younger I read a series from Ian Irvine which made a huge impression on me, and I think it really made me want to develop my writing further.” She rates holding her first published novel after it was printed as one of the best feelings she has ever experienced. She acknowledges that she is very lucky to be given the opportunity to pursue her dreams, particularly at her young age. And thankfully, she has no intention of stopping any time soon. She has “so many ideas that [she] just wants to get out there and share”, and her determination will guarantee so much more success in the long career she has ahead of her.

Stephanie is living proof that you should never let anything stand in your way in achieving your dreams, and she encourages all young writers to pursue their aspirations. As a very modest and humble young achiever, Stephanie is no doubt someone to look up to. Now it is Stephanie’s turn to fill the shoes of idolized author for her fans. So what advice does this accomplished young woman have to offer? She urges future writers to “not let anyone hold you back, and don’t let anyone make you think your story isn’t good. A story is never not good – it’s just in stage one”.

Words By:Annabelle Pendlebury and Joely Mitchell

Photo by: Richelle Osborne

13. Lauchlan Denny

2 Nov

Not many 15 year old boys are able to raise over $11,000, complete a 9 day solo cycling trek from Melbourne to Sydney and all to benefit disadvantaged school children in Kathmandu, Nepal. Lauchlan Denny isn’t like any other 15 year old boy; he is already making a difference in this world, one pedal at a time.

Lauchlan has been cycling since last September, when he began training. This young man uses the words “freedom, independence and enjoyment” to describe his new found love: cycling. Unlike many 15 year olds who have a love for video games, Home and Away, or Facebook, Lauchlan’s passion has encouraged him to achieve greatness beyond imagination – all in the name of charity.

Lauchlan’s journey is something that words cannot describe – 9 days of hard work, pain and torture, which even he admits was the “hardest thing I’ve ever done”. It was an amazing feat of over 1,000 kilometres, something that a lot of us could never imagine completing.

Lauchlan attended an information evening held by World Challenge. World Challenge are an organisation that takes teams of high school students trekking in third world countries and encourages them to play an integral part in the planning, fundraising and participation of a chosen community project whist there.  He thought of the bike ride as something he could do akin to Shane Crawford’s inspiring walk from Adelaide to Melbourne to raise money for breast cancer. It was this which helped Lauchlan decide he wanted to sign up to raise money to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than himself.  Always one for adventure, Lauchlan loved the idea of travelling to Nepal with its extreme conditions, as well as the opportunity to experience a culture unique and so different from our own.

He soon learned how difficult it is to fundraise being a non celebrity or unknown!  The money was mainly raised through company sponsorships and individual donations.  Sadly, he was repeatedly knocked back by the big corporations who mostly send the standard email response ‘unfortunately we do not sponsor individuals.’  This is quite deflating for someone who is driven to a cause, however his never give up attitude was necessary to succeed.

Fortunately, a few local businesses got behind his efforts and believed in his ability to successfully carry out what most thought was impossible for his age having a lack of cycling experience.  For example, on his arrival at his first town, Mansfield Cycling Club kindly offered him the opportunity on arrival to set up at their registration sign on for a major weekend alpine ride, where fellow cyclists could donate money to Lauchlan’s cause. Opportunities such as these meant a lot, and was a great way to kick off fundraising for the World Challenge project at the conclusion of his long and painful ride on day 1. 

Telling us of the journey to Sydney, Lauchlan explains that the first and second days were the hardest. After Day 1, he couldn’t walk properly after getting off his bike, which is not surprising considering the first day started at the Melbourne CBD and ended in Mansfield, a 200 kilometre effort! But he says it became “progressively easier… I felt like I got stronger.” From there, he then travelled through areas like Beechworth, Junee, Young, Cowra and Bathurst and finally reached the Sydney CBD, where by then he was understandably relieved to have completed what he set out to, although body tired and exhausted.

Although his sports performance coaches warned there would likely be a slump in attitude around day two or three of such an endurance event, for Lauchlan, this depressive state did not come. His mother, who was with him throughout the journey, says he simply became “more and more determined”. He did have with him a “support crew” of his mum, his grandad and his friend Jake to help and encourage him along the way, and most importantly ensure his safety.

Lauchlan could not hide the smile on his face when modestly acknowledging the idea of being named the next Cadel Evans. Living in an area not far from where Cadel grew up, he is someone whose heights Lauchlan aspires to, particularly with his extraordinary achievements in the Tour de France. Some have labelled Lauchlan as the next Cadel, and this is a prospect he is certainly most eager to fulfil, being thrilled at such a comparison to his hero.

It’s easy to imagine the shock he received when he gained an invite to an exclusive ceremony hosted by Premier Ted Bailieu in Cadel’s honour with special guest Cadel himself! Lauchlan told us with a grin “it was pretty cool” to meet Cadel  and he was very excited at the opportunity. When his mum first came home with the news of his invitation to the event, apparently Lauchy could not believe his ears. His talk with Cadel is now all a bit of a blur, due to the excitement of meeting someone who he very much looks up to. An amazing night was topped off with the Premier mentioning Lauchlan’s solo ride fundraising efforts in his opening speech. Lauchlan was able to chat to Mr Ballieu who was well informed of all that Lauchy had been through, and showed genuine interest in his achievements.

Lauchlan assured us, most eagerly, that cycling is definitely something he is considering as a career. After returning from a long journey that required a lot of endurance, Lauchy explained he has now started looking towards racing as something to take up and has joined a local cycling club. Getting this glimpse of how motivated Lauchlan is in continuing the sport he’s come to love is very inspiring, and it’s easy to see his passion shine through despite his young age.  Lauchlan feels to be able to give back to others through something you happen to be good at no matter your age is very rewarding and satisfying in itself.

Endurance sport takes a lot out of a young growing body. After many months, Lauchlan feels he is almost fully recovered after his long journey, but there is no way that he has stopped riding! He continues to cycle in his spare time and says he also gets pleasure just from riding for fun. Recently he was awarded an ESS Athlete Development Scholarship, where he hopes to build on and develop his skills and abilities in cycling for future success.
Next year at school Lauchlan will be doing a broad range of subjects and apart from cycling he is considering sports science as a future pathway. “Fitting in training and school can sometimes be hard” says Lauchlan, yet it appears he is balancing his commitments very well.

An extraordinarily talented cyclist with a great amount to look forward to in his future, Lauchlan Denny is sure to be a success. He has already proven what fantastic heights he can reach simply by setting his mind to it, and shown that it’s important to give anything a go. Watch this space, as we have no doubt that one day we’ll be celebrating Lauchlan’s win in the Tour de France.

Words By: Annabelle Pendlebury and Joely Mitchell

Photos by: Sean Porter

© Sean Porter 2011