Shaniece at the Bundaleer Community Centre in Warrawong
My name is Shaniece and I grew up on the Bundaleer Housing Estate in Warrawong. I moved here when I was 10 years old – and it was a pretty scary place. There was a lot of violence, drugs and alcohol abuse.
I would often come down to the Bundaleer Community Centre, where Barnardos would support kids like me. They provided homework help, breakfast or afternoon snacks and a safe space for us
to hang out with friends. Coming here showed me I wasn’t alone. That others shared the same feelings as me.
As a teenager, I dealt with this stigma of people looking down on you because of where you’re from. You felt that because you lived in a bad area, you’re not worthy of support. But Barnardos believed in me. I joined their youth group and they got me a tutor during high school. This place helped me out so much with my education.
The best thing about youth group was it made me feel important. It made me feel valued. And it led me to my current job at Beyond Empathy, where I now do community-based work at Bundaleer. I talk to neighbours, kids and teens. I support them, give them advice and we work together making movies and podcasts. It’s a great opportunity for kids to get creative and gives the community an avenue to speak out. To have their voices heard. I’ve come full circle. I used to come here as a kid, as a teenager and now I’m an adult coming in here helping the kids out in my community. I couldn’t think of anything else better to do with my life to be honest, it’s the best thing ever.
I know what it’s like living here – it’s really not a bad place. So, it feels good to give back to Bundaleer for what it’s done for me. To see kids that I used to play with now growing up into teenagers, and me giving them support, just like Barnardos supported me, is just surreal.
I’m so thankful that Barnardos were part of my childhood and it’s great to see them continuing to support children and families through the Bundaleer Community Centre. It’s important to invest in children because they’re the future. They absorb so much from what they see and from what adults do. Barnardos gives them the opportunity to learn and gives them the space to be who they are.