Community behind Lifeskills

Lifeskills manager Sandy Wesford and board chairman John Bullick say kids are under more pressure these days.

Local schools have been invited to take part in Cambridge Lifeskills Day on Tuesday (November 7) to help the organisation fund its counselling work with children and families.

The annual day originated as a Melbourne-Cup-day fundraiser by an organisation that has since been disestablished, but the date has stayed the same.

“Now we invite schools to get their students to participate in lots of different activities like crazy hair days, fluoro days, coin trails and mufti days,” manager Sandy Wesford said.

“We really appreciate any help the community can give us.”

Celebrating its 25th birthday this year, Cambridge Lifeskills offers free counselling services to local children aged 5-15 and their families, and is funded entirely by grants and donations.

“You’ve just got to look at our mental health stats and the impact of some of these social issues to see that there’s a lot of need out there,” Wesford said.

“For us at Lifeskills it’s about early intervention and making the positive changes needed to bring children’s lives back into some kind of balance so they can get on with their learning.”

The team’s eight counsellors all have full caseloads and are seeing more than 50 children and their families at present.

“So, every piece of support that we get goes into ensuring that our waitlist stays at a minimum,” Wesford said.

Board chairman John Bullick said demand for the organisation’s services had increased due to population growth and pressure on families caused by the hectic pace of modern life.

“Kids are under pressure and therefore their anxiety is increased.  Because life is faster, often people are busier than they were a couple of generations ago.  Family time becomes precious, but it’s perhaps not as relaxed or as available as it used to be.  And when you’re talking about nurturing kids, that takes time.”

Wesford agrees, and will be watching the new Labour-led government’s social policy announcements with interest.

“Jacinda (Ardern) came here a few years ago before she was Prime Minister, doing a bit of research at Lifeskills,” Wesford said.

“She was very interested in what we were doing, and how, and if other communities were doing it.

“She really endorsed our work, so maybe there was a little seed sown.”

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