In her young life Rabecca has seen and experienced things that most of us can’t even imagine. Born a triplet in South Sudan, Rabecca lost her brother and sister and father within the first year of her life. Moving to war-torn Uganda, Rabecca’s village was constantly under attack. When Rabecca was 5-years old, she was badly injured in a bomb blast and with no medical treatment available; Rabecca and her mother were relocated to a refugee camp in Kenya. In 2007, Rabecca, now 14 and severely traumatized, immigrated with her mother to Australia as refugees, where she underwent surgery for her longstanding injuries. Adjusting to a new culture and living an isolated life in Australia, added significant pressure to her vulnerable mental health.
Rabecca was referred to Flourish Australia in 2013 and attended the New Outlook
site in Wollongong. Initially Rabecca was extremely unwell and unable to interact with anyone. Support workers would sit quietly alongside her, offering companionship. Gradually through perseverance and building trust, Rabecca started to open up and quietly participate in group activities. “I was a shy girl. I couldn’t talk to anyone and was sad all the time,” remembers Rabecca. “It took me two years to talk to anyone and make friends at New Outlook.”
Chloe Hancock, now Manager at New Outlook, Flourish Australia, was a student when Rabecca started coming to New Outlook and spent a lot of time sitting with her. “Slowly we started a gentle conversation,” remembers Chloe. “We’d talk about what she liked and wanted to do.” Eventually Rabecca started to contribute to groups and talk with staff and other members. “It was beautiful to witness and an absolute honour to watch her blossom and flourish, knowing what her experience had been,” remembers Chloe. “Every day, Rabecca was pushing through with her mental health, and knowing this made it even more inspiring."
Rabecca started participating in groups and together Chloe and Rabecca would discuss her goals and dreams. “Rabecca reflects her goals through art,” says Chloe. “This has taught us how we can use art to work with other young people.” Rabecca now facilitates groups, and has run beading classes, an embroidery group and currently is involved with the “Stir it up” cooking program and an outdoor fitness class, both community initiatives and Accredited Certificate 2 courses. “Now I can talk to anyone,” says Rabecca. “Especially Chloe – I can tell her anything. I’m not shy at all.” “I like engaging with new people and learning different skills,” says Rabecca. “We learn something new every day here.”
One of the biggest revelations for the New Outlook team was Rabecca’s passion for cooking. Before arriving at New Outlook, Rabecca wanted to become a chef and was doing a hospitality apprenticeship. Although almost completed, she stopped studying because of her mental health issues. Rabecca has now restarted her studies and is highly skilled in the kitchen where she also volunteers.
One of Rabecca’s long-term goals was to live independently. “In the past she’d start and withdraw from the process – she wasn’t ready,” remembers Chloe. “But this time she kept at it – working through the different applications and interacting with all the agencies. She was so determined.” When Rabecca found out she’d been successful in securing a two-bedroom unit and a furniture grant, it was a day of celebration at New Outlook. “We were so happy for her,” says Chloe. “Rabecca’s energy and mental health shifted after getting space for herself.” “When I opened the door to my new home, I was so happy!” remembers Rabecca. “I couldn’t believe it. I still say to myself ‘Is this real or a dream?’” “Everything has changed in my life,” says Rabecca. “I was depressed all the time but now I’m super happy. All my moods have changed. I’m really proud that I’ve come this far.”
“Bec has shown resilience and strength throughout her recovery journey. Now she is sharing her story and guiding others with her gentle nature,” says Chloe. “She’s absolutely unbelievable and an inspiration to everyone. We’re grateful she’s part of the Flourish Australia family and hope she continues to teach others about recovery.” And Rabecca has exciting plans as her recovery journey continues. “When you see me in the future, I’ll be in the kitchen of my restaurant wearing a chef uniform and hat,” she laughs.