Stawell’s Steffi Patience has drawn on her time when she was homeless and forced to couch-surf to help the disadvantaged youth of today.
For about two years Ms Patience was homeless, couch-surfing around the Melbourne and Ballarat areas and sometimes even sleeping on the street, in public toilets, at bus stops and train stations.
She has had a stable home for the past year since moving back to her hometown of Stawell, but now battles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
But despite her rough past, Ms Patience is committed to volunteering and turning around the troubled lives of others.
She was nominated for the Saward Dawson Community Service and Social Impact Award, one of ten categories in the Victorian Young Achiever Awards.
Ms Patience has been a volunteer for three years at Survivors of Suicide, which supports those bereaved or thinking about suicide in the Ballarat and Gippsland areas.
She has also helped disadvantaged youth at the Salvation Army’s LARF program, mentored a sponsor child in New Caledonia, helped her primary school pupils to read and supported underprivileged students and their families with food, school support, small loans and warm clothes and blankets.
Ms Patience said she loved to help people and wanted to offer the disadvantaged youth of today a beacon of hope, something she struggled to have by her side in the past.
“Growing up I struggled at school and at home and I always try to be somebody that I would have needed to help me out of trouble as a kid,” she said.
“In my time volunteering I have learnt that many people have a lot of resilience.
“The world is scary, but at charity events and counselling sessions you see the community flock together and support one another.”
Ms Patience said she was “mind-blown” after receiving news she was nominated for the prestigious accolade.
“I am so grateful for even being nominated and look forward to volunteering more in 2018,” she said.
Survivors of Suicide founder Kristy Hughes-Steenhuis said for somebody who had emerged from such a chequered past Ms Patience was a go-getter and her accomplishments were “super impressive”.
“She has had her fair share of challenges in life, but to be able to draw on those challenging experiences to help others, I take my hat off to her,” she said.
Ms Hughes-Steenhuis said her volunteers ranged from 70 to 16 years old and it was great to see young people doing so and connecting with their disadvantaged counterparts.
“Even after moving back to Stawell from Ballarat she still travels to us to volunteer,” she said.
“Our last event at the Grand Prix she caught a train and bus here and a train and bus back again – she never complains, is always smiling and is a fantastic girl.”
Judging will start on Tuesday, March 13.
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