love, the missing ingredient

By Ron Barr

The community is becoming increasingly aware that a growing number of its young people are living in crisis situations brought about by:

- The breakdown of families;

- Inability to get work;

- Drug and alcohol dependency;

- Having to live on the street;

- Sexual abuse, including incest; and

- Being unloved and unwanted by their families.

The major cause of all the above is the lack of love in the everyday life of young people.

It is often taken for granted that our children know that we love them. This is a fallacy. Children must constantly be reassured that they are loved by their parents. Out of love grows trust and compassion which provides the basis for a positive self-image and the strength to survive.

youth insearch project

Youth Insearch was established as a result of a number of young people attending a workshop to discuss the needs of youth in Riverstone, New South Wales. The material needs of young people were discussed, but it was the general consensus of those present that it was the emotional life awareness and coping skills which were the most important needs for these young people. Those present expressed a desire to participate in discussion groups conducted at residential venues, held in a relaxed, safe and confidential environment.

Consequently, the Youth Insearch Program was written up which included such topics as:

- Communication;

- Self-esteem;

- Drugs, alcohol and the adolescent;

- Adolescent sexuality;

- Peer and social pressures;

- How to say no; and

- Parent / adolescent relationships.

preventing juvenile crime

A suitable venue was found to conduct this first camp. It was an overwhelming success, and formed the basis of the many camps that followed. Youth Insearch is a simple concept based on love, caring and trust, for youth of all lifestyles. It does not become involved in controversial, religious and political issues. The aim is to help young people learn the positive values of life and turn away from drugs, crime and despair.

The program works by encouraging participants to deal with reality and take positive steps in life. It offers support by drawing on the resources of those around to help participants reach their goals more easily. For those with no hassles, this is a learning experience and they provide support for those who need it.

The camps have shown that all people like to live in an atmosphere of care and support. Youth Insearch provides this "world" away from the other world, where youth are inspired to achieve feelings of love, happiness and stability, and apply these in their everyday lives. For this reason the camps are conducted in hostel-type conditions in tranquil, bushland settings.

Camps are designed and run by youth with a group of supportive adults. An atmosphere of caring and support is created by Youth Insearch leaders who can identify and understand the feelings and hardships of participants because of their own experiences. Youth find stability, learn the good side of themselves and develop a positive self- image.

This results in young people finding alternatives to their current lifestyle and taking on a positive direction with regard to drugs and alcohol and education. It also promotes recovery of the family unit.

The special needs of the participants made it necessary to set up a network of support groups. Like the camps, these groups have grown and have been assisting many other young people find stability, develop a positive self-image and sense of worth as well as helping them to continue schooling or obtain employment.

The Youth Insearch concept is not designed to be a lifelong commitment, rather a learning experience. We provide help to those in need, however, it is our ultimate aim that they will become self-reliant. To safeguard the interests of Youth Insearch and to assist in the establishment of projects nationally, the Youth Insearch Foundation (Aust) Inc. has been set up.

The Foundation is a registered charity and incorporated in New South Wales.

* Those who live overseas can contact Ron Barr regarding advice and information about local organizations.

Contact Ron Barr, Director

Youth Insearch

PO Box 260


NSW 2765


... or email Ron Barr at Youth Insearch

Copyright 2002 Youth Insearch.


the abc interview


We've all heard the horrifying statistics about young people turning these days to drugs, to crime and even contemplating suicide. Too often those problems are seen as someone else's concern - something that happens to other people's kids. But at a camp south of Sydney those ideas are being challenged by a group of youngsters who've survived the worst that life can throw at them, they've have been to their own hell and back.

Youth Insearch, as it's known, has been in existence for 15 years and in that time it's helped more than 22,000 young people pick themselves up after a serious fall. Many had been hooked on drugs, often after they'd been sexually abused. This week, some of these victims of life went along to a Rotary youth leadership course - if you like, a training camp aimed at tomorrow's leaders.


This is an exercise in trust. And it's meant to make David, being held up by the group, feel loved and safe.


Very emotional, actually. Distrusting at first, but then once you started getting into the motion of the rocking, you just let yourself go. You just feel very at ease and weightless. Just loved.


It's particularly touching because the young people lifting David have had little reason to feel either trust or love.


Do you know what it's like to come home from school every afternoon as a young kid of seven and there's no food in the house, there's no-one there to greet you, no-one to sit you down and take you through your homework?


When I was 17, I got a phone call off my ex-boyfriend, who I had been with for two years. Anyway, I went over there. When I was there, he was fine. We ended up getting in a bit of an argument and I walked out of the room and he shot himself. That had a real impact on me. I got into the drugs. I was suicidal myself.


Me dad, he had a brain tumour from getting hit by a Bob Cat [a piece of construction machinery]. And he was in rehab a few times and all that. He was arguing a bit with me mum at the time and he split up with her so he chucked a big schiz one day and shot me mum and then shot himself.


These young people are all graduates of Youth Insearch, a program which specialises in giving people like them a reason to get off drugs, out of trouble and on with their lives. Run with donations, the program gets virtually no government support, but founder Ron Barr says it's saved the community a fortune by giving these young people belief in themselves.


Our major thrust is for young people to use their disadvantage to their advantage. In other words, just don't sit in it and hope that it's all going to go away or get some pleasure in the fact that I've experienced all these terrible things - they actually use it to their advantage.


Having made it through the Youth Insearch program, Lauren and Heath are passing on their experiences to these young Rotarians.


I wanted to show other people they could be whoever they wanted to be. To perhaps use what I've learnt through my past experiences to help other people. I guess also to prove it to myself that I could be one of the best.


In stark contrast to Youth Insearch, these young people have in most cases enjoyed the best that life can offer - stable homes, financial security and a good education.


I'm here to learn about leadership and to develop my personal and social skills. I think leadership is something that you're not born with. It's a skill that you learn.


Leadership is what Neal Reed and the others are on the this camp to learn about. And today the lesson is coming from the Youth Insearch graduates.


I was surprised by the amount of experience or the trauma experienced by young people. I haven't been in contact with that sort of experience before. I was also surprised by how well they reacted to it and how easily they can talk about their horrible experiences.


Learning to trust anyone doesn't come easily to Racheal Thomas. In her short life - she's only 17 - she's had more blows than most people would expect in a lifetime. Her father died when she was three, her loss only compounded by later discovering that he'd regularly beaten her mother. Later, she found a father-figure in her mother's boyfriend, until he sexually assaulted her. Under enormous pressure, Racheal's relationship with her mother fell apart. Things were not looking good for Racheal until she went to Youth Insearch.


I think most of my problems were around my attitude. And to change that relieved a lot. Like just the anger and the frustration and the guilt that I had, you know. It took a load off me where I could, you know, I actually looked around and seen where I was at. And knowing that I have the ability to change it.


And knowing she's got something to teach others is all part of empowering Racheal Thomas to keep going.


Like a couple have come up to me and and said to me, "That takes a lot of courage to do what you did. And I could never speak about anything like that." What I think is that, like, I've dealt with the pain and anger and all them feelings, so it's easier to talk about.


Coming from a financially comfortable and loving family, Yvie Hajinakitas appears very much the right sort of girl for the Rotary program. But just last year, Yvie was herself a participant in Youth Insearch after the trauma of a sexual assault and family difficulties saw her life unravel.


I had a drug problem. I had an addiction to amphetamines. When I realised I had a problem, I didn't know what to do. I can't tell you, I'd give my life to stop another young person from doing what I've done. They don't need to do that.


I think what we learn through experiences like that is that, as much as we think someone's had a good life or someone's had a bad life, everyone's got skeletons. It's not so much about how lucky you are or how unlucky you are, it's really about how you deal with it.


As a university student, I'm aware of the social ills and the social problems that are out there, but to put a face to those problems is something you don't very often get the chance to do.


While they had no idea what to expect when the day began, the Rotary young leaders are now grateful for the experience.


I don't think there's words to describe what I'm feeling right now. It's such - it's been an emotional rollercoaster for me. I'm a very emotional person so I've been crying all the time. But some of the stories - you think you've got problems, but when you hear these stories, you realise you've got peanuts. It's just what we take for granted every day is unbelievable.

2001 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

There was some trouble when the authorities attempted to contact our jetsetting parents. Aldo was very displeased; on his return, he lashed the boy so thoroughly with his Cartier belt that for a week, he limped and could not sleep. Arabic cultures are not the only cultures in which the anger of the father is believed to be that of God. Mother refused to discuss the incident. Her couture expedition had been interrupted, her husband was enraged, she did not want to know.

- from The Pure Weight of the Heart, by Antonella Gambotto

Solutions to anger
Children's page
Teenagers' page
Debt: a new perspective
Trauma + recovery
Learned helplessness
Sexual abuse - female
Sexual abuse - male
Optimism - the key
The biochemistry of hope
A healthy life
The laughter page
Find your own North Star

Message board for sexual abuse survivors - NOW!
Forum for survivors of child sexual abuse and sexual assault - NOW!
Abuse Survivors message boards and email list - NOW!
Alice Miller's message boards on emotional suffering - NOW!
Youth Insearch
If you are an abusive teenager ...
The Australian Institute of Criminology on youth violence
Safer Kids
Stop the hate
Great free guided audio online meditations