Jason helps Moree junior rugby players tackle life’s challenges
By ANTHONY CASTLE
The Positive Lifestyle Program (PLP) is used by Salvation Army chaplains, counsellors and volunteer facilitators throughout Australia.
Originating in Canada, the eight-module course was introduced to Australia by The Salvation Army in the 1990s to be used in courts and prisons. A new youth resource has been adapted from the PLP, aiming to equip local leaders to engage with high schools, and the material has found its way into a rugby club in northern New South Wales.
“I’ve used PLP over a range of settings in ministry and work,” says Jason Poutawa, Program Coordinator at Moree Corps. “When the rugby club asked me to be involved in what they do, I suggested we take all the teen boys, from ages 14-18, on a camp. I said let’s focus on footy and teamwork, and I will incorporate activities into the sessions so that the PLP is team-oriented.”
Released October last year, the National Youth and Young Adults Team adapted the material for young people following discussions with the then National Coordinator for the Positive Lifestyle Program, Robyn Lorimer. Adapted by John Marion and James Gallagher, the adult material was made relevant to the lived experience of young people and suitable for a group context. While Jason has been at Moree for six years, he has 15 years of experience working with marginalised young people.
“A number of the boys here in Moree can be quite isolated in the country. Some kids are struggling in their economic circumstances, in their social circumstances, in the family unit. Drugs are a huge temptation for young people. Teens having babies early, criminal activity and violence, all the things that are consistent with the challenges in Moree. Footy is a big part of how people find belonging – there isn’t much else that’s healthy.”
Jason engaged 15 young people from the Moree Bulls Junior Rugby Club. The material at the weekend camp explored important topics and challenges that young people face.
“One of the good sessions was around assertiveness,” explains Jason. “How they go about their first instincts and what they can do to change their direction about conflict. They came up with their own tools for problems solving. It was a ground-breaking time.”
The resource positions local expressions to journey alongside high school-aged young people as they develop tools in areas like self-awareness, anger, depression and loneliness, stress, grief and loss, assertiveness, self-esteem, and future direction.
“We hear from the front lines all the time that they need something for young people’s mental health,” explains John Marion, youth specialist with the Youth and Young Adults Team. “There is a large need for schools to help young people with wellbeing and resilience, and we know that in PLP, we had content that could help. What we needed was to put it in ways that young people could understand and that could be effective for them.”
PLP runs across eight sessions that encourage young people to explore their emotional and psychosocial development in group settings through activities and fun learning methods. The course can run in high schools, youth groups, social services, after-school programs, rugby camps, mentoring groups, and Bible studies.
“Young people have found the material engaging,” John says. “Facilitators find the material helpful, easy to use, giving them ways to start conversations. Schools love it and ask for the resources to run it again. Parents are reporting back that their children are positive, more hopeful and have the tools they need for the problems they face.”
The National Youth and Young Adults team is developing further projects, including resources for young women and training and support for the material that ensures the impact of PLP will continue.
“I will be using it for years,” Jason says. “A lot of the kids came back and said they had a great time. Parents contacted me the next week, parents I don’t even know, to say thank you, that their kid found it impacting. I reckon it’s one step away from overt youth ministry. The faith values and the material are aligned, putting our worldview into something positive that can influence people’s lives.”
For more information, visit the National Youth and Young Adults page.