Red Frogs program opens doors for Salvo youth workers
INTERVIEW BY ANTHONY CASTLE
Aux-Lieutenants Steven and Marenda Friend are the Mission Leaders at Ellenbrook Salvos in Perth. They also volunteer with Red Frogs, a support program for young people aged 13-30. Steven talks about the ways that Salvos serve vulnerable young people alongside the Red Frogs Crew* in Western Australia.
Salvos have volunteered with the Red Frogs Crew in Western Australia for years; how did your involvement come about? How many participate?
I’ve done Red Frogs for four or five years now. For us, it was the outworking of our Urban Mission Movement; it was an activation opportunity. We did it at the end of the year. We did 12 months of discipleship, and then Red Frogs was at the end of the year. We’ve had over 20 Salvos come and do Red Frogs over the past four years. Generally, we have young adults, from 18 onwards, but we’ve had people of all ages, up to their 50s as well. People volunteer from corps all over WA.
Red Frogs Crew can look different from place to place; what does it look like in a Western Australian context? I’ll work with the Red Frogs Crew throughout the year at universities and festivals. The main event is called Leavers in WA [Schoolies in the eastern states]. A lot of what happens comes under WAPOL (Western Australia Police Force) as a harm minimisation strategy, and Red Frogs joins with 8-10 other agencies. Red Frogs runs what’s called ‘The Zone’, which is essentially an alcohol-free, carnival-like space. It gets up to 10,000 young people every night, with music and carnival rides. There’s a support tent that can hold up to 300 young people a night, more than a hospital, and it has medical support and a range of things that can safeguard young people.
What kind of tasks and activities do your teams do at Red Frogs? We will work with the outreach teams who are allocated accommodation places. In WA, we don’t have a walk-home service because the Leavers events are far more spaced out than on the Gold Coast. We drive between places, cooking pancakes for young people and making sure people are getting bussed into the zone and back again. We ensure people are getting home safely. The outreach teams is the main things that the Salvos teams do; it’s how you meet people, build relationships and make sure they’re doing well. It opens doors.
What difference does the Salvos’ work with the Red Frogs Crew make to the young people it serves? I’ve seen a young person collapse in front of Red Frogs Crew, and I feel like being there saved their life. You can be right there when you’ve got someone who’s heavily intoxicated and needs help. What we know is that when young people make mistakes and feel guilty, it can have a negative impact on them. To have volunteers rock up and check in on them without judgement shows that you care and love them.
Why is this work important? What’s the big picture? I do it because I’m a youth worker and love seeing young people thrive. The Leavers environment is a rite of passage that isn’t always healthy, but it’s something that society and culture say is important. If that’s what young people are going to do, we have the ability to go down and make sure it can be done in a safer way. If they make a mistake, there are people to support them and love them no matter what. There is nothing like showing love to someone than when you have someone vomit over you and your kicks. I know people who have become school chaplains because of these experiences; others work for the Salvos now. These experiences grow people into leadership roles and activate them into their giftings.
* Red Frogs Australia is a Christian Youth charity run by volunteers known as the ‘Red Frogs Crew’. The volunteers participate in many events that are attended by school leavers and university students, such as schoolies week, university parties, high school seminars, music festivals and sporting events.