Now a volunteer! A testament to the success of Taz Kids

19 year old Matthew Cleaver is as passionate about volunteering with Taz Kids as he is about cars with mag wheels.

Taz Kids is delivered by Anglicare through camps and family days, and in collaboration with schools through Taz Kids clubs. It aims to reach young people aged 7 – 17 who have a parent or guardian impacted by mental health issues.

Matthew knows from experience the value of Taz Kids. As a 10 year old he attended a seven week Taz Kids club held in his local community. At that time, Matthew was feeling the weight of responsibility for looking after his mother, who has a mental illness, especially as his older brother had recently moved out of home.

“It was very difficult for me then – to understand about mum when she was unwell. I felt I had to deal with it by myself. So becoming involved with Taz Kids was a big thing. Mum has always been supportive of me going,” he said.

Taz Kids is an evidence-based program but it has a focus on fun. The activities encourage kids to learn new skills, get answers to difficult questions and access support.

“For me, going to my first camp and hearing the stories the other kids were telling – I couldn’t believe what they’d been through,” said Matthew. “For the first time in my life I was with people in the same boat as me. It made me realize you’ve got to be humble. You can’t think ‘I’m having a worse time than anyone else’. There are others going through similar things,” he said.

Taz Kids gave Matthew a valuable support network for the years ahead. He has now completed school with a Certificate II in Automotive as well attaining his TCE. “I didn’t miss even one day of Grades 11 and 12 and got four awards for my commitment”. Now he’s looking to pass his Ps and find a job as a mechanic or maybe a youth worker.

“I’ve always had a lot of family stuff going on with my mum. But I’ve just done for mum what I know she’d be doing for me – if I was the one who was unwell”.

“Now I want to give back as a volunteer – give kids a sense they’ve got people to talk to, that there are people who understand, that there’s a purpose to life and stuff to do,” said Matthew.

Matthew has attended many different Taz Kids camps over the years, including the five day intensive leadership camp.

“Matthew always contributed on camps,” said Taz Kids coordinator Glenn O’Neill. “He is naturally quiet but he has a great sense of humour and is not afraid to be a leader. On one camp when he was younger, he learnt the words to his favorite song then got up and sang it in front of everyone. He won the talent show,” said Glenn. “So when I approached him about becoming a volunteer I was excited he was interested. He has a lot to offer other kids”.

Becoming a volunteer was not just a matter of putting his hand up. Matthew had to obtain Working with Vulnerable People accreditation and get the all clear through additional police checks. He also successfully completed ‘Safeguarding Children Training’ with the Australian Childhood Foundation.

As a volunteer, Matthew has already been to a Taz Kids family activity day and is looking forward to volunteering at a camp in the school holidays.

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