Seventeen-year-old Jacinta Rowe has grand plans. “My dream is to become a doctor, because I like to help people,” she says.
Rowe comes from a large family—she has six brothers and three sisters. “I’m a very proud Aboriginal person from the Wakka Wakka and Gooreng Gooreng nation,” she remarks. “I grew up in a strong but tough community surrounded by alcohol, drugs and crime.”
Growing up as an indigenous Australian, Rowe has faced many challenges, but she acknowledges the strength and resilience these have created in her.
“Being an Aboriginal person in Australia is hard, because often we will be judged by the colour of our skin,” she says. “This makes me feel angry and upset, because they judge me when they don’t know who I am.”
When she was 12 years old, Rowe and her family were invited by their local church pastor to attend DreamTrack, a mentoring program funded by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), along with a number of other church and community groups. DreamTrack was especially designed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. Rowe didn’t know what to expect, but five years later she’s still attending. “DreamTrack has given my family and me great memories,” she says.
According to David Garrard, DreamTrack’s executive director who is also a Seventh-day Adventist minister, “DreamTrack is a club that provides mentoring to young Aboriginal people to help them with life skills, personal development and just to have fun on a regular basis where they meet with mentors to build relationships that help them get through life’s challenges.” Some of these challenges include broken homes, drugs, alcohol and domestic violence.
“Typically the children at DreamTrack come from very negative experiences,” Garrard says, “so it’s critical for us to provide fun experiences in their lives.”
Fun it is, and character building. Rowe reflects on her personal growth since she began attending DreamTrack five years ago. She says her experiences have helped her mature and become more self- assured. “I’ve seen young people overcome their fears as they do the activities.”