Youth Development Foundation’s Gerry Blackwell is passionate about helping young people make positive changes in their lives, while showing them love that is often missing.
She founded YDF in 2014, after working for the Federal Government’s Work for the Dole program.
“I recognised it wasn’t about people, it was about data. I thought this needs to be about people. We need to show people how to do it (find work and live a happier life) and support that change,” she explains.
Her husband encouraged her to start her own organisation to do just that.
She says while it has been hard work, it is rewarding to know her team is making a difference.
Along the way, she discovered she was “good with naughty teenagers”.
“I may have been one too,” she says.
Her efforts and those of her team were recognised in London on April 19 when they took out bronze in the People's Choice Local Community Business category at the 2023 International Women Changing the World Awards.
“It was very cool … just to see that the work I do with YDF is being recognised in a bigger circle,” Gerry says.
“We were pretty excited about it but it’s not just me. I don’t do this all by myself. It takes a whole group of people to do what we do.”
Gerry is not sure who nominated her and YDF for the award but suspects it was a proud staff member.
“I don’t do what I do for publicity. It’s about our kids in the Moreton Bay Region and their families,” she says.
“This is somewhere for them to come for help without judgement.”
Making a difference
Gerry says it’s heartening to receive phone calls from young people they have helped when they have secured employment and feel their lives are on track.
Her team has worked with more than 8000 young people in the region and their families since they started.
She believes they have been successful because of their non-judgemental approach.
“It’s about opening the thought process that things can change. You don’t have to be defined by what social media says or does,” Gerry explains
“I love what I do … I don’t go to ‘work’.”
She says the challenges continuing to face young people include the education system, drugs and alcohol, and family dynamics.
“When these kids get too hard, they’re kicked to the curb. They’re sleeping rough, they don’t trust anyone. We’re feeding, clothing and loving them – with a kick up the bum, if and when they need it,” Gerry says.
“They need to know they’re loved and accepted for what they are and who they are.”
Her message to all young people is to reach out if they need help.
Youth Development Foundation is based at Unit 9 and 10, 454-458 Gympie Rd, Strathpine, but offers assistance to young people and their families across the Moreton Bay Region.
For more information, visit the website or phone (07) 3463 0585.
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