STAWELL woman Steffi Patience has drawn on her own period of homelessness to help the disadvantaged youth of today.
For about two years, Ms Patience was homeless and couch-surfing in the Melbourne and Ballarat areas – and sometimes even sleeping on the street, in public toilets, at bus stops and train stations.
She has had a stable home for the past year since returning to her hometown of Stawell, but now lies with post traumatic stress disorder.
Today, Ms Patience is committed to helping others in need.
She was nominated for the Saward Dawson Community Service and Social Impact Award – one of 10 categories in the Victorian Young Achiever Awards.
Ms Patience has been a volunteer for three years at Survivors of Suicide – an organisation supporting those bereaved or those with suicidal thoughts in the Ballarat and Gippsland areas.
She has also helped disadvantaged youth at the Salvation Army’s LARF program, mentored a sponsor child in New Caledonia, helped primary school students to read and supported underprivileged students and their families with food, school support, small loans and warm clothes and blankets.
“Growing up, I struggled at school and at home and I always try to be somebody that I would have needed to help me out of trouble as a kid,” she said.
“In my time volunteering, I have learned that many people have a lot of resilience.
“The world is scary, but at charity events and counselling sessions you see the community flock together and support one another.”
Ms Patience said receiving the award nomination had surprised her.
“I am so grateful for even being nominated and look forward to volunteering more in 2018,” she said.
Survivors of Suicide founder Kristy Hughes-Steenhuis said for someone who had emerged from such a chequered past, Ms Patience was a go-getter and her accomplishments were “super impressive”.
“She has had her fair share of challenges in life, but to be able to draw on those challenging experiences to help others, I take my hat off to her,” she said.
Ms Hughes-Steenhuis said her volunteers ranged from 16 to 70 years old and it was great to see young people connecting with others.
“Even after moving back to Stawell from Ballarat, she still travels to us to volunteer,” she said.
“Our last event at the Grand Prix, she caught a train and bus here and the same back home again.
“She never complains, is always smiling and is a fantastic girl.”
Judging will start on Tuesday, March 13.