Group has an adventure

By Benalla Ensign

A group of Yooralla customers from Benalla will receive The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Silver Award after successfully conquering the last section of the award program, adventurous journey.

Supported by Yooralla staff and volunteers, Geordie, Kaity, Steph and Josh embarked on a two-day adventure to Melbourne as part of the program.

Yooralla, one of Victoria’s oldest and largest disability services provider, partnered with The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Victoria in 2018 to create more opportunities for its young customers.

Graeme Brennan, service leader at Yooralla’s Benalla hub, said the trip began with the customers catching a three-and-a-half hour train from Wangaratta to Melbourne.

‘‘Once in Melbourne, the customers made their way to Yooralla’s learning hub, where they met up with our four volunteers,’’ Mr Brennan said.

Steph said the group then headed to Melbourne Aquarium to learn about sea life.

‘‘The volunteers were awesome fun and the aquarium was great. I loved the sharks,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s really fun meeting new people from different towns, too.’’

The group then navigated its way to the first accommodation stop for the trip, the Mantra Hotel in Southbank, where the volunteers supported the customers to make dinner.

Mr Brennan said the following day the group was up early to meet the volunteers again for the final adventure of the trip, an overnight stay at the Werribee Open Range Zoo.

Disability support worker Debby Hammer visited the zoo with the Yooralla customers.

‘‘After travelling by train and taxi, we arrived at the zoo where we enjoyed a VIP bus tour of the safari park, which included a meet and greet with a special member of the zoo, a rhino,’’ Ms Hammer said.

‘‘After a long day of touring the zoo and meeting and patting various animals, including snakes and a tortoise, the group was shown to their glamping huts after enjoying a buffet-style dinner, before retiring for the evening.’’

Josh, who attends the Benalla Community Hub, said his favourite part about the zoo was seeing the lions up close.

‘‘It was amazing hearing them roar. We also got to pat the rhino. He was huge,’’ Josh said.

After an early breakfast the next morning, the customers got to enjoy one more animal encounter.

‘‘They were taken to a large enclosure next to a pond where four huge hippos were enjoying their breakfast, all within twometers of the excited group,’’ Ms Hammer said.

She said the participants’ adventurous journey was ‘‘a real success’’.

‘‘It was so great to see them doing activities that were so different, and at times out of their comfort zone, but they all worked really hard and it showed. We all had a really great time,’’ she said.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is a youth development program designed to empower young Australians aged 14 to 24 to explore their full potential.

It is comprised of three levels. Each level is progressively more challenging and has four sections: service, physical recreation, skills and the adventurous journey.

The aim of the adventurous journey is to provide participants with the opportunity to learn more about the wider environment and develop their self-confidence, teamwork and health.