Toys are changing lives in Casino

Toys are changing lives in Casino

It’s been a year since Insights caught up with founder of the Keeping Our Freedom Youth Indigenous Corporation (KOFY), Pastor Peter Boughey and his initiative that is giving youth in Casino a new lease in life.

Pastor Boughey, who is also the chaplain at Grafton’s Acmena Juvenile Justice Centre, has so far mentored 20 young men released from juvenile detention through the initiative’s Pathways Employment Project called Toys Change Lives (TCL).  Creating unique toys decorated with traditional aboriginal artwork, TCL has provided the boys an opportunity to be part of a positive working environment that gives them an income and invaluable skills.

“What it has done has given them the opportunity to see how you actually work, because these boys probably haven’t seen anybody work on a regular basis.

“Where they have to get out of bed even when they don’t feel like they want to get out of bed and go to work.

“But at the end of the day or of the week you get a big surprise when you receive that big fat pay packet and that’s the incentive,” says Pastor Boughey.

Last time we spoke to Pastor Boughey and the young men, they were crafting the toys in Pastor Bougheys’ backyard shed turned workshop. Today with the proceeds from the toy sales and donations, they have been able to expand the program and rent a shop in Casino’s main street. The new shop officially opened in May 2017 and consists of a workshop out back, an art gallery and a small library where people are able to share and read novels for free.  And of course the shop houses a collection of decorated wooden toys made by the young men. TCL and the mentorship it provides, gives the boys a better chance of re-entering life after detention and going on to further themselves both in their career prospects and personal development.

Dianne Torrens and Pastor Peter Boughey with youth from the TCL program.

“One of the boys who started with me 15 months ago, he doesn’t work here anymore because he studying to become a youth worker. And yet two years ago he was sitting in detention.

“Another boy got an apprenticeship as an apprentice chef,” says Pastor Boughey.

Investing money in these boys’ development and rehabilitation, according to Rev. Boughey is money well spent.

“It is a program that works. In the last twelve months… we’ve saved the government just under 2 million dollars,” says Pastor Boughey.

This program is more than about monetary concerns. Instead it’s a chance for him and his fellow mentors to be able to lead by example. In turn giving these young men an opportunity to turn their lives around.  This initiative is not only helping those who have been released but those who are in detention and those who are at risk of offending/reoffending.

“We’ve been invited into juvenile justice centres, to take the boys in there and tell the other boys their stories, which they find inspiring,” says Pastor Boughey.

Aussie Actor Russel Crowe visited the TCL shop in Casino.

There are also a number volunteers who help out at the shop including young men and women whose parents have asked if they can be involved in the initiative. This is in the hope that they don’t go down the wrong path in life. With country/gospel music being played around the clock; the shop is all about creating a positive space.

“They know who I am and what I stand for…It’s a big opportunity to witness,” says Pastor Boughey.

Pastor Boughey is continually trying to find ways to help fund this program, which has so far been at a personal expense and with an initial grant thanks to Uniting. To help this quest the TCL team have renovated a coffee cart that now sits in shop. But to actually start operating it, they need funds to comply with council requirements, such as adding floor tiles and a hot water service and sink. A way people can help make this happen is by simply buying the toys (just in time for Christmas) or making a donation.

“Every toy is different, it’s the same shape and everything like that but all the painting is different because everything is done individually.

“So anybody who buys a toy, knows that they are getting the only one in Australia like that,” says Pastor Boughey.

You can purchase a TCL toy by going to the official website https://www.tcl.org.au/

Melissa Stewart

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