‘BLOWN AWAY’: Maitland Neighbourhood Centre worker Leanne White is proud of the response to children’s programs in Woodberry. Leanne White, Maitland Neighbourhood CentreLEANNE White calls them her “golden moments”.
They are the subtle hints and surprises that show children have enormous potential.
One of those moments came when a child came into the Woodberry Neighbourhood Centre, where she runs children’s breakfast and holiday programs, 20 minutes early.
The child arrived early so he could help out with food preparation.
“He could become a top chef one day,” Ms White said.
“That hall obviously meant something to that little boy and he wanted to show it.
“Given the opportunity, he could become and do anything he wants toin his life. He just needs the opportunity.”
Ms White often talks about the potential of Woodberry’s children. The Maitland suburb has one of the Hunter’s lowest socio-economic ratings and contains large stocks of public housing.
Itstraddles the border of the Maitland and Newcastle local government areas – a point Ms White suggests has earned the community a reputation as the Hunter’s “forgotten suburb”.
“There’s a pub, there’s a chemist and there’s a skate park,” Ms White said. “Other than that there’s not much else for the children to do.
“They could walk five kilometres to Beresfield pool, but only the lucky ones can afford the admission fee.
“For some families, a trip to the pool means giving up milk and bread for the week.”
A few years ago, the Maitland Neighbourhood Centre community worker founded a community breakfast.
This was later built upon with the Boredom Busters holiday activities program.
The programs are said to have had a “phenomenal impact” on the community, with nearly 90 children taking part in Boredom Busters last school holidays.
“The children have just blown us away,” Ms White said.
“The mateship and the respect for others that they have shown is absolutely outstanding. These kids know when they’re onto a good thing.”
Ms White said the programs provided a safe place for the children to “be heard” and escape some of the problems at home.
She believed the programs were having a positive impact on crime in the suburb.
And she noticed older children were starting to become role models.
“These kids just want to talk and be heard,” she said. “It is a golden moment when you see some of the older boys helping out the younger ones. It shows they are taking responsibility and seizing opportunities.
“I am so appreciative that this community has let me in. It is a wonderful community that I love.”