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The journey to confidence, community and art

Keena’s journey to confidence, community, and art

How personal and practical support changed a mother’s life

Keena sits quietly and reflects on how life has changed for her and her family in the past few years. She’s softly spoken and never uses more words than she needs, but her generosity of spirit shines through.

Caring for the community

Keena has always had a heart for helping others. You’ll find her spending her days caring for her family, creating Indigenous art at places like the local Villawood Public School and regularly volunteering as a cook at the Urana Street Community Hub. She is well known throughout Villawood and is always happy to put up her hand when there is a need.

Before moving to Villawood, New South Wales, Keena lived in Kununurra in Western Australia. In Kaminari, her father started an Aboriginal Medical Centre. This act inspired Keena and her siblings to always give back to their communities. Keena says, “My family in WA are community minded.” This generosity is something Keena herself has inherited.

But it hasn’t always been easy for Keena to be confident in herself and involved in her community in this way. Before meeting Wesley ParentsNext Consultant Anna, Keena and her family were experiencing difficult circumstances, which had impacted her confidence.

Losing confidence to life’s ups and downs

As a mother of seven children, Keena struggled to find housing that had enough space for her big family. She was also experiencing the financial stress of not being able to pay her utility bills.

Amidst her struggles, Keena was referred to Wesley ParentsNext for help and was connected with consultant Anna.

Wesley ParentsNext supports parents and carers with young children, who are facing challenging circumstances, to prepare for their future. Dedicated consultants walk alongside families, providing support to help people just like Keena set and achieve their goals.

When Keena first met Anna in 2019, she was unsure about Anna and Wesley ParentsNext. After struggling in isolation for some time, opening up to the help of another person was difficult. Keena says, “I was scared the first time, when I started.”

Anna, too, remembers, “Keena was very shy and quiet.” But Anna knew helping Keena through her initial discomfort would pay off – and so they got started working together.

To help Keena with her most immediate challenges, Anna referred her to an Indigenous playgroup. Keena took her two younger children along, and eventually they became more independent and started to attend daycare. This was a big step for Keena, as it meant she got more time to work on her own self-development and expand her networks.

During this time Keena also took part in the Salvation Army program Moneycare, which Anna helped her access. This allowed her to begin dealing with her financial stress in a practical way.

Growing in independence and creativity

Over time, Keena started to build her confidence and skills. In 2020, she participated in an outdoor therapeutic initiative. Through this program Keena was able to grow socially and emotionally alongside others who shared similar challenges to ones she was facing.

Despite the challenges that the COVID 19 pandemic lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 threw at Keena, she continued to work with Anna to build her skills through local courses, and got her learner’s permit so she can learn to drive. Keena gained newfound confidence that enabled her to use her natural creativity to create art for her community.

Now an artist with Indigenous paintings displayed in the Wesley ParentsNext office in Bankstown and prominently around the community, it’s hard to believe Keena only began painting as recently as 2018. She says, “I always wanted to do art when I was younger, at school, and I just didn’t get the chance.”

Anna says, “[Keena’s] very creative and artistic, and I think… being quite an introverted type of person… [she] communicates with her art.”

The power of personal support

Keena has come out of her shell to achieve many things working with Anna in the Wesley ParentsNext program. According to Keena, “Getting back to art and doing courses,” is something she is personally very proud of.

Keena has also developed a desire to explore new opportunities in her life. “[Wesley ParentsNext] got me going [with] motivation. Learning new things and meeting new people is good.”

Anna says throughout their three years working together Keena has grown so much. “She’s just come out of herself. She was very quiet when I first met her… but I think with every appointment or every meeting that I had with her, she was more comfortable.”

Keena is currently working with Anna every fortnight at the Wesley Mission Bankstown office to complete an online course in Employability Skills, as well as still working on getting her driver’s licence.

Wesley Mission’s ParentsNext program is just one of many programs that empower people like Keena to access new opportunities, build confidence and find their next steps. We thank God for how people like Keena bravely grasp hold of these opportunities to create the lives they want.

To find out more about Wesley ParentsNext visit Wesley ParentsNext – Wesley Mission

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