Lions’ Licola Wilderness Village redirects young lives

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Cherry and Adam Wake sit on a rock in Lions' Licola Wilderness Village

On a remote bend of the Macalister River in the foothills of Victoria’s Alps, RACV member Cherry Wake and her husband Adam set about redirecting young lives in disarray. As behavioural officer and operations manager respectively for the Lions’ Licola Wilderness Village in West Gippsland, they aim to introduce fun and friendship to troubled children.

The Lions transformed the former mill town into an adventure camp for young people. With 16 houses, a mess hall and a commercial kitchen, it has a capacity of 250, catering to schools and community groups.

But every school holidays Lions clubs sponsor disadvantaged youngsters aged from eight to 11 at the camp, many with emotional and behavioural problems. “Many of them don’t have stability in their lives,” says Cherry, who has held RACV insurance for eight years. “Many don’t have trust. They each require something different: trust, nurturing, respect.

“Here, they arrive with a blank slate. Some, I have learnt, just need fun, and they need to be nurtured. They want to escape whatever it is that’s going on at home.

Cherry Wake paddles in a canoe

“Hopefully we change lives a little at a time. The seed I want to plant is the knowledge that there is fun in life, there are amazing friendships to be had, that it doesn’t always have to be bad. I tell them life is about choices, and if you make good choices eventually good things start to happen.”

In January more than 350 children, including African and Middle Eastern refugees, experienced the adventure camp – canoeing, tackling the climbing wall, riding the flying fox and giant swing. While they come from differing backgrounds, Adam says a key lesson is that they discover they are not alone: there are other children enduring similar difficulties. They are also introduced to a reading program and given a book to take home.

Cherry says the results are tangible: “You see their bad behaviour disappear during the week and they become normal kids.”

Photos: Shannon Morris


Written by Ian Munro
March 14, 2017