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Young mum's big desire to help others

Amber may be only 17 but she's wise and articulate well beyond her years.

Despite having done it tougher than many could imagine, she's dreaming of the day when she will build a social enterprise and help people who are homeless.

The mum of two lives at Red Cross' Young Parents Program in Sydney where vulnerable and at-risk young parents are offered intensive support. Amber says she's revelling as a result of the program. She's just finishing a course delivered with Young Change Agents where Red Cross young humanitarians mentor the parents to develop social enterprises. These are small enterprises that are not just about making a profit; they're also about providing a solution to a problem in the local community.

"I love it,' she says with an infectious smile. "Red Cross has given me so many opportunities; it's great. I'm a young mum and not a lot of people around look greatly at me, and think she's done a good job.

"But Red Cross has given me the opportunity to feel good about my own parenting. They've made me feel like I can do anything I want, even with having two small children.

The social enterprise Amber has in mind involves providing a shelter for people who are homeless; a sanctuary with a postal address enabling them to maintain contact with family and others; as well as literacy and numeracy education; and a host of little luxuries they would otherwise never have the opportunity to enjoy.

"I like the idea and jumped on it. I have a great little team on the project. I've made a lot of friends, had a few laughs and jokes and it was great to find other people to find a similar interest," she says about the mentoring program.

"Some of us in the group have experienced homelessness and we all had ideas of how we can pick ourselves up and move forward.

"I thought I have a chance to make a difference. Instead of looking at homeless people as grubs in the gutter there's something that we can do for them."

As to the future? As a result of the live-in intensive parenting program, and the mentoring scheme, it's looking a whole lot brighter.

"My future holds a lot of ups and downs just like everyone else. But I know my future will hold a lot of happiness and joy and love-filled moments. In order for that to happen, it's this program that gave me that opportunity. It gave me a choice. I wasn't forced to come here. I knew how hard it was going to be and it's all worth it.

"I'm a young mum of 17. I have two beautiful little angels; two gorgeous girls and they are both thriving and happy and growing in everything each day; taking in the world. They're both very inquisitive and reaching their milestones as they should.

"I have a loving partner who has also pushed me forward to be the great parent that I am today.

"I want to try and be someone that isn't selfish and greedy and want to see people walk out with a smile."

And with dreams that big and that beautiful it's hard to see any reason why they wouldn't come to pass.

Amber, left, and her volunteer mentor Sarah.

And for Sarah Flemming, the young Red Cross volunteer who's been mentoring Amber on the social enterprise project, she's also got a lot out of the project.

"I've loved watching the progress of the parents." She says. "Its been amazing from the first week to now when we are feeling very comfortable. It's been amazing watching them find their own passions and then develop them."

The youth social entrepreneurship project has been funded by the NSW government.

Find out more about our work with children and families »

Photo: Dilini Perera/Australian Red Cross