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From broken to living out her dreams

For a 25-year-old, Veniana Koro has already packed a lot in to her life.

By the age of 22, she had already experienced three years of homelessness and an abusive relationship, that left her broken and with two very young daughters, and had dropped out of her studies.

Then things started to turn around.

"I was in a refuge in Sydney when I heard about Red Cross and their Young Parents Program," she says. "I thought they don't care. It'll be just another refuge. But I feel so blessed and humbled at the help I've received from them!"

Veniana started the program, which teaches young disadvantaged mums and dads how to improve their parenting skills and maintain a nurturing and stable household. Parents are offered intensive case management, education groups and study sessions, supported playgroups, domestic violence workshops, parenting, nutrition and living skills workshops. Veniana moved in with her two little girls to the welcoming house Red Cross operates in suburban Sydney is a real sanctuary for young parents who are unable to get the help they need to care for their family. The young mums and dads can call on Red Cross staff and volunteers 24 hours a day to help them navigate the ups and downs of their journey.

Young Parents Program is for a highly vulnerable group in the community: pregnant or parenting young women and men up to 25 years old, who are unable to access elsewhere the safety, security and support needed to parent their child effectively. Most young parents there have experienced homelessness, family instability, trauma, abuse, unhealthy relationships, family violence, drug and alcohol misuse, early disengagement from education, social isolation, lack of appropriate supports and poor mental health.

Looking back on what's happened since, Veniana says she can't believe how much she's accomplished in the two years since she started the program.

She had been in an on-again-off again relationship since the age of 15 which left her feeling shattered, dependent and unable to leave. "When I first went into Red Cross I had a lot of insecurities and I was just really broken because of everything that had happened. I had been in uni but I dropped out because I fell pregnant."

Veniana's life now couldn't be more different. She's finished a qualification in community services, moved into transitional housing, got a driver's licence, re-enrolled in university, got a job and her two girls - now aged four and two - are settled in child care.

Now she dreams of a future where she's working as a nurse.

"I'm looking forward to finishing my nursing and hopefully doing some travel with my two girls."

And while she's grateful to Red Cross - she says it was unbelievable how much Red Cross staff and volunteers helped - she says she also learned how to find her own inner strength, thanks to her daughters.

"Because of my girls - they were the reason I found the strength within myself. I had to push on. I had to accomplish my goals and make a better life because of them."

It would be hard to think of a more inspirational role model for Veniana's daughters to look up to now.

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