WHEN Glossodia‘s Chelsea McLellan was told she was heading to the Gold Coast for the school holidays, she didn’t expect it to be an enriching experience that would change her forever.
However that is exactly what happened to the 14-year-old who took part in the nine-day military-style boot camp in a remote corner of the Gold Coast hinterland, designed to help her build discipline, resilience and leadership skills.
The intensive program is the brainchild of Veteran Mentors, a group of ex-servicemen and women who wanted to use their combat experience and military training to help children who are facing a range of issues such as technology addiction, bullying and low self-esteem.
The program involves children aged nine to 17 working together to face challenges such as getting back to nature and learning how to communicate without the means of technology, all while pushing personal limits.
Chelsea said she hadn’t been respecting her parents prior to coming on the camp.
“I never listened to my parents. I would withdraw from them and had no interest in anything,” she said.
“I didn’t put effort into anything that I did. I just gave up and stopped caring.”
Even after four days with the Veteran Mentors team, Chelsea said the program was getting much easier, particularly the training sessions which were initially quite challenging.
“When I first arrived I just wanted the program to be over,” she said.
“Now, it still can be really difficult to do some of the physical training but we get through it. My section works together really well and we have a good laugh. We really rely on each other.”
Afghanistan Veteran and now Director of Veteran Mentors Glenn Filtness said he and the team had a passion for helping youth and using their military training to mentor and motivate youth like Chelsea to better themselves.
“We are determined to help kids become accountable for their behaviour and decisions,” said Glenn, who enlisted into the Australian Army in 2005 as a Communications Specialist, discharging from full-time service in 2016 after three deployments to Afghanistan.
“After much discussion we realised the best way for us to pass on the knowledge and experience we had developed in the military was to run a program that could support a wide range of children.
“Some kids who join the program may be demonstrating poor behaviours, low self-esteem, lack of respect, addiction to technology or issues with drugs and alcohol, while others may just want or need to be propelled forward to reach their full potential.”
The next nine-day program is set to run from December 15 to 23. Visit www.veteranmentors.com.au.