Another way to live

Growing up, it was pretty much just Ward and his Mum. His Dad was around but was just doing his own thing for the most part. His Mum worked a lot, so a lot of the time it was just him.
“I didn’t really have much of a parent figure around to guide me or support me, so I learnt to look after myself. Looking after myself often meant ‘looking after number one’ – always making sure I came out on top,” Ward remembers. “I made friends with people that were into drugs, and I got into drugs because, well I had the money, and the opportunity was there. With drugs came being in a gang, which then led to gang fights.”
“I’ve been stabbed three times and taken to hospital a few times. I’ve also hurt other people pretty badly with broken bones and fractures. I don’t like to talk about it much.”
“I saw one of my good mates die right in front of me when I was only 14. I lost a lot of mates because of fights and drugs, which made me angry – I just kept feeling more alone. The angrier I got, the more I got into fights and the more I got into drugs and then the angrier I got.”
Ward felt trapped in a vicious cycle and didn’t know how to get out. This was the only way of life he’d known, and had seen more terrible things by his early teens than anyone should have to see.
“When I met Roy Devine, he was just an everyday kind of guy. We knew the religious stuff was there, and it was important to Roy and his team, but if we didn’t want to hear it, they didn’t talk about it with us.”
Roy spoke about the Connect program and asked if anyone was interested in joining up. Thinking this seemed like a good opportunity to get out of school, Ward also saw this as a chance to discover other ways to live his life.
“Half of what made Roy such a great guy was that he listened to me. He never yelled at me, just sat down and talked. Most of the adults I knew would just yell and tell us what we weren’t meant to be doing. I guess Roy was the first really positive adult involved in my life. My parents were there, but they weren’t really there, they didn’t really know anything I was involved in or who I really was.”
Over the course of five camps, Ward got to know other guys his age pretty well. They sort of new each other, but only one would really have been considered a ‘mate’ – and a couple of guys he really didn’t like.
“Through being part of the Connect program I realised I shouldn’t judge people without knowing them. I realised there were other ways to live than just looking after myself, or hanging out with the people I’d been hanging out with.
“The team showed me that there was more to life than gangs and fights, that I could talk to solve disputes instead of fighting.”
Through the experience of the Connect program Ward learnt self-control; instead of losing his temper and starting fights, he learnt to just walk away. Through the program he gained a sense of stability, learnt to open up to people and make some different mates.
“Without going into the Connect program, I would probably be in jail, or dead. But I have a future now, a good one. I’m most of my way through a diesel fitter’s apprenticeship and have a whole lot to look forward to.”
Ward Kelly was part of the Connect program when he was 13. Ten years on, he is still grateful for the way that the Connect team helped him to turn his life around, and the people that helped him to do it.


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