Dareton Youth & Community Centre manager Ilker Deli.

By MADISON EASTMOND

IT’S a cause close to many hearts – to provide youth with a sense of support and a feeling of belonging.

That’s where projects like the the Dareton Youth & Community Centre shine. It is an innovative and inspiring community project that is changing lives.

Managed by Dareton resident Ilker Deli, the Dareton Youth & Community Centre came to fruition three years ago, after originally being the brainchild of a Church of Christ Indigenous Dareton pastor, John Saulo.

“He was a dedicated and avid Christan, and very much in love with Dareton,” Mr Deil said. “He wanted to do something for the children, as he noticed a significant lack of resources for our youth locally, including places for entertainment, to meet up and gain support.”

Now after three years, Mr Deli says the centre is exactly that.

A drug and alcohol-free space, it is not only a place of fun, computers, movies and arts and crafts, but also teaches the youth of Dareton skills in cooking, baking and gardening.

“Of course, coming from the manager it sounds a bit biased, but I really think this centre has made, and is continuing to make, a difference,” Mr Deli said. 

“Of course we offer all these skills for them to learn, but our main goal is to be a shoulder for them to lean on and trust, and that is by far been the most rewarding aspect over the last three years I have been managing the centre.

“At the beginning children would come in, and you could see the walls they had up.

“But after some time, and chipping down those walls, they know they can talk to me, tell me about their day and what they have been learning at school. To me, that means the world.

“I’m not a counsellor, I don’t like to give advice, I’m just here to provide support any chance I can. They are truly fantastic kids.”

Opening after school hours from 3.30pm to 6.30pm, Monday to Wednesday, and 3.30pm to 8.30pm Thursday and Friday, Mr Deli has been managing the centre since day one. 

“I worked as a security guard in Dareton for around seven years, but I knew I wanted to do more than that,” he said. “So, I decided to do my Diploma of Community Services at TAFE, studying through the day and working at night.

“At my graduation is where I met Father John Saulo. At this time the Youth Centre was in the middle of being organised, so I told him I would love to volunteer. 

“Unfortunately, he retired and returned to Papua New Guinea a month or so later, which meant there was an opening for a manager, which the senior Pastor of the Mildura Church of Christ, Andrew Tonkin, recommended me for. And the rest, as they say, is history. 

“For the first time in 27 years I am working in a job that I am truly passionate about. I would do it for free! I just love it.”

Mr Deli’s passion and love for his role in the community stems from a personal understanding of the significance of youth centres in a young person’s life. 

“I migrated from Turkey to Germany when I was only one, and my father passed away when I was seven,” Mr Deli said. “My mother had to work both the morning and night shift, so that meant she got home at around 10pm. We pretty much roamed the streets and fended for ourselves.

“We never went without clothes, our stomachs were always full and had a roof over our heads, but there was definitely that lack of a father figure and guidance. 

“But it was one night, when I was probably mucking around, that I came across a local youth centre… I spent five years of my life there until I came to Australia.

“I truly believe I wouldn’t be the person I am today without growing up with the support of a youth centre, and I hope I can provide the same guidance here.”