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Bella, 7, was so shy she wouldn’t talk. Now she’s enjoying school, friends, and a new love of Karate!

When Bella*, 7, joined the Rise program in Victoria, she was a very quiet child. Now, she loves school and even joins new activities with friends outside of it!

Bella’s* father had been recently incarcerated when we first met her, and her family, fearing stigma, had decided not to share this with their community.

Bella, feeling like she had a secret to keep and was ‘different to the other children’, had become very withdrawn.

The situation had worsened to the point where she wouldn’t participate in any extracurricular activities or speak with her friends, and her school and mother were concerned about how her family’s situation had impacted her ability to maintain relationships.

Small steps …

At first, Bella’s mentor slowly encouraged her to open up about her experiences when she felt comfortable doing so and worked on activities to help her regain her self-confidence.

They spent a lot of time discussing and understanding emotions and what safe and positive relationships look like.

Together, they identified people in her life that she could trust and why having these relationships was important.

“We would do role-playing activities, using puppets and teddy bears to act out social situations so that she could practise speaking with other children and build her confidence,” her mentor said.

“She was really worried about what to do in certain situations, so by acting them out, she felt ready to reach out to her peers again and reconnect with her friends.”

Back in the schoolyard

These activities have been a success!

While it didn’t happen overnight, Bella started playing with her friends again and reached out to peers she had identified as having similar interests and being good friends.

She’s started attending a school holiday program and enjoys engaging with her friends outside of school.

Bella’s mother and teacher are so pleased with her progress and new social skills. They have told our team that they’ve noticed a vast improvement in her confidence.

“Her teacher told me that Bella is confident in sharing her ideas in the classroom now, which is a great step forward!” said her mentor.

Perhaps most exciting is that Bella has taken up karate classes outside of school!

When she started with Rise, it was unimaginable to her mother that she’d want to participate in something like this, with lots of interaction with other children.

“Bella is now happy to attend school and runs up to her friends in the playground with a big smile on her face,” said her mentor.

“She has also opened up a lot more during our sessions together and now sees me as a person she can speak to freely with and use to help her with any problems she might be having at school.”

Bella’s mentor, teacher, and mother are so proud of how far she’s come. At the rate she’s going, she’ll be confidently navigating friendships without the need for support in no time.

*Names and images changed to protect participants. 

Thank you, Anglicare Victoria, for supporting this program

Bella, 7, was so shy she wouldn’t talk. Now she’s enjoying school, friends, and a new love of Karate!

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