ZAHRA Haryadi was 17 when a family breakdown led to her being “kicked out” of home.
She found herself couch surfing while studying for her HSC at Newcastle High.
But while she said it was certainly a difficult and distracting time, she counts herself as one of the lucky ones.
Eventually, a couple who knew one of her teachers reached out to Ms Haryadi and offered her a place to stay.
The accommodation they offered was something of a sanctuary – a place where she could keep her belongings and her books. A place to call home.
“When I look back and reflect on it, I find myself grateful that it happened, because it has actually opened my eyes to what other people go through,” she said.
“I feel like I was lucky compared to other youths and other homeless people who were sleeping on the streets, and ever since then I’ve just really wanted to help in any way I can.”
Now 22, Ms Haryadi has graduated from a communications degree at university.
She has also been the driving force behind the Cardiff Hawks Aussie Rules Clubs’ efforts to collect donations of clothing, blankets and toiletries for disadvantaged people who attended the Hunter Homeless Connect Day in Broadmeadow on August 5.
“My partner plays for the Cardiff Hawks,” she said.
“The club came on board and helped spread the word to members and their players, they have been amazing.”
For the past month, Ms Haryadi has collected dozens of bags full of warm clothing and blankets, as well as work wear, toiletries and nappies, shoes and sleeping bags.
“On Hunter Homeless Connect Day they have free services for the disadvantaged to help them with things like applying for a job, or getting ready for a job interview,” she said.
“So being able to give them something appropriate to wear to a job interview can be a big help.
“But the main thing is that they get some warm clothing and blankets, which would really help the people sleeping rough.”
Ms Haryadi collected donations up until July 29.
She said while she had a “bit of a rough go at it,” things were looking up for her.
She had been offered a job at a digital agency in Newcastle, and had found her feet.
“It takes time for things to start looking up, but I’m glad it’s happening for me and I want that to happen for other people as well,” she said.
“Hopefully this will really help them.”
At the Hunter Homeless Connect Day, people who were homeless, struggling, doing it tough, or at risk of homelessness had access to legal and financial services, as well as health, housing and accommodation services.