Disadvantaged, isolated and vulnerable young people have been lent a helping paw, thanks to a new program coming to Newcastle.
Happy Paws Happy Hearts works with socially isolated Australians, helping them build connections and confidence by learning to care for animals in rescue shelters.
The program already runs in Maitland and Kurri Kurri, with plans to extend to Newcastle and hopes to work with council.
Founder of Happy Paws Happy Hearts Zoe Black said the one-of-a-kind charity was made to benefit both humans and animals in need.
"I thought one way to draw people who are feeling isolated out would be to help rescue animals. It is a dual benefit," she said.
"We work with young people who have had traumatic experiences, some have dropped out of school, young women who received a late autism diagnosis are also quite common and they just had trouble fitting in at school.
"Before they go onto employment some of them need to grow that confidence and belief in themselves that they can keep learning and they do that through our program and then they might go back to finish school before they go onto employment."
The charity received $75,000 from the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation on Thursday which will go toward creating a mobile training classroom, allowing the program to be brought to more areas such as Newcastle.
There are currently 70 participants in the program in Maitland. Participants train once a week to learn about animal body language, develop skills, grow their confidence and change their attitudes around how they can help the community.
"Sometimes it can be multiple years of growing confidence or sometimes just finding that place and that purpose gets people off to a start really quickly," said Ms Black.
Grieving teenagers throughout the Hunter region will also be given a leg up, with a new program coming to the region to help those who have lost a loved one.
Feel the Magic holds camps to provide support and resources to kids aged seven to 17 who have experienced the death of a parent, guardian or sibling.
The charity received $55,000 to open a new camp in Lake Macquarie, specifically for people aged 17 to 18.
Feel the Magic CEO Adam Blatch said the camp will involve a three day program helping the teenagers understand grief while transitioning from adolescence into adulthood to prevent it from damaging their mental health.
"Kids feel like they are on their own. They feel like they are the only one at school who doesn't have a dad anymore and it can be so isolating in a way that makes them angry, frustrated, depressed, anxious," he said.
"When kids would get to 17 and would stop being eligible to come to Feel the Magic camps there was really nothing else out there. You become an adult and have to find your own way.
"We help them understand things like your mental health and your relationship to Mother's Day, Father's Day or special milestones where you dad isn't there to walk you down the aisle."
Camp Magic will hold their first camp at the Lake Macquarie campsite next month for kids throughout the Hunter region aged seven to 17, with hopes to help 40 to 45 kids navigate through the loss of a loved one.
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