Non-profit organisation, LeaderLife, and its founder have received top honours recognising their invaluable work of helping kids and young people in Dubbo.
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LeaderLife, at Apollo House, has won the 'Outstanding Community Organisation' award, while it's chief executive officer Joh Leader was named 'Outstanding Business Leader' for more than 36 years of service at the 2022 Western NSW Business awards.
"Behind every great leader is a village of people who support," Ms Leader said.
She thanked the "incredible village" of children, families, staff, board, funders, supporters, businesses and side-line cheerers who made it possible for LeaderLife to have a great impact.
"The true award for us at LeaderLife is the lives we are able to touch and the kids and young people who now believe in themselves because of the sacred work we do," Ms Leader said.
She was also overjoyed to have a flash trophy for the pool room.
Ms Leader started her career in Dubbo as a paediatric speech pathologist in primary health care in 2003, before taking her passion for kids into the field of community services in 2010.
"It was here I realised that my passion was to help grow communities and be part of a great village that ultimately helps kids live their best live; all kids," she said.
She began working from the Apollo House community centre in 2011 after having a relentless desire to help kids falling through the cracks, lead a life filled with "love and purpose".
She wanted to fill what she saw as a massive gap in Dubbo's social fabric; children dropping out of school, suffering from complex mental health issues, and getting locked up in jail.
Ms Leader decided to take action, and LeaderLife was born.
"LeaderLife fills the gap with sincere, meaningful holistic long-term support for kids who have been caught in the crossfire of some of the most complex social issues anyone could face," she said.
"We create community solutions to jail terms for kids."
Ms Leader spoke of a young man who had come to LeaderLife as 9 year old boy.
The young fella had started off in their after school program around skill-building, then graduated to the Soil2Soul program. Soil2Soul is about equipping young people with mentors and skills needed to transition into mainstream employment and retain long-term work.
He worked at LeaderLife's lime farm for 4 months before starting a formal apprenticeship.
Now, he is over 18 and hopes to start his own business one day. His goal is to bring "social impact love" by employing young Indigenous people and those having a tough time.
"It was an exciting day when he got his Ps and even a more exciting day when he purchased his own car!," Ms Leader said.
The young man still touches base with LeaderLife regularly.
Ms Leader doesn't see her job as "fixing kids". The award-winning charity focuses providing the right conditions for them to rise.
"Everything we do is about ensuring young people have a sense of belonging, can practise independence in their decision making, that they are always learning, and are surrounded by generosity including giving back to the community," Ms Leader said.
There are days where Joh Leader simply does not have the words to describe the gratitude she has for helping young people.
She believes some of the children have been her greatest teachers, bringing knowledge, perception and respect into her life.
"Working with these kids is like juggling lightening with your bare hands. So much power. So much potential. So unpredictable," Ms Leader said.
She understands perfectly the incredible compassion and patience required to work with them.
Ms Leader has taken on the challenges of running a charity, making LeaderLife the epitome of a model of care that successfully empowers kids and youth.
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