With a beaming smile, 20-year-old Sasha talks of a bright future ahead.

It wasn’t too long ago she felt surrounded by darkness, dealing with a difficult home life, crippling anxiety and autism that made going to school too much to bear.

Then she met Steph Duldig, a Senior Practitioner in FLO – Flexible Learning Options – at UnitingSA’s Christies Beach office, and embarked on a five-year journey of self-discovery. As a result, her dreams of being a ‘tradie’ are now closer to reality.

“I was 14 years old when I was connected to UnitingSA’s FLO program,” Sasha says.

“I wasn’t going to school because I was having bad anxiety. My mother has bi-polar so had her own stuff going on. I also have autism but didn’t understand it back then. I was just sitting in my bedroom doing nothing. They are depressing memories.”

UnitingSA offers FLO support to more than 100 young people each year. Its Christies Beach office, where Steph is based, reaches into a large area of the southern Adelaide region.

As her locally-appointed case worker, Steph began putting the supports in place to help Sasha understand more about herself, her struggles, and how to overcome them to build confidence and enjoy life.Steph and SashaUnitingSA’s Senior Practitioner in FLO Steph Duldig (left) with Sasha (right)

“We slowly left the house together and she supported me going back to school,” Sasha says.

“She helped me get housing when I was homeless and helped with family problems, life problems and learning problems.

“My dream is to be a tradie because it’s a physical job, I love the outfit and it has great pay.

“Steph helped me to do a tradies (Introduction to Trades) course at TAFE SA, my first ever course and I loved it.

“I never imagined five years ago this is where I would be. Steph helped me to believe I have a future.”

Steph says Sasha’s story captures what UnitingSA’s FLO Case Management work is all about, assisting disengaged young people in getting back on a pathway of education and employment.

“Sasha is a prime example of how walking alongside someone on their journey, having a little patience and a lot of belief in their potential, can assist them in changing their lives,” Steph says.

“We work hard to build strong and meaningful relationships with our clients, identify the barriers they face, and put a range of support in place.”

Steph has been part of the UnitingSA team for six years, beginning her career 10 years ago as a social worker specialising in youth homelessness.

“One of my favourite parts of the role is getting to know so many young people and seeing the growth that happens over time while we empower them to take charge of their lives,” Steph says.

“You can almost see a switch in someone when they start to drive the process themselves and they believe they can do it.”