Passion to grow future leaders
19 February 2014
“I spent years of my life hiding who I really was because I was so ashamed of my past. I was scared that no-one would like me or people would think less of me if they knew things that had happened to me, or things I had done.” – Bee Orsini
In the past three years, Bianca “Bee” Orsini has co-presented with Sir Richard Branson in front of thousands, has been seen by millions of people through a range of prime-time media interviews, worked with celebrities such as Australian actress Cate Blanchett and made presentations to more than 10,000 school students, all to help combat youth homelessness.
What is astonishing is that the passionate, articulate 24-year-old, who has just co-authored and launched the new Salvos Ambassadors Program (SAM) and who was recently included in a list of “100 Women of Influence” compiled by the National Australia Bank and The Financial Review, was a homeless Salvation Army client herself not so long ago.
Bee grew up in a dysfunctional family marked by abuse, parental addiction and neglect. By the time she was a teenager, Bee was depressed, anxious, and self-harming.
Drug and alcohol abuse and homelessness followed, until a friend pointed her to The Salvation Army Oasis Youth Support Network in Surry Hills, NSW.
At the time, she says, “I couldn’t go home to my mum. Although she loved me and I loved her, she wasn’t capable of supporting or nurturing me.”
A desire to help others
Bee, who eventually gained an excellent job, completed Oasis’ 10-week employment coaching course. She also received ongoing support including help securing emergency accommodation. She was then offered a volunteer role with the Oasis “Champions” program.
“What I was about to learn was that my pain from the past would become the strength I needed to fuel a desire to help others,” she says.
Today, she works full-time with The Salvation Army as Oasis Schools Liaison, presenting and running youth homelessness workshops for students including those “at risk” of homelessness.
She also runs workshops for entire year groups of students who, she says, “all have the potential to make a difference”.
Engaging the next generation
Earlier this year, Bee and The Salvation Army’s Matt Gluyas launched SAM, a partnership between the Oasis Youth Support Network and The Salvation Army’s MORE youth ministry. It’s a pilot initiative which aims to further engage and train the current school-aged generation to work towards positive social change. Youth homelessness will be the central issue that SAM addresses.
“In [the past] 20 years … Australia saw teenage homelessness more than double to over 28,000,” Bee says.
Despite the intellect, passion and depth of understanding Bee brings to the role, she knows that her most powerful weapon simply remains the willingness to share her own story.
“Oasis helped me to see it was something I could be proud of, not embarrassed about,” she says.
“There are times when I feel really drained retelling my story, but I remember the thousands of kids there are left to fight for and how blessed I was to have a friend who knew to take me to Oasis, so it keeps me going.
“I was given a second chance at life through The Salvation Army … so I want to see as many other young people get that same chance!”