What do you do when you have hundreds of hungry hordes to feed? Call in the army and navy of course! Each year CareSouth’s Permanency Support Program teams host a day of fun in the sun for children, carers and caseworkers at Jamberoo Action Park.

This year more than 200 people came from as far south as Canberra and Goulburn, as well as the Illawarra and Shoalhaven, for the action-packed event. They not only enjoyed the park’s rides but shared a relaxed barbecue lunch with CareSouth staff, including newly-appointed CEO Liz Forsyth.

Feeding hundreds of people is no easy feat but the crew from HMAS Albatross 723 Squadron made it look like a walk in the park. Squadron members, part of Albatross’ helicopter training school for army and navy, cooked more than 20kg of sausages, stopping only for a quick dip in the wave pool after manning the hotplates for more than three hours.

Shoalhaven PSP Team Leader Marc Mergel said activities like the Jamberoo fun day are an important part of the support CareSouth caseworkers offer to the children, young people and carers with whom they work.

“The fun day is designed to give carers and young people a chance to catch up with old friends and meet new ones,” said Marc. “And one of the busiest aspects of the day is the lunchtime rush. So it was great to have the squadron members on board to cook the barbecue.”

The squadron have been major supporters of CareSouth over the past 12 months.

The partnership began when Shoalhaven Regional Manager Michael Mason and PSP Shoalhaven manager Chris Stubbs talked to members about the ways Caresouth supports vulnerable children and families.

A key aspect of the presentation was the huge difference positive role models and mentors can make in boosting the confidence and wellbeing of at-risk young people. The crew were quick to jump on board and help out.

“The squadron have always had a nominated charity and were looking for a local organisation to support,” said Michael. “When they heard what we do they selected CareSouth and since then we have explored ways we can work together.

“They have monthly barbecues and auction a VIP parking spot at the base to raise money for our support programs. They also host Bunnings barbecues and have raised thousands of dollars to help homeless youth in Shoalhaven’s SYSS program and at-risk youth in our Champions program, as well as volunteering for our community events like NAIDOC.”

As part of the partnership Michael and Chris also reached out to squadron members to help at-risk youth get their driver’s licence by taking them for driving lessons.

“Many of the young people we work with have no way of gaining the 120 hours needed for their licence. Driving lessons are too expensive and they often can’t rely on family members, so it’s difficult for them to get their required log book hours,” said Michael.

“The driver training has strengthened our partnership with the squadron and members not only support at-risk youth with practical driving skills, which means they then have more employment opportunities, but also help broaden their social networks.

“Giving at-risk youth a sense of social connectedness, through mentoring, increases wellbeing and confidence. The crew held an open day where a group of our clients visited the base, had a tour and got to fly the helicopter simulators.”