Avana, a 10-year-old Nowra local, generously raises funds for CareSouth’s Shoalhaven Youth Support Service (SYSS)

While most 10-year-olds are busy playing sport or with their friends after school, one South Coast youngster spent all her spare time recently sewing scrunchies.

Avana is a little girl with a big heart – and big dreams to make the world a better place. A few years earlier, while visiting her grandmother at a Sydney Hospital, she spotted a homeless man sleeping under a bench in a Kings Cross park.

“I asked mum what he was doing there asleep, and she told me he was homeless, and that was where he probably slept for the night,” said Avana. “It made me sad because he didn’t have a home. I asked Mum and Dad a lot more questions when we got home.”

The memory of the man sleeping rough stayed with her, and Avana decided she needed to do something to help. Since that day, she has donated any money she has received for birthdays and Christmas to Hoodies for the Homeless and Street Swags.

But this year, after bushfires, floods, and escalating rental prices due to COVID-19 left many South Coast people homeless, Avana focused on helping people closer to her hometown. 

Avana’s mum told her about a family friend who works with young homeless people at CareSouth’s Shoalhaven Youth Support Service (SYSS); and discussed the struggles they face trying to find affordable housing in a difficult market.

When Avana heard about young people not much older than her, who were homeless, she started brainstorming ways to raise even more money.  

Avana and her mum came up with a business idea to make scrunchies and sell them on social media.

“Mum and I talked about what we could do to raise money for a present that someone would like to buy,” said Avana. “Scrunchies were easy to make, and we had a lot of material that we could use. 

“I got bits of material and Mum helped me cut the right size. I sewed it on the machine and had to turn it in the right way and then thread the elastic through it. Mum tied a knot in the elastic and then sewed it on the machine. It took a while to make them, but it was good to be with Mum.”

People from all over Australia responded to the social media posts, purchasing Avana’s hand-made scrunchies for $2 each, while also supporting a great cause.

“I raised $230,” said Avana proudly. “I was happy and excited that I could help someone maybe even a couple of people.”

Tony Briggs, the team leader at SYSS, said the money was used to buy an outdoor swing chair, two native plants and BBQ utensils.

“Bunnings was so impressed with Avana’s efforts to raise money for homeless young people that they offered to throw in a brand-new BBQ,” said Tony.

“A young person staying at SYSS put together the swing and, when Avana was invited to the SYSS building complex to see the chair and BBQ all set up, he thanked her and said he will be definitely using the BBQ. The SYSS team is very grateful to Avana for her fundraising efforts.”

We can’t thank Avana, her mum and Bunnings Nowra enough for their generosity.

To learn more about CareSouth’s Shoalhaven Youth Support Service, contact us on 1300 554 260, email info@caresouth.org.au, or visit https://www.caresouth.org.au/our-services/youth-support-services/