The West

Charity s help drove career choice

When Melanie Birch Williams left home at age 13, a career as a counsellor and a chance to give back to the community was a distant dream.

Leaving behind an unstable environment at home, she had moved in with her grandparents weeks before starting high school.

Now 17 and studying community work, she says charity The Smith Family through its Learning for Life program played a key role ensuring she graduated.

"It was quite difficult before then," Ms Birch Williams said. "My grandparents weren't in a good position to pay, so the scholarship was a big help."

She said her experiences gave her a desire to help others.

"Giving something back would be really good, because I've had so much help myself," Ms Birch Williams said. "I want to help people who come from situations like mine, who've experienced domestic violence and bullying."

Her grandmother Noelene Williams said struggling parents needed to know help was available.

"The support gave Melanie confidence, when she always felt she wasn't capable," she said.

"But I didn't know The Smith Family was there until I walked into their office in Maddington."

The Smith Family WA general manager Greg Ryan-Gadsden said the rising cost of education was hitting many families.

"People generally have to choose to pay the bills before they consider their education costs," he said.

With more than 600,000 Australian children growing up with both parents unemployed, he said more and more families needed help each year.

The West Australian

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