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Gawler youth proves community service is a state of mind

Regional News

Elijah Hobby has spent years giving back in the Gawler community of Hewett, creating a safe space for those living with mental health challenges and disability.

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When the 21-year-old was told he’d won the Young Citizen of the Year Award for 2022, his immediate response was “why me?”

But occupational therapist Joanne Robertson had no qualms about nominating the young man who volunteers at the Kingfisher Inclusive Hewett Centre Café where she works.

“Elijah is an outstanding young man who has overcome many challenges in his life to become a contributing and valued member of society,” Robertson said.

“He is always willing to lend a hand and this attitude has led him to volunteer within the therapy groups I run.”

The centre and café assist people who face barriers to gaining employment, experience mental health challenges and live with disability.

Having been diagnosed with autism back in 2018, helping others to feel safe and giving them a space to learn and socialize became important to Elijah.

Hobby explains that the diagnosis has helped him to understand himself more and why he does certain things.

“I do have challenges when it comes to my autism, one being my social skills,” Hobby said.

“By this I mean I struggle to talk to people that I don’t know, and I sometimes struggle with big crowds as they can become overwhelming.”

Hobby also has a condition called Keratoconus that impacts his vision, making reading difficult.

“I struggle to read small writing and sometimes need help reading things such as books and the newspaper,” Hobby said.

Robertson said Hobby was kind, patient and accommodating to the people within her group sessions.

“He assists those with dementia and helps them feel included especially when they are non-verbal and want to communicate with other participants,” Robertson said.

She said that autism and visual impairment does not hold Hobby back from giving his time and energy to others.

“He is a pleasure to be around, and I am honoured to have him assist me several times a week,” Robertson said.

Bill O’Brien, the mayor of Light Regional Council, attended the awards night at Government House and watched Elijah give his acceptance speech

“I felt so proud for him, and it almost brought tears to my eyes,” O’Brien said.

Hobby said he was nervous on the night, but appreciates he was awarded such praise.

“It felt like I was on stage for way longer than I actually was and I was sweating a bit, but it makes me feel good to know that I’ve been recognized for my accomplishments,” Hobby said.

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