Paul Engeler was once a “full-blown alcoholic” who grew up in a violent, alcohol-based environment in which he detoxed from three times before the age of 18.
It wasn’t until a man from Dubbo reached out to Paul through no benefit of his own that the young man’s life was turned around, and now he wants use his own experiences to give that hope to youth in Wellington.
Paul – who resides in Lithgow and is qualified in criminology – visited Wellington earlier this month where he looked into the possibility of launching a program he believes has the potential to drive down the rate of crime by youth.
He endeavors to establish a rowing program on the Macquarie River and Burrendong Dam to connect with youth, providing them with purpose and discipline in return for respect.
Paul said initiative has earned the support of state sporting organisations – Rowing NSW and PaddleNSW – and would require community backing should it come to fruition.
He said the opportunity would not only be valuable to youth, but young people returning from custody who are often overcome with freedom after being in a disciplined environment.
“I’ve heard a lot about Wellington and it’s Ice problem… it’s sad. Reality is it’s even sadder you have all these resources here not being used,” he said.
“We’re sending kids into the community saying do the right thing, it’s so far from reality.
“I’ve done prison time myself and this is so unjust. I gave up drinking, my mates, illicit drugs... I was the loneliest I’ve ever been.
“You can’t make them do the right thing but you can encourage them, at least they have a choice.”
Paul currently has numerous kayaks, rowing sculls and sailing boats he is willing to provide order to get the project off the ground which he envisions has the potential of entering a team into the Hawksbury Challenge in October.
But first thing’s first the idea must gain community support and a committee must be formed to assess what the best outcome is and get the wheels turning.
“Carpenters, TAFE, the Neighbourhood Centre, influential community members and people willing to become instructors. With all these organisations connected it’s just a matter of joining the dots,” he said.
“For people who say these kids should know better; if you have no purpose, hope or direction, how can you possibly see 10 years down the track?
“At the time they don’t even know they have a future.
“We have to look at what we have at our fingertips that we can help the community be better than what it is, because toughness isn’t about kicking someone weaker than yourself, it’s looking at your situation and thinking how you can be the person you're capable of being.
“When I see the potential of people in this town and the resources available there’s so many things we can do to connect and engage, so I’m providing that opportunity, it’s your choice.”
If you are interested in supporting this initiative you can contact Paul via email at firstname.lastname@example.org