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31 March 2011

Local teacher breaking down barriers for disadvantaged, by Greg Tingle - 31st March 2011

We've all heard the stories of the "too hard basked", "will never get a job", and "in your dreams".

Local teacher, celebrated media businesswoman and artist, Eva Rinaldi, is once again proving the naysayers wrong with her new life skills and wellbeing course tailored for disadvantaged people.

Ms Rinaldi is used to achieving the possible, so when the opportunity presented to teach life skills at The Parramatta College to a dozen people categorized as "disadvantaged" as far as job and business prospects go, she jumped at it.

The class comprises of adult aged students who have to put it mildly, had a really rough go of it in life. We go around the room and learn of the stories of family breakdown, job retrenchment, depression, weight and diet issues, sexual abuse, homelessness and we need not elaborate any further.

Ms Rinaldi said "I feel so blessed to be able to give these people new hope. My life has not been sheltered either and I've had my own share of ups and downs on the rollercoaster of life so I feel that I was hand picked for this most challenging role. I think that everyone one of us has a calling. We are four weeks into the eight week course now and the students are starting to open up to me more about their goals, dreams, aspirations, fears and life journey now. Many of them were quite hesitant at first. We've identified a few diamonds in the rough and we have already got some work experience opportunities confirmed for a number of them and their overall positive mental attitude has increased remarkable".

The charismatic teacher, well known for her media and arts appearances, has been contacting her impressive network of business contacts and has also secured the strong interest of Channel Seven, Andrew McManus Presents, Michael Jacobsen, Media Man and beyondblue. She's already signed up a number of the students as models and artists assistants for her Human Statue BodyArt, organised interviews with Media Man to raise more awareness and to give the students an outlet to share the story, and book into some of them to be St John's Ambulance volunteers at a number of upcoming music and sports events.

Ms Rinaldi said "Every little thing counts and gets them a step closer to where they want to be. You have to keep their spirit alive and heading in the right direction. Even this modest news article helps them see that society cares and has an interest. A very good friend of mine who works in media showed me the documentary of 'The Choir Of Hard Knocks' which showed many disadvantaged people come together and build up a formidable choir. There's were some absolutely golden people with amazing talent. I'm certain we have a similar kind of scenario with the students in my class. They just need to find their niche, and step by step they are. We're all really excited".

Many of the students were hesitant to be interviewed as they want to achieve more first before getting too much attention in the media, but we secured permission to publish some overview details.

Andrew: 55 years, booked into St Johns Ambulance volunteer service, into motorbikes and music and is looking forward to getting back into the workforce.

June: 50 years, long term depression issues, enjoys dancing, is into nutrition and helping others. Eva has identified June as been extremely intelligent.

Sarah: 20 years, long term unemployed and weight loss issues, but has lost 20kg in the last 2 months. Loves her dog and is looking forward to getting out and about more, and easing herself back into the workforce.

In the coming weeks we will be tracking the progress of these never say die students, and Ms Rinaldi promises us that she will have some very special guests coming along to share their own stories, and further reinforce to her class that nothing is impossible, by providing real life examples and genuine work experience opportunities, some of which will likely lead to sustainable employment prospects.

An enthusiastic Ms Rinaldi closed in saying "We have some amazing talented people here with lots to offer and who can't wait to get back to work. The more the naysayers say it can't be done, the more I know it can be. I've made some big comebacks in my own career, and I've been sharing some of the secrets with my class. Together I know we will all cross the finish line. This assignment has been one of my careers biggest challenges, but already its turning into one of the most rewarding".

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