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Brave Keshaya eyes new future

Keshaya Williams from Cabarita is greeted by her grandmother Mignon Francis at the end of the 10-day outdoor adventure and, at left, canoes under the Ballina Street bridge.
Keshaya Williams from Cabarita is greeted by her grandmother Mignon Francis at the end of the 10-day outdoor adventure and, at left, canoes under the Ballina Street bridge.

KESHAYA Williams cried every day during a 10-day biking, hiking and paddling adventure that ended with hugs and more tears when relatives greeted participants by the Richmond River at Lismore yesterday.

But the 14-year-old said she would do it all again.

"It was really hard. We had to walk up Mount Jerusalem; I didn't think I was going to get to the top," Keshaya said.

"There were lots of tears, but it has definitely made me stronger."

Apart from conquering new challenges - like climbing Mount Jerusalem, beating her way through overgrown tracks, and dealing with lots of leeches - Keshaya said the trip has left her seeing everything from a completely different perspective.

"Now I know what is actually hard and what is easy," the Year 10 Kingscliff High student said. "I appreciate my family and all the things they do for me more."

Behavioural problems prompted Keshaya's family to book her in for the "Recre8" trip, run by the local charity Evolve with the aim of helping at-risk young people aged from 14 to 19.

The adventure starts at Clarrie Hall Dam near Uki. With three adult guides, participants paddle across the dam, walk up Mount Jerusalem then cycle down to the river and spend two days paddling back to Lismore.

Evolve state manager for Queensland, Graham Pringle, said the trip gave kids "something really hard to achieve".

"These kids often haven't had a lot of success, so this sets a new minimum for them," Mr Pringle said. "They go, 'From now on I will achieve more'."

Mr Pringle said the trip was made possible by a $50,000 donation from the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation.

"The funding means we can continue to deliver profound change in the lives of young people," he said.

For Keshaya, the end marks a fresh start.

"I know this is going to change her life," her grandmother Mignon Frances said. "She's pretty fiery, but this will be a new road for Keshaya."

Topics:  adventure, hiking, kingscliff high school, lismore, richmond river


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