JOHN Foster’s life has changed forever thanks to a ground-breaking education program that empowers disadvantaged Australians.
The former travelling circus performer spoke last week at the Gaudete Centre at the Australian Catholic University of the immense joy he had received from participating in ACU’s Clemente program.
Mr Foster (pictured) was one of a handful of alumni honoured at the event.
The Clemente program offers individuals dealing with complex issues such as mental illness, disability, addiction, unemployment, homelessness, or family breakdown a pathway to tertiary education.
Mr Foster gave a testimony of his life and his passion for learning.
“The boarding house where I reside at the moment has an almost endless supply on an almost daily basis of people, mostly young, with their stories of heartbreak and suffering,” he said.
“They put up a brave face for the most part but their addictions to various substances, and an unwillingness to seek out or accept help, makes me feel the sense of helplessness that surrounds them.
“My own addiction was to alcohol which, by good fortune, I gave up a short few months before I found out about the Clemente program. I haven’t looked back since.
“When I became aware of the Clemente program, I at my age and in the current circumstances of the time that I found myself in, knew that I was looking for something in my life but did not know what that something would be.
“Then I was introduced to a semester of philosophy, a subject my mother gave me an insight into when I was but a child but I could not see how it could have a practical purpose in the circus life I was born into. And so, apart from enjoying books and movies like Goodbye Mr Chips and Dead Poets Society which gave me a hunger for higher learning, I was rarely able to express that longing in the money-chasing society and the expectation that I would follow in the family footsteps of show business.”
Mr Foster said he was now living in social housing by himself but looked forward to the future.
“I find myself now living, though not intending to stay, in a melting pot of humanity that is an inner-city boarding house where so many troubled and disadvantaged people reside, some of their own making, some not,” he said.
“The knowledge I have gained through the incredible Clemente program and my own life experience has given me a greater insight into the values that are necessary to live a happier and more productive life.
“I think that I can speak for many, if not all students of my generation and older, though we may have differing and varied backgrounds, that the bonds that links us all as we approach an uncertain future is a need to still contribute in some way and not to be left by the wayside.
“This is of course the main agenda of the Clemente program.”–