Making a Difference

Alex Petrou

Youth worker Alex Petrou has a rare quality – a drive to help those less fortunate, whatever it takes.

By Tania Clarke

Alex Petrou

Alex Petrou

Built with a muscular frame and sporting a tanned ‘Aussie’ appearance and warm smile, 27-year-old Alex Petrou doesn’t have to work hard to light up a room. Involving himself with projects that raise money to make a difference within the community is a passion he throws a great deal of energy into. His long-term goal ̶ inspire the youth of today.

“In five years I would love to say that I am in a position to reach out and influence people on a global scale,” Mr Petrou said.

After completing a year-and-a-half at JCU, where he undertook a Bachelor of Arts (Political Science and Sociology), Petrou moved to Melbourne in February this year.

He now works for St John of God (Geelong), as a mentor for disadvantaged kids, and is doing a Bachelor of Arts (Philosophy) by correspondence.

When he’s not at St John of God or studying, Petrou is busy working at the YMCA at Lygon Square in Melbourne.

Petrou is also co-founder and operations manager of community organisation Seed of Thought, which he focused on after leaving a soccer scholarship at college due to an injury. The injury left him unable to continue his passion of playing soccer and, at the same time in 2009, Petrou was struggling with the break-up of a long-term relationship.

After suffering what he describes as a “momentary flash of depression” Petrou embarked on personal challenges, driven by the motivation to change the world for the better.

He completed the Kokoda Elite Trail in 64 hours in April 2011, which entailed 96 kilometres of hiking. As a result, Petrou was able to raise funds for three North Queensland girls who underwent surgery to treat brain tumours.

His latest achievement, The Street Dreams Project accomplished in September 2011, took 48 days and involved Petrou cycling for 5000 kilometres.

Photo: Riding to raise awareness of homelessness

Photo: Riding to raise awareness of homelessness

The journey, to bring attention to the issue of youth homelessness, began in Los Angeles and saw him travel across the USA to the finish line in New York City.

Few would choose to experience being homeless firsthand but Petrou opted to stay in homeless shelters throughout the challenge to further his comprehension of the issue.

“While sleeping on the streets I reached out to a number of people, and I also got to experience homelessness in a foreign country firsthand,” he said.

“This has put our organisation in a much better position to understand the issues that homeless youth face and therefore the future planning of projects can be based around what we know, not what we think we know.”

The company behind the challenge – Seed of Thought – is a volunteer-based community of passionate humanitarians who set up projects that target specific issues.

“Our goal (with the Street Dreams Project) was to raise awareness of and bring attention to the sad epidemic that is youth homelessness in both Australia and the USA,” he said.

Having never cycled until the Street Dreams Project, Petrou saw the challenge as an opportunity to test both his mind and body.

Never shy of a new task, strong-willed Petrou already has his next challenge planned ̶ Cycle for Kids. For this journey, in September this year, he’ll cycle 3600 kilometres from Perth to Melbourne in just 21 days. His aim is to raise funds for Camp Quality, which helps children who suffer from cancer as well as supporting their families.

Another project also on the drawing board will strive to assist with mental health in Fiji.

With an energised outlook on life and its challenges, Petrou believes that if you want something badly enough, you will make it happen. It is this passion that has truly made a difference in the lives around him.

“I know if I am mentally prepared I can overcome any obstacle in life,” he says.