Waverley Helpmates celebrate

WAVERLEY Helpmates, a not-for-profit community based Supported Employment & Training Program located in Ashwood is celebrating 30 years of service in 2016.

In October 1986, a group of forward-thinking community members established a new program in Ashwood to employ and support young people with Intellectual Disability. Set up as an alternate employment option to the sheltered workshop model, Waverley Helpmates’ goal was to provide meaningful work beneficial to both community members and young people who required a supportive work environment. From its humble beginnings of ten Helpmates with 50 jobs, Waverley Helpmates has grown to be a thriving organisation of 33 Helpmates and with over 700 customers – meeting and far exceeding its original aims.

The Ashwood location was specifically selected to match the needs of an ageing population with the abilities of young people who were requiring regular work. Although the Ashwood, Mt Waverley & Chadstone areas make up the bulk of Helpmates’ customers, the Helpmates travel far and wide, and also maintain six retirement villages and five schools.

Being a small organisation, Waverley Helpmates provides lots of time for relationships to develop between customers and Helpmates. These friendships are celebrated each year in early December at the Thank You Afternoon Tea. There are no restrictions on who can become a customer, providing they fall within our “catchment” area and will be supportive of the way our program operates.

Occasionally described as an “onion”, (when one layer is removed, another layer will be revealed underneath), there are many facets to the Waverley Helpmates’ program. Literacy, numeracy, work ethic, punctuality, reliability, budgeting and cooking are some of the skills that the Helpmates learn. They also fundraise annually for Reefton CFA and collect blankets and clothes for the Avalon Centre in Malvern, in the part of the program that aims to develop social awareness and community responsibility. An optional holiday is offered to the Helpmates every year, and this year 14 Helpmates and six staff members holidayed for 12 days in Chiang Mai Thailand.

By offering work within the community, several boundaries are being broken down, with both sides being winners. Customers receive a regular, reliable and affordable lawn service and the Helpmates win because they are receiving payment for a valuable and real job being done. Everybody is learning that being a little bit different does not mean you cannot do as well as someone else. Diversity is important, welcomed and encouraged. Empowered by the committee, the staff empower the Helpmates in their work so that the standards are of an excellent quality.

Every person in the world needs essentially the same things – a safe environment, something worthwhile to do, someone to love and be loved by and something to look forward to; for those involved in the Waverley Helpmates’ program, all of these goals are surely being met every day. Please visit our website: Waverley Helpmates

My travel through life with Travellers Aid

MY name is Bryan Porter. I live with a permanent disability, and I would like to share my involvement with an organisation that has helped me – and many others in the community – for nearly 100 years: Travellers Aid Australia.

The organisation originated as a charity in 1916, mainly to assist women and children travelling on their own from war-torn Europe or from country Victoria. Travellers Aid still provides this helping hand for women and children; for example, those who have to travel to get away from an abusive partner. But that, by far, is not all they do. Travellers Aid has always been responsive to emerging needs in the community and has developed a range of travelrelated programs and services to help people get out and about; in particular older people and those, like myself, who live with a disability. The Medical Companion Service, for example, is for people who have to come to Melbourne for a medical appointment and need someone to escort them there and back to their train. The access service provides meals and toilet assistance for people with disabilities, and promotes autonomy and independence.

My connection with the organisation reaches back 20 years. Back then I was on crutches, travelling from Traralgon to Melbourne. This was the period during which I was pursuing my education in Victoria. Because of being on crutches and then in a wheelchair, suffering from arthritis, I used to call in to Travellers Aid for support. Little did I know I would be assisting with the manning of the desk for some years in a volunteer capacity as a second pair of eyes. I am still a member and also use the services Travellers Aid has to offer.

Travellers Aid Australia is a not-for- profit organisation and relies on donations to continue delivering its services.

Gambling – Two Sides of the Coin

Scripted and directed by Catherine Simmonds

To raise the subject of gambling in a group of people can usually cause a heated debate, and opinions range from sympathy and pity to anger and disgust.

In October a number of performances by a group from Monashlink took place across the eastern and south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. The performers were a group of problem gamblers who came together to share their stories with others.

One of these performances took place at the Doncaster Playhouse, a small and inclusive theatre that allows for good interaction between actors and audience. It was interesting to note that no one nationality or culture was involved, and no particular age group or personality. The performers took us through their stories in words, song and actions – a mammoth task considering there was little in the way of scenery, props or costumes. It was loud and over the top at times; there was laughter and sorrow and also tremendous courage in this public display of their addiction, and their determination to overcome it. The audience were delighted to be included at times, even when they were reminded that gambling affects all types of people and that anyone feeling smug that “it wasn’t them” should be aware that even buying a Tatts ticket or a raffle ticket was gambling on a small scale.

Everyone’s story was poignant, and so many times you felt that if your life had turned a different way perhaps that could have been you. However one story stood out; the participant was a businessman who once who had it all – money, prestige and family – but because of his addiction had lost it all. He confessed that he had often thought of ending his life, but realised that this would only add to his family’s distress, so he fought on to overcome his addiction.

The performance left the audience with a great deal of food for thought and, hopefully, a better understanding of gambling addiction – the phrase it brought to mind was “walk a mile in my shoes”.

These performances stem from Monashlink‘s 2014 Ruin to Recovery project, which was a resounding success. From this project came an anthology edited by Arnold Zable, a dramatisation for the 2013 Melbourne Writers Festival and a performance at Parliament House earlier this year.