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