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The world is full of special people who are clearly here for the purpose of making it a better place. Connect Health & Community Social Support Program Coordinator, Brooke, is one such person, who always brightens the lives of those she meets.
What is your background?
I was studying to become a primary teacher when I stumbled upon Diversional Therapy and working with older frail people and people with disabilities. I started working in aged care facilities and realised that I had found my passion, so I then studied Diversional Therapy and Art Therapy. I worked in residential aged care for more than 20 years and have loved meeting so many amazing people and getting to share in their lives.
What lead you to your current role at Connect Health & Community?
The opportunity to work in community health and work alongside such a talented multidisciplinary team was a dream come true. To be able to support community members in such an holistic way and support all their needs was what drew me here. Being the Social Support Program Coordinator has enabled me to continue to work with older people, while enhancing their independence and wellbeing in so many ways.
Has being creative always been part of who you are?
Absolutely! I could not imagine not being able to create and make. I studied fashion design, visual arts, literature and drama after finishing school and have always been interested in bringing my own creations to life. I tend to go through obsessions and have tried my hand at mosaics, jewellery, hats, handbags, drawing, photography, sewing clothes and writing. At the moment I am making dresses out of my stockpiled vintage fabric.
Sewing is relaxing, yet stimulating, and I can create something that I will actually wear and enjoy. While there is never as much time as I would like to create, I manage to squeeze it into my schedule, often to the detriment of other things, like cleaning.
What motivates you at work and what makes you smile?
The amazing people I work with are a constant motivation and inspiration. Both the clients I support, and my colleagues, make the often challenging times worthwhile. The clients I work with are always teaching me and I have learnt so much from them. They are a unique and special bunch and all have an interesting and inspiring story to share. I feel very lucky that they share these stories with me. Their stories, our conversations and all the interactions I have with them are what leave me with a smile on my face when I go home each day.
Do you have a memorable moment about the work you do?
I have so many memorable moments, some big moments and some small. Something that still fills me with so much joy is the memory of taking our group, that included people living with acquired brain injuries, to the city for a fancy lunch and to see ‘The Wizard of Oz’ theatre production. Many of the clients had never had the opportunity to have such an outing so the whole experience was a ‘once in a lifetime’ day. The happy big smiles did not leave their faces and everyone could not stop talking about it for weeks after!
How has the pandemic affected you and your clients.
The pandemic and lockdowns have been a really challenging time for everyone. Our clients are definitely struggling, and throughout the 2020 and 2021 restrictions we have had to farewell several clients as the strain of living independently (with reduced support) has been too much and they (and their carers/family) have had to make the decision to move in to residential care. As so many of our clients have decreased access to social interaction and meaningful engagement, the lockdowns have meant they experienced extended periods of seeing no one, feeling anxious, scared, alone and disconnected from everyone.
Our Social Support team has been continuing to support our clients as much as we can, and we are providing opportunities for them to socialise and participate in some meaningful engagement. Each week they can join one of three (3) telephone groups so they can catch up with their group of friends and have some fun over the phone. We are also providing activity packs every two (2) weeks that are full of entertaining and interesting articles, quizzes, word games, art and craft projects, jokes, exercises, support information, trivia and other things to keep them occupied and engaged.
While we are all feeling so disconnected it is so important to reach out to others, and to do the things in life that makes us happy. Creating, spending time with my family and cats, reading and watching movies has been getting me though the pandemic. These small joys and the connection with others, however we can connect, has been helping when things seem a bit grim.
Thank you for all your amazing work to keep our community connected, Brooke.
Connect Health & Community’s Social Support programs are keeping the community connected during COVID-19 restrictions. For more information, visit https://connecthealth.org.au/programs-activities/social-support-program/ or call us on 03) 9575 5333.
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