Recently Headway Gippsland hosted three medical students from Monash University as part of their community-based placement.
“The rationale behind [it] was to give the students a more holistic view of issues that affect the socially disadvantaged or people with a disability,” said Headway’s General Manager Wendy Matthews. During their four weeks with us, students Zach, Eva and Erica attended the Morwell Social Support Group, and assisted the Coordinator Janette Luke in organising and implementing weekly activities. Across April and May, they went bowling, created and played games in the homerooms, participated in arts and crafts and also aided shopping days in Morwell. When we caught up with Zach, Eva and Erica, they spoke about the lifelong skills they took away from the experience, and the heart-warming stories of how they developed them.
When asked how they would describe their placement experience with Headway, they agreed that it was “really eye-opening in a positive way.” It provided them a “new perspective” on disability, and the challenges that people face every day.
“Disability could happen to anyone,” says Eva, “It’s a facet of someone’s life, not a label.”
They admitted that, at first, they were unsure how much to help, wanting to be mindful of agency. Thanks to the group’s welcoming and easy-going nature, they developed a bond and this became easier. “They don’t expect you to be perfect, or know everything. We got to know each other, had inside jokes, and over time it got easier.”
Communication was another skill that the students developed after being with the group. They learned that communication was “more than just words.” It’s our tone, our gestures, and using other tools in order to convey a message. Some things are universal, like humour, which made them feel connected.
Erica shared that after getting to know Drew, through sharing humour, “he really opened up”. After that, Drew and Erica both felt comfortable pushing his wheelchair. “We were going in and out of shops, chatting to the workers, it was great.” However, sometimes accessibility into shops and cafes wasn’t an option, and they found it disheartening. All three shared similar frustrations with social inequality and lack of infrastructure that is inclusive and accessible. “It makes you want to advocate,” says Eva, “we are allies.”
For Zach, Eva and Erica, this experience has enhanced their passion for helping people in the community, and they commend the social support groups program.
“Janette and Tina go above and beyond, being innovative, and altering games to be more inclusive. They have a genuine love for what they do.”
Zach, Eva and Erica want more awareness for these programs. That way, more people can benefit from the sense of belonging and community engagement that they provide. If you would like to learn more about the Social Support Group program, visit our website or call our Morwell office on (03) 5127 7166. If you know someone who would like to join the program, please share this with them.
Headway Gippsland is a local, not-for-profit organisation that empowers people with disabilities across Gippsland. Our social support groups are one of our most valuable services, helping to connect people within our community. If you would like to support what we do, volunteer or work with us, please visit HERE to join our community.