21.10.18

Dedication to disability support began with chance encounter

Support worker Chris knows he is making a difference at Hearth
Support worker Chris knows he is making a difference at Hearth

At Hearth, Chris has become well known for his affability, unreasonable height of 6 feet and 7 inches, and self-modified bike. A student at Monash University, Chris deferred his study for twelve months to work as a support worker full time. Here, Chris talks about his experiences and rewarding journey at Hearth so far.

How did you come to Hearth?

“I heard about Hearth at a Monash Uni event in March. I’d never had experience in support work, but I was doing Occupational Therapy (OT) and I’d worked with kids at a play centre. I met Justin and applied for a job later that week. I was on OT placement for the first six weeks, so for that period I was just attending a bunch of training sessions – peg feeding, or hoisting, manual handling, and the Hearth Connects, which made me feel a part of the team despite not being able to start work for a while.”

What are the best parts of the job?

 “I love meeting new people, getting to really know them, finding out their interests and passions, and lining up mine with theirs. I’ve got a client that loves WWE. I knew a little about it, but he’s got me doing research into the history and culture; it lead to a wealth of new conversations. One thing I’ve is that if whoever you’re working with has specific and passionate interests, it can definitely work in your favour to incorporate them into your activities. For example, I travelled to a WWE store in the CBD with one participant”.

“In my six months at Hearth I’ve worked with quite a range of clients. With one I was doing sleepover shifts five nights a week, with others I’m helping them travel on public transport or helping them with things around the house”.

What are the challenges?

“There are complicated cases, no two clients are the same. For some, you have to be a bit more on your game in terms of day to day activities. Making sure that food is prepared properly, or that everything is set up right when you leave. You have to do things a certain way to ensure the client’s safety.”

Chris talks about his time at Hearth so far

How have you found the training?

“The training was great. During that month, I went to multiple training opportunities from peg feeding, to hoisting, to manual handling, to guide dogs, to the Hearth Connects, which made me feel part of the ‘Hearth family’ despite not having worked yet.”

 What has surprised you about the role?

“What’s surprised me is how much it doesn’t feel like work, I’ve worked in a butcher, at a play centre, in retail, and it feels like work; you’re always looking at the clock, but you don’t have any of that stuff here, it feels more interpersonal, it makes things so much easier.

In comparison to my previous jobs, support work provides me with the most satisfaction both at work and when telling others about the role. I’m really surprised by how many people have a personal connection to the disability industry and I feel like I’m making a real difference; not merely going to work.”

What advice do you have for people considering support work?

 “I had no specific experience when I started, but if you’ve got the right traits and attitude you’ll be able to build relationships with people.”

How has working with Hearth affected your opinion of Occupational Therapy?

“Support work has definitely reinforced my love of Occupational Therapy and helping others to live their best possible life. Like OT, there are so many avenues through which I can use my skillset to help others, and there is a huge range of disabilities and impairments with which I work alongside.”

Where do you think this role can take you in the future?

“I’ve heard stories of people getting scholarships and jobs just talking about their experience in support work. I think that when I finish my course and I’m looking for jobs, this job will really help”.

“The skills I’ve learned through my work with Hearth are absolutely transferable into my future career in OT and I’m really excited to see what the future holds.”