Volunteering reduces anxiety and builds life skills for young participant
An innovative volunteering role at Gateways Support Services’ sprawling new North Geelong headquarters is helping manage anxiety for 19-year-old client Anthony.
For the busy and social young man, who typically fills his week with a broad range of activities, the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 created significant distress.
So his Gateways Positive Behaviour Support and Accommodation Services teams came up with the idea of creating a volunteer role for Anthony helping out with odd jobs at the disability service provider’s Thompson Rd site and he couldn’t be happier.
‘I was really upset,’ Anthony says, when asked how the pandemic restrictions made him feel. ‘Now I am excited and happy to work.’
Before the onset of restrictions, Anthony spent his days volunteering with animals, doing equine therapy, visiting the local library and shops, going to the movies and visiting friends. He was also a regular and popular visitor at Gateways’ former Albert Rd site, where he knew people by name and his cheerful hellos put a smile on every face.
When the pandemic forced changes to his usual routine, Anthony’s mood slumped and his anxiety heightened, triggering behaviours of concern.
Gateways Positive Behaviour Support practitioner Carolyn Foot says that after consulting with Anthony, who has an intellectual disability, the team asked if he’d like to assist the site manager with outdoor tasks twice a week for an hour at a time. The keen young man leapt at the chance.
‘Almost immediately, the behaviours of concern were alleviated as Anthony has been able to keep busy collecting rubbish, spotting graffiti and conducting equipment stocktakes,’ Carolyn says. ‘It’s worked really well for him.’
Anthony says his jobs include watering the gardens, cleaning up rubbish, flattening boxes and putting them in the recycling skip, tidying the shed and running perimeter checks looking for graffiti or holes in the fence. He reports any problems back to the site manager.
When his hour is up, he meets with his support team to talk about how the session went and potential improvements; although most of the suggestions come from Anthony himself, who has most recently raised the idea of using a leaf blower to tidy the gardens.
Gateways Support Services Team Leader Sam Mackie says Anthony is eager for his ‘work days’, bringing an enthusiasm that sometimes leaves his support workers rushing to keep up.
‘He’s got a keen interest in wanting to do good and wanting to help and he’s always wanted to do tradesman-type work, so he’s really pleased to have hi-vis and to be doing this,’ Sam says.
‘He has a purpose and he feels he can do it well and expand the role when things go back to normal. This has been a game changer and will certainly lead to other opportunities for Anthony. He’s really so much happier.’