For many 13 is an unlucky number, but for me 13 is an exciting one, as that’s soon to be the amount of years I’ve been a support worker for Interchange.

My journey with Interchange began back in 2007 when I started volunteering on recreational based day activities and camps, I was 20 years old with no idea where I wanted to take my life or what I wanted to do with myself. A friend had recommended I volunteer at Interchange, as I am a person who enjoys meeting new people and being part of new experiences. After organising to volunteer I could see early on that this was the kind of environment I wanted to be part of and I haven’t looked back!

Early 2008, after a few months of volunteering the doors opened and an employment opportunity came along to become a support worker. I jumped at this chance; to get paid for what you love is a truly special thing.

During my journey as a support worker I’ve met so many individuals and families, and some wonderful life long relationships have been built in this time. I still regularly see families I began working with all those years ago! For me, being a support worker is so much more than a job, it becomes part of you and you become an important part of people’s lives.

Like any job being a support worker can have its good days and its bad, some shifts will drain you, push you, challenge you and make you question your inner strength. But in my experience all of these days are heavily outweighed by the good days, the days where you share laughter, happiness and make great memories with people who genuinely appreciate your presence in their lives, you walk away knowing you’ve made a difference.

Throughout my time at Interchange I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of some amazing experiences. From helping out at birthday parties, school transitions, swimming lessons and hydro therapy, zoo outings, attended musicals and concerts, engaged with children for hours on some of the best playground adventures… the list goes on! I’ve been privileged enough to join families in celebrating milestone birthdays, school camps, weddings, girls weekends away and even a family holiday or two!

You can see as you read this that being a support worker is so much more than one on one with an individual, you quickly become part of someone’s world and their family’s too, a unique and very special aspect of our role.

Every day brings something new, the freedom and flexibility that comes with being a support worker is brilliant. You can work with many different families or you can work with a select few, over the years I’ve had weeks that have consisted of 7 or 8 different people- shifts as short as pick up and drop off, to after and before school shifts, to weekend outings and sleep over shifts too. These different kinds of shifts with different times and varied lengths allow you to mould your working week to your personal life and vice versa.

I began support work as a 20 year old, and am now married with 3 children, all the while Interchange and my valued families have been along for the ride, they are a part of my life as much as I am part of theirs. My children have been privileged enough to meet my amazing families and build connections too! I continue to learn so much, as do my children about acceptance, diversity, equality and the importance of communication in all its forms.

Being a support worker, is a diverse, flexible, fun and important role- One I can see myself doing for many years to come. Bring on lucky number 13!

Jeanne Smith