IOE’s Myrtleford Rural Intensive Program has gone from strength to strength since its inception in early 2017, and has already reached new heights  in 2018.

The team, consisting of one support worker and eight young adults with disability, has made incredible connections within communities in north eastern Victoria over the past year. They’ve worked hand-in-hand with many parts of the Myrtleford, Whorouly and Everton communities, including schools, farms and businesses, developing their skills and independence and making a positive and lasting contribution.

One of the highlights is the work that the group does at the small Whorouly and Everton Primary Schools. The students had never met anyone with disability before and were apprehensive at first, asking questions about how to interact with someone who has a disability. Now, they have formed the most amazing ‘buddy’ relationships and work on projects side-by-side to improve their schools. In February, the group even featured on The Today Show for the connection and contribution they have made at Everton Primary School. Parents of the children have remarked that they are so happy with the program, the connections that their children have made and what they are learning about acceptance and inclusion. One teacher, together with a local parent, commented that ‘this program is the best thing that has happened for our kids.’

A few comments from the group:
Kent – ‘Now I make my own bed from scratch. I also train with the Whorouly Hawks when I miss my own footy training.’
Adele – ‘Working on the kiwifruit farm we learnt all about farm irrigation.’
Rob – ‘We go fishing and we learnt that we can’t throw carp back into the Ovens River because it is not good for the river.’
Lee – ‘I started helping out with meals on wheels and I also walk into town by myself and get to know lots of people.’
Morgan – ‘We celebrated my 30th birthday at the function centre and had a huge cake for everyone to share!’

We are so proud of the group for contributing in such a meaningful way, developing their skills and independence, and building some amazing connections throughout the region. They have done so much to break down barriers for people with disability in the community and show the importance, and possibilities, of acceptance and inclusion – and had a lot of fun along the way!

by Faye Lougheed