Inverell worker on success of Pathfinders' Ability Links program

Pathfinders’ Ability Links NSW Linkers: Lisa Waters, Rebecca Browning, Rhiannon Summers, Brett Pischke (coordinator), Kellie Stewart, India Hutchinson and Jill Skinner.
Pathfinders’ Ability Links NSW Linkers: Lisa Waters, Rebecca Browning, Rhiannon Summers, Brett Pischke (coordinator), Kellie Stewart, India Hutchinson and Jill Skinner.

Ability Links NSW is celebrating reaching one million community members across the state. In the New England North West, the Pathfinders-run program made roughly 18,000 community connections last year.

Ability Links co-ordinator and local Brett Pischke said the milestone highlights the important work the organisation does in supporting people to develop a sense of belonging in their communities, and in making communities more inclusive.

The organisation works with people with disabilities, their family and carers, to help them achieve life goals. 

“Ability Links NSW program wouldn’t thrive without our dedicated linkers’ thorough knowledge of and connection with the communities we work in,” he said. He said the community connections allow linkers to support those in the program reach their goals and “live the lives they want to live”.

“Overwhelmingly we find people want connection with their communities, but sometimes they’re not quite sure where to start,” Brett said.

“That’s where Ability Links can help.”

“A community connection can be as simple as connecting someone with the local men’s shed and community garden or even working with a community group to support them in becoming inclusive,” he said.

As part of the Ability Links program, Brett has been working with a young Inverell local for almost three years. When they first met, the participant suffered from extreme anxiety and hadn’t left his home in almost six months.

Now, he attends chiropractor visits, dentist appointments and education with Brett’s help. Together, they walk around town and enter shops – something the participant hadn’t done for nearly four years prior to working with Brett and the Ability Links program.

“It’s a long, continuous process, and the community connections we’ve made have allowed for this young man to grow and reach huge milestones, like walking down the street or traveling out of town with a linker,” Brett said.

“The post office has even offered to assist him in getting his passport photos done prior to opening so that he feels comfortable with more privacy. It’s connections like these that help our participants forge a sense of belonging and mastery in their communities.”

Pathfinders delivers Ability Links NSW across the New England North West. To find out more about Pathfinders Ability Links NSW program, call 0459 141 755 or visit www.pathfinders.ngo.

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