Disability, Employment

Grounds for Celebration

Written bythriveadmin
Published on14 May, 2020
P1080941 Scaled

From forever volunteering to paid employment at a coffee shop? That’s grounds for celebration! 

Sharon Hammond has a wonderful story. From working in volunteer roles all her life, she has finally secured paid employment in a position where she is valued, liked and respected.

43 year old Sharon is from Lismore in Northern NSW. She has an intellectual learning disability and has been receiving NDIS supports to help her with speech therapy and social and community participation. But it wasn’t until she met her Local Area Coordinator, Trudy Collins, who completed her second NDIS plan that her life really began to change.

Trudy spent long hours researching ways to best utilise the capacity building funding available for Sharon in her plan. It was through this funding that Sharon met Allen Bowcock from OnQ Disability Supports.

“We’re going to find you a proper job,” Allen said when he met the bright and warm Sharon. “Not volunteer work, and not a supported role. A proper job.”

Allen introduced Sharon to Nat Byron from Nat’s Coffee in Alstonville, an award winning wholesale coffee roasting business with a small on-site café attached. Nat knew exactly what to expect from working with someone with an intellectual disability, as his mother had a traumatic brain injury herself.

The capacity building funding allowed for on-site support during a three week work experience program where Sharon was trained on how to use the iPad cash register program, how to service customers and take orders, cleaning and food preparation. Sharon was even given barista training and was encouraged to practice this skill by making coffees for herself, her support coordinator and other staff. Nowadays she can make a mean cappuccino!

Her NDIS transport funding was used to help Sharon catch a public bus from her home in Lismore to the TAFE at Wollongbar where she was taught to call for a BConX connecting service which takes her straight to her place of employment. After having a support person with her for the first few times, Sharon now is able to catch public transport to and from work without assistance.

Straight after the three week work experience program, Sharon was offered employment and five months on, has become a valued member of the Nat’s Coffee team. So much so, that although they plan to lease the coffee shop business in order to concentrate on the wholesale coffee section, her employer has written a clause into the lease agreement to maintain Sharon’s employment. They have also offered to transfer her role to the wholesale section to work with ordering and packaging should Sharon prefer this to her current duties.

When asked how she feels about her new job at Nat’s Café, Sharon simply says “good”, but from the look on her face, you can see it means the world.

Nats Cafe
Sharon’s employer, Nat Byron from Nat’s Café

Social Futures Local Area Coordination Program assists people with disability to access the NDIS program, and to have greater choice and control over their lives.

Using her NDIS plan

Sharon’s NDIS supports have helped her:

  • greater independence through learning to catch public transport
  • increased skills and confidence through on work training
  • gain full time paid employment