A Valued Role - Janine's Story
Lorri is a Mentor working alongside Janine in Inclusion WA’s South hub. This is their story of working together to create a valued role for Janine within her community and the difference it has made.
When Janine first joined her local craft group she wasn’t part of the group the way other members were. She showed little interest in the craft project and would sometimes fall asleep – they were doing rug-making and it wasn’t her thing. Janine doesn’t communicate much in words but would express being frustrated and indicate wanting to go home early.
The other group members didn’t know how to relate to her and Janine was on the side-lines – she’d be left out of conversations and was more of an observer as opposed to an active group member. Lorri began working with Janine and the craft group to improve their relationship and see her being properly included.
“At first it was about building a relationship with Janine – we bonded over similar tastes in music and our sense of humour. Now we have fun together – we banter and take little digs at each other”.
As they got to know each other, Lorri was able to leverage their relationship to raise Janine’s profile within the group and connect her with other members.
“I would bring Janine into the conversations and help the others get to know her. They already accepted her but they didn’t understand her”.
The group were involved with the Perth Basket Brigade - they make and collect items throughout the year and create baskets to donate to Perth homeless shelters at Christmas – they make beanies, scarves, blankets and kids toys.
Lorri knew finding a role for Janine that utilised her skills and strengths would be the key to her being included and valued by the group.
“It was a matter of coming up with something Janine could do to contribute to the baskets at the end of the year”.
Lorri came up with the idea of making gift tags for the baskets using recycled Christmas cards – they cut out the cards, Janine punched a hole and thread curling ribbon through. She knew Janine’s role at work involved threading - it was something she was good at and enjoyed. She was patient, focused and enjoyed using her skills to contribute something valuable to the project – she produced around 400 cards in total.
On “picking and packing day” Janine joined a number of other volunteers (including the fire brigade) to put the baskets together – she put the finishing touches on all the baskets with her Christmas cards.
“Being involved with the Basket Brigade allowed Janine to be connected with the wider community”.
Lorri explained the change to Janine’s role in the craft group now –
“She is a valued member of the group – they make sure she is involved in everything – whether it’s their conversations, lunches or charity projects. People avoided her before and now they find ways to make sure she’s included”.
Their recent project was an example of this – the craft group contributed to The Biggest Morning Tea raising money for cancer research. Together the craft group came up with a task for Janine on their own – she could help make scented lavender “umbrellas” (to hang in the wardrobe) to sell.
“It’s been a great educational process for them all too. Janine is the only one there with a disability. They’ve really changed their attitude now which is fantastic”.
There is an important difference between someone being present in an activity versus having a valuable role to play.
“Being in the community is not the same as being part of the community…Being in the community points only to physical presence; being part of the community means having the opportunity to interact and form relationships with other community members.” - Bogdan & Taylor
A big thank you to Lorri Drexler for contributing to this article.
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