Wrapping Up Stand By Me

What a few years it has been. In the last 3 years there have been massive events throughout the world, worst of times and best of times have both been highlighted in the news, but on June 6th 2024, there was a small get together at Pelican Waters Hotel to celebrate a 3-year end of project journey that effected numerous areas across QLD.

This was the final day of the Stand by Me project that officially wrapped up its multiyear journey to help create peer groups throughout QLD.  From Brisbane, Hervey Bay, Sunshine Coast, Gladstone and Redcliff, there have been strides made to help create more inclusive environments for young people, providing valuable information to families in need, statistics drafted to help identify key issues within the disability community, and a belief of future improvements in the disability sector.  This was the Stand by Me project’s journey. 

Because I was based within the Sunshine Coast during my time with the Stand by Me project, I have been asked to give my summary perspective on the journey, and I would like to state that the importance for me was that it existed to begin with during the time it did. 

From 2021, I was unemployed, facing a dark period in my life and was very much in a pit of dread, these took immense tolls on my mental health and with Covid-19 still being felt, it was hard to find ways beyond technology to get involved with people, which sadly was not any help for my mental health. It wasn’t a good time to say the least, but through every shadow is a silver lining and mine came in an email from Beth H, who asked for my help with a new project with the title of “Stand by Me”, this sounded like a fun project name if nothing else because it reminded me of one of my favorite songs and movies.

For what it’s worth, I did take the position first and mainly because it was a job I knew I could offer something too. I was aware I would be brought on to be the title of the ‘peer facilitator’ and with it I would have 2 partners in the ‘parent facilitator’ and ‘project facilitator’ whom were Beth (Project Facilitator) and Louise (Parent Facilitator).  They came from knowing the struggles of parents supporting children with disabilities, but also the absolute love and passion that came with it.  Two different people, but so alike in so many ways, both had that instant motherly bond that I could feel from their conversations with each other and myself. I instantly knew I would feel safe and secure with them. I knew that both were passionate about the project, but we were going to struggle in a Covid-19 stricken world. 

How could we possibly create a peer group of young people, when most people were either scared to go out in public, or didn’t have much interest in what the peer group could entail to them? We decided to do Q&A’s on people’s connections with the Sunshine Coast and what might be the areas they found some issues with because of their disabilities.

We were in close contact with the other divisions of the project from Brisbane, Hervey Bay and Gladstone, and were often comparing what we were doing to what the other groups were doing. They had all created their peer groups. 

We mainly focused on finding people through our social capital, and even tap originations we knew that could spread the word and for young people that might be interested in the project.  We doubled down on the idea that we could focus on helping people we knew get involved more within their community and become more active, form friendship groups, and or introduce them to places within the coast that could further their personal goals and or work ambitions.

Louise and I used our social capital and managed to bring two individuals together at a local café along with their family members and support workers to discuss what is important to these individuals, identify their passions and dreams, and just overall hope to bring them together in hopes they might have shared passions. This group was one of the first instances we showcased the value we had for the Sunshine Coast SbM project, and meant we could offer families and support workers a lot of support and information regarding how to go forward with their young people.  This would play an important part in the future for SbM on the Sunshine Coast and the families around the area. 

During this time, we were in contact a lot with the other SbM divisions in QLD and had by this point hosted them for learning meetings and project information, such as understanding the meaning of belonging, and also a trip to Hervey Bay to learn about facilitating skills, these helped us understand where we could compare our struggles and highlights, these proved to be valuable team building cases for us as an entire group. 

In 2022 we again looked at our social capital to refocus on what Sunshine Coast can do to make SbM effective. Come 2023, we were offering families and support workers valuable information that could help them know what to do when their young people were to graduate from schools, these were called “Now I’m 16/18” workshops. 

These Workshops were where we were able to pull from our own personal experiences and utilise them in order to give families and support workers an outlet to understand information that would help them not only know crucial information after or during the last days of the young person’s schooling, such as getting a driver’s license, support cards, medical supports, online safety. But we could also offer our own personal journeys, our own struggles and triumphs as people with disabilities, parents and people who have found difficulties with the government and community.

We thrived in these areas, the now I’m 16/18 workshops were so effective and we received so much positive feedback and emotional gratitude from families who seemed to need it more than just us hearing them talk about their problems. We offered them something they can use themselves so they can have the tools, the information and the reinforced courage to know that their young people are not stuck somewhere post their schooling. I can only hope the young people whom we offered information to their parents and support workers get the best out of their life. 

This in a way was our X marks the spot on a treasure map, we found the Eldorado of our regions need in the Sunshine Coast. In the next few months we continued to offer several workshops across special schools and booked venues. Each one was a chance to highlight the value of community and how much families and support workers care for their young peopl.  They asked questions and sometimes we had to go overtime to make sure we could let them feel heard, though thankfully the facilitating training came in handy to keep our workshops on time. It was inspiring for me personally, and especially for Louise and Beth as I could see they knew what we were doing was the most important part of the project.

Come 2024, we started to wind down on the project, as we would be completed on June 30th officially.  On June 6th, all the team came together to showcase each our great successes and present an end of the year report. The day was beautiful and somewhat somber as we all were officially going our separate ways. Not to say we would never meet again on another project, or not be on Facebook with each other, or share each other’s contacts. But spiritually this project was now over. 

If I could say one thing that made this project important, it would be the teamwork we all put in together, Beth and Louise are some of the best people I’ve met, filled with life and still finding their ways through things, still learning, still improving, much like myself and oddly enough, much like the project’s journey for the Sunshine Coast team. 

This was my journey with the Sunshine Coast division of the Stand By Me project.  It was a case of growing and getting over obstacles to find the end destination, which ended up helping so many families and support workers help their young people. I think we added something to the Sunshine Coast that is going to be felt in the lives of people who need it most. 

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