Friendships forged at Carinity Our House
It’s a sunny winter’s Monday in Toogoolawah and local Ashleigh Barry is attending Carinity Our House – a welcoming home away from home for people with disability.
Our House provides many services, but it is the social group that sees 22-year-old Ashleigh returning three times a week.
Flu season means some of her usual friends are away today, but she is joined by Shane Smith, who has been a regular at Our House for the last 12 years.
Ashleigh and Shane spend the morning planning for the centre’s upcoming garage sale. They make a sign and decide on some baked goods to sell, settling on both choc chip and cornflake biscuits.
After then engaging in a tie dying activity, it’s time for lunch and the two head to a local park to eat with their lifestyle worker Laura, enjoying lots of friendly banter along the way.
Ashleigh said it’s this banter that keeps her coming back to Our House.
“I absolutely love socialising with my friends here and seeing all the funny stuff that everyone gets up to. Everyone just makes me laugh, we have so many jokes,” she said.
“Shane’s mum is a cleaner here so he can’t get away with anything. She’s always asking, ‘What did my boy get up to this time?’ and we tell her all the cheeky things he’s said.
“The staff are so kind; they even suggested a course in suicide intervention I would be interested in and supported me to attend over the weekend.”
Ashleigh spent her final years of schooling just around the corner from Our House, but she said she doesn’t really keep in touch with anyone from school.
“We moved around so much when I was younger that it was hard for me to make friends,” she said.
“My dad passed away when I was four, so it was just me, mum and my grandma but I lost count of how many schools I attended.
“I’ve recently moved out on my own, so the friendships at Our House are more important than ever.
“My favourite activities we do together are puzzles, cooking, outings and lawn bowls, or just anything where we can have fun and enjoy each other’s company.”
Our House Client Services Coordinator Margaret Poole said building strong friendships was key to the centre’s social groups.
“For so many of us, human connection is central to bringing us happiness,” she said.
“Having friends we can talk to is important for our mental health, during both good times and bad.
“Friendships can help with building self-confidence and a sense of belonging, as well as reducing loneliness and stress.
“Watching so many lifelong friendships blossom is one of the very best parts of my job.”