Interchange Gippsland provides innovative and flexible support to people with disabilities. This provides increased community participation for people with disabilities and enables their families to have a regular planned break, along with new meaningful social and life experiences.
The service stretches over the regions of Latrobe City, Baw Baw Shire, South Gippsland Shire and Bass Coast Shire. With limited services available in the regions of Wellington and East Gippsland Shires.
Nikki Vermeulen, Program Co-ordinator for Interchange Gippsland, says she was attracted to her role because she “wanted to help people with a disability who have limited social options.”
Volunteering within this organisation is certainly a community affair. There are currently forty-four active volunteers with Interchange Gippsland and this includes adults, teenage volunteers and host families.
One of the programs Nikki discussed was “The Roadies Latrobe/Baw Baw group”. Roadies is for teenagers aged 14-17 years old, it’s purpose is to provide a variety of cultural, sporting and social activities in the community, whilst providing respite for families. The program has activities once per month, involving five to six volunteers per activity and the activities are approximately eight hours long. Roadies also runs four camps per year during the school holidays. This is a significant contribution by the volunteers as each camp is required to three volunteers. One camp runs over four days and the other three camps run over two days.
Home and Community Care, LaTrobe City, fund this initiative. If this service was to cease it would be enormous and detrimental loss to the 16 families who currently access the service. They would lose their regular respite, social activities and support networks. The volunteers enable these programs to provide support and opportunities to everyone involved. Parents and other care givers within the family may need to help to arrange time off, to meet some of their own needs, or those of other family members. Everyone needs time to re-charge their batteries. This is when the volunteers of this program and the availability of regular planned respite can make an important difference.