Meet Ben Fitzgerald
Meet Ben Fitzgerald, the man behind Sunnyfield’s Supported Independent Living (SIL) home – Carawa House in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Starting in 2015 in Sunnyfield’s Student Placement program, Ben always knew that he wanted to work in the Disability Sector.
“I wanted my career to be something that was contributory, social and fulfilling. I supported kids with Muscular Dystrophy at a weeklong camp in 2011 and loved the work so much. It led me to start working as a Community Support Worker while I completed my Social Work Degree” said Ben.
As Carawa’s Service Coordinator, Ben’s role is to balance and maintain the household flow and routine, creating a harmonious lifestyle for all residents. “My priority is to ensure that all the residents participate in the running of their house, get out into the community, visit family and have fulfilling social lives,” says Ben.
“The Carawa residents are for the most part very active and like to get out for walks, cycle, spend the day at the beach and have BBQ’s. Their lifestyle is no different to any other Sydney household. They have just started a gardening care program as a new project for everyone to work on together.”
In a group home, Ben describes “the residents have more control over their lives and decisions. They develop an understanding of the responsibilities involved with taking care of their own living spaces and home. They build meaningful relationships with their housemates and learn to socialise in different ways with different people.”
Expectedly, the change can be challenging for some. But when you have the right people supporting your journey, you can achieve the unimaginable. Ben recounts, “we have one resident who came to Carawa a year ago with behavioural issues, and whose mental and physical health had deteriorated. We built a dedicated group of reliable staff with whom she was able to form trusting, positive relationships with.”
“Together they created a stable routine that provided the resident with control and predictability, vastly increasing her ability to better manage her anxiety. She also began to feel accepted by her housemates, resulting in her feeling at home at Carawa. All staff were trained in her support plan, and their work was overseen by a behaviour clinician and myself, ensuring consistency. Over the year, the resident has shown constant physical, emotional, and mental improvement, all the while building positive, trusting relationships with those around her. It’s been a wonderful journey to be a part of.”