“I was born in Vietnam and came to Australia when I was 11, I was young but now I’m getting older,” says 51 year-old Amanda with a cheeky giggle. As the youngest of seven and the only sibling with Cerebral Palsy, her resilient spirit has remained so bubbly and vibrant.
Amanda somehow survived the immense traumas that have shaped her life since her mother died when she was just two years old. Some of her brothers and sisters had already fled Vietnam, leaving their father behind when she too followed. “I came by boat with my second youngest sister and two cousins, it was horrifying. Some of the people thought they wouldn’t make it so they threw themselves overboard, and some starved.” She landed in Indonesia where she was held in a refugee camp until she was granted a visa for Australia.
Amanda goes on to say “I went to school in Balwyn, I got picked on because I didn’t know any English. It didn’t take me long to learn English because all of my teachers were very supportive.”
“I can speak four languages, Vietnamese, Cantonese, English and Braille,” she says breathless with laughter, “I’m being silly, I can’t speak Braille.” – Amanda
Sitting in a wheelchair in healthAbility’s Social Support Group, Amanda explains, “I haven’t always been like this.” Indeed as an able bodied, independent young woman she tried her hand at several jobs including working at a gardening centre, a kindergarten and even as a security bag checker at a supermarket, all of which she hated doing. Later on, Amanda was involved in many community activities especially horse riding through a club in Lower Templestowe.
Amanda started to rapidly deteriorate around 1990 after a serious fall over a curb, which landed her unconscious in hospital with broken teeth and subsequently extremely fearful of future falls. “I have a shunt to drain the fluid from my brain and when I walk, I shuffle instead of lifting my feet.” Amanda now lives with her older sister Winnie who is her home carer and since her leg muscles have deteriorated, she is wheelchair bound and reliant on another carer, Ella for outings.
“I came to healthAbility in October 2018, I really appreciate coming here,” says Amanda. She was referred to healthAbility through an NDIS Support Co-ordinator. Rachel Dunn, Social Support Group Team Leader explains, “Amanda has made a big difference to our group, she brightens everyone’s day.” Rachel describes her as a social butterfly, moving around the group talking to different people and has quickly made many new friends.
You can see how important social connection is to Amanda, “I’m always giggling and laughing. The whole idea for me is, I want to get chatting with people because I don’t want to sit at home going crazy, thinking of silly things and getting depressed.”
“We do a lot of talking and laughing,” says Rachel. “Every Tuesday we play games and do quizzes, bowling, footy tipping and of course, everyone enjoys a delicious lunch together prepared by our resident chef Mel.”
Amanda says she feels ‘happy’ after her sessions on Tuesday’s saying she enjoys the games and talking the most. “Once I talk that’s it, my middle name is ‘Chatterbox’”, she says warming the room once more with her contagious laughter.
About Social Support Groups
Social Support Groups provide a program of activities that maintain and enhance the daily living skills of participants. These activities address a participant’s physical, social, cultural, emotional and recreational needs and provide opportunities to stay connected to the community.
There are many significant benefits of joining one of the social support groups including
- Affordable recreational, leisure and social activities
- Meeting people and making new friends
- Staying connected to the community and social interaction
- Maintaining skills needed for living independently
- Keeping the body and mind active
- Respite for carer/s
For enquiries about healthAbility’s Social Support Group click here.