Supported, encouraged and motivated by the Emmanuel Centre
Enjoying the company of friends and family, Anthony Murace sits with his mum and dad to capture a memorable moment at the Emmanuel Centre in East Perth. Photo: Marco Ceccarelli
By Marco Ceccarelli
Each year, thousands of people walk through the doors of the Emmanuel Centre – a volunteer-run, self-help centre for people with disabilities located near the Perth CBD.
Often described as “the place to contact if you have tried everywhere else”, the centre has a large volunteer base through which information, support, counselling, advocacy, library lending and resources, work experience and training are offered.
Over the past twelve months, two young men, Declan Chamberlain and Anthony Murace, have significantly benefited from being involved in the Emmanuel Centre, resulting in a positive boost of confidence in their social, intellectual and practical skills.
“Declan joined Emmanuel earlier this year after taking a year off from a special school he was attending,” said Declan’s mother, Liz Chamberlain, as her son and his friend found a sunny spot within the Emmanuel Centre grounds in which to have their lunch.
“Being away from school had started to have a negative impact on him: he had built up aggression and easily became very tired; he could not handle more than one or two hours of the same thing. It was then that I sought the Emmanuel Centre’s help” she added.
Affected by autism, epilepsy and an intellectual disability, Declan is an inquisitive and pleasant 19 year with an interest in all things mechanical and a disposition to joking and laughter that can be all too contagious for those around him.
He has a keen interest in wood and creating objects with paper – a skill he has developed through prior involvement with the Australian Men’s Shed Association – and has been able to channel his talents in various activities at the Emmanuel Centre.
“If a ute arrives with a load of papers, he is the first to lend a hand in unloading. This has been good for him physically and I have noticed it has also helped him gain some muscle. He also makes combusta bricks out of paper, participates in the composition of mosaics, enjoys various forms of gardening wherever needed and, if something is wrong mechanically, he is there having a look and checking to see where the fault is.
“He has even mastered some cooking skills, making his own omelette from scratch and eating it for lunch,” Ms Chamberlain said.
Declan’s social skills and ability to enjoy being around others have significantly improved at the Emmanuel Centre.
Generally not comfortable in crowds of more than three people, Declan has benefited from the quiet, outdoor environment of the Emmanuel Centre to gradually ease into social life where he can mix with people his age and older.
In turn, this has given Declan confidence to engage in more outdoor activities and take part in Church celebrations where the sound of instruments and large crowds is no longer the imposing obstacle it used to be.
In fact, the true gain for Declan, Ms Chamberlain went on to explain, has not been just the involvement in a range of activities which keep him busy, but the boost in self-confidence that has come with doing things he has not done before.
19-year-old Declan Chamberlain (left) enjoys lunch with his friend, Daniel, at the Emmanuel Centre in East Perth. Photo: Marco Ceccarelli
“I can honestly say that the change has been visible. When he first came here, Declan would isolate himself and would eat lunch on his own. He needs to be given time to adjust and become used to the smell, noise, the general feel of the environment… all things which we would take for granted.
“But, with time, he has become acquainted with the place and now will not have problems sitting with others,” Ms Chamberlain said.
Another individual who has been supported by the Emmanuel Centre, albeit for a much longer time, is Belmont resident Anthony Murace.
Anthony has Down Syndrome and has previously attended the Emmanuel Centre as a teenager. Now in his early forties, he has returned on a once-a-week basis to take advantage of the Centre’s self-help initiatives.
“Anthony has been back at Emmanuel for about four years now,” said Anthony’s father, Joseph Murace.
“He greatly enjoys coming here because it gives him a sense of purpose. One of the jobs he undertakes is to remove the tabs from aluminium soft-drink cans. These are collected and sent to third-world countries where they are melted and reused to make prosthetics and artificial limbs.
“He also packs newspapers for recycling. We are very proud of his work, particularly because he is contributing to the environment and to the improvement of someone else’s life,” he added.
The second of four children in the Murace family, Anthony is no stranger to bustling social environments.
His heart-warming smile, willingness to pose for a photo and general body language says much about his enjoyment of other people’s company – unless, of course, someone announces that cake is being served, at which point he suddenly disappeared.
The Emmanuel Centre is also home to a number of organisations and support networks aimed at improving the living standards of those living with disabilities.
Among these are Catholic Ministry for People who are Deaf or Hearing Impaired, a ministry which seeks to make God’s Word accessible to the deaf and hearing impaired; Catholic Association for Special Education Support (CASES), made up of people who work toward acceptance and support of children with special needs; and Mental Health Groups, a group of carers, pastoral workers priests, religious, and families who seek to provide support and encouragement to people with mental health issues.
LifeLink agencies collectively touch the lives of more than 34,000 people in need each year through the provision of accommodation, food, clothing, financial assistance with electricity and gas accounts, and the protection of women and children escaping domestic violence and abuse.
In this year’s Christmas LifeLink Appeal, the Archbishop is setting a target of $700,000 so as to help fund agencies in being able to meet the needs of those who knock on the doors of Archdiocesan agencies.
The 2015 LifeLink Christmas Appeal was officially launched in parishes on 14 and 15 November.
To donate to LifeLink, go to www.lifelink.com.au.
For more information on the Emmanuel Centre, contact Barbara Harris on 08 9328 8113, email firstname.lastname@example.org, write to 25 Windsor Street, Perth WA 6000, or check out its website www.emmanuelcentre.com.au.