Bella Lammers attended The Champion Centre as a baby almost two decades ago – today, she is working there as part of a one-year internship programme.
Project SEARCH is designed to give high school leavers with learning disabilities the work experience and skills they need to enter the workforce. Bella is over halfway through her 10-week internship at The Champion Centre and is a valuable member of the team, says Executive Director, Wendy Entwistle.
“We have staff who have worked here for a long time and they remember Bella when she was little,” she says. “We are really enjoying having her back here – not only because of the work she does, but Bella is a friendly, cheerful person to be around.”
Located at Burwood Hospital, The Champion Centre provides multi-disciplinary early intervention services to infants and young children with significant disabilities.
Bella’s tasks include setting up and clearing away morning tea trollies, stacking and unstacking the dishwasher, cleaning equipment and toys from the playroom, as well as sorting out the linen. This also frees up time for other staff members, so they can focus more on their roles.
Based on an international school-to-work transition programme, Project SEARCH is a collaborative model supported by a host business (Canterbury DHB), and supporting partners (CCS Disability Action, Riccarton High School, Enabling Good Lives) who form the steering committee. The interns participate in an hour of classroom instruction each morning at a Burwood-based classroom, before attending their internship roles. A skills trainer assists with job-skills training at the internship site.
Bella, 19, works every week day from 10am-2pm, catching the bus from home in Rolleston at 6.30am. She is very dedicated to the job and says she loves the friendly atmosphere. “Everyone talks to me, and they miss me when I’m not here.”
The internships are mainly based at Burwood Hospital and students generally complete three 10-week internship rotations within the nine-month period. This provides an opportunity to learn what type of work best suits their interests and areas of aptitude.
Jacob Levington is currently completing the programme’s first off-site internship for 2020-2021, at the Child Development Service (CDS), based at Montreal House.
His tasks include administration, laminating patient files, shredding and recycling, cleaning, sanitising and packing away toys, setting up and restocking the food court, as well as laundry orders and car washing.
Jacob says he enjoys learning new skills and the social aspect of the role. “I love the staff, they are awesome,” he says. “Admin is my favourite, because I love paperwork. I’m so happy to come here and I’ve made lots of good friends.”
Demarnia Lloyd-Harris, Jacob’s Skills Trainer, says he was chosen as the intern for CDS because he was curious about the organisation and how everything worked. “Jacob is quite independent and confident in new situations, so it’s working really well. This is the third year of Project SEARCH and there are huge untapped capabilities in these young people.”
CDS Therapy Assistant Debbie Hodgson says Jacob also joins in with their after-work social activities and they have been “very lucky” to have him. “I’m dreading when Jacob leaves as he has been so helpful. He is so capable and has exceeded our expectations. He comes in and checks his schedule and gets on with things. If he needs help, he has the initiative to ask. We have faith in what he does, particularly the cleaning of our toys, which is very important in this current environment.”