Everyone benefits when local businesses such as Tan’s Tuckerbox in Swan Hill hire people with disabilities for meaningful work.
After a two-year search, Katie, who lives with Down syndrome, has finally secured employment at the local cafe.
Like many parents, mum Alison was concerned about Katie’s career path and made sacrifices to ensure she got the best opportunities.
“We relocated from Donald to Swan Hill to give Katie more opportunities. My husband kept his job but I lost mine in order to give her the best possible start we could give her,” said Alison.
“It took a long time to find (a job). We’ve been looking for work for Katie for two years but no one would give her a chance. She just wanted to do what other people do. But it was finding someone who would employ her and pay her, rather than just unpaid work experience.”
Alison and Katie met with CVGT Australia earlier this year having been unsuccessful with several other job agencies.
“(CVGT consultant) Lycette sat down with Katie and built a rapport with her, and really listened to what Katie wanted,” said Alison. “Lycette kept going and going until she found someone. We have the most amazing relationship with her.”
Determined to find Katie a suitable employer, CVGT Australia’s Swan Hill team sent an email to every contact in the local database. Only two replies were received – one from Tan’s Tuckerbox.
Katie works three days a week at Tan’s Tuckerbox helping to clear tables, sweep the floor, fill the salt and pepper shakers and greet customers.
“Katie has wanted a job since she left school. This is the best possible outcome,” said Alison. “Katie now feels like she has a place in life, in the world. She wants to live in her own house some day and all of those things. She just wants what everyone else has and there is no reason why she can’t.”
Tan and Steve Hovenden, the owners of Tan’s Tuckerbox, have a track record of doing good in the community, and have welcomed Katie into their business.
“She is doing amazing and in the first three weeks I could see a difference in her self-esteem… she fits in like anyone else,” said Tan. “We hope other businesses will follow our lead. Everybody deserves a chance.”
The hire of Katie is also quite special for Tan and Steve. They discovered Katie lives next door to where Steve grew up with his brother Gary, who also lived with Down syndrome.
“It was like Gary had done all this. It’s just a blessing. It does bring a tear to Steve’s eye here and there when he looks at Katie and sees a lot of his brother. It was meant to be,” said Tan.
For Katie, this experience could open the door to other job opportunities and career paths that likely wouldn’t have been possible if not for Tan’s Tuckerbox.