Warrnambool's James Chittick is helping people with disabilities navigate their lives in a time of uncertainty.
The 27-year-old launched independent disability support service Link With Me in March last year, just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Now, more than 18 months later, Mr Chittick works with clients to improve their health and wellbeing, while helping them to remain active and positive during remote school learning and when most of the world has shut down.
Having previously worked at a disability day services centre in northern Victoria, Mr Chittick said he returned to the south-west last year and realised there was a lack of independent disability support workers.
"I felt like there was a bit of a gap in the community where clients could spend one-on-one time outside of a big group to identify and develop their personal fitness and physical health, while also working towards their own individual goals," he said.
Mr Chittick said he wanted to provide a non-clinical and out-of-school setting for clients to grow their confidence and independence.
And so he did.
Mr Chittick now has 10 participants aged between six and 60.
"I think it's been really good for them to get out and about with someone like myself, whose still a bit of a young bloke, and to just have a bit of fun but also have a chat when they need to," he said.
Link With Me is client-driven with participants designing their own sessions.
"I just facilitate, support and provide access," Mr Chittick said.
Out of coronavirus lockdowns, Mr Chittick facilitates recreational activities such as ten-pin bowling and swimming, as well as independence-building opportunities like going out for coffee.
But with only five reasons to leave the house during the pandemic, he said it can be a little bit tricky.
"I'm still getting out with the clients and helping them to remain as positive and active as I can (during lockdown)," Mr Chittick said.
"Whether that's chucking the bikes on the back of the ute and going for a ride, going for a run on the oval or having a kick of the footy - it's important to still get out and my clients seem to still really enjoy doing that."
Mr Chittick said he was looking forward to getting back to normal post-lockdown.
"The best part about my job is that I get to see them grow, become more independent and confident and help them to achieve their goals," he said.
Mr Chittik said he loved his "new found niche" and thanked the National Disability Insurance Scheme, as well as local support providers Southern Stay and Mpower for their support.
"They've been really supportive of myself as a sole trader so I'm really grateful for that," he said.
For more information, visit facebook.com/linkwithmejc.
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