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John's journey


If you need inspiration, look no further than John Van Gelder.

John, 19, has been setting goals and smashing them, especially in the past year.

John says things started to change when Cara staff supported him to adopt and take care of his dog, Coco.

“Since I’ve had Coco, everything in my behaviour has changed a lot more for the better,” John says.

“She thinks I’m her daddy! She’s so good and she gives good hugs.”

In the past year, John has celebrated 12 months of being smoke free, after first taking up smoking when he was just seven-years-old. By age 13, he was smoking a pack of 50 cigarettes each day.

“When I was 18 I had to go to hospital for chest pains and I couldn’t breathe properly. The doctor told me I should quit. That was my first attempt.

"For this attempt, with the Cara staff, I promised them and they promised me that I would try my best. I used nicotine patches and strips.

“I wanted to keep up with Coco. When I was smoking I had to have my puffer with me when I was running.”

Now, John and Coco are running towards their goals. In late May, the handler and hound graduated from Class 2 dog obedience.

“Now Coco’s not so misbehaved at home. I’ve been meeting new people and we’ve both learnt so many new things.”

Get ready to Walk With Me


Whether you’re a marathon runner or gentle stroller, a competitive wheelchair racer or a constant roller, everyone can walk with me, and you, and us at the Ability First Dick Smith Walk With Me (WWM).

It’s the second Walk With Me for us at Cara, as we co-host with Novita for the very special event on Sunday, August 30.

Walk With Me is an accessible, flat 2.5km walk around Botanic Park. It’s not about who finishes first, instead, it’s about joining together as a community and celebrating inclusion and diversity.

Registration is $15 for adults and $10 for children and it includes free entry into the Adelaide Zoo after the walk.

However, we’re also looking for fundraisers who can use Walk With Me as a fantastic excuse to raise money for Cara. Set up an Everyday Hero fundraising page, as some of our WWMers have already done.

If you know someone who can’t make the walk on the day, encourage them to donate their registration with the “I can’t make it but…” option and their $15 donation will go straight to Cara.

Register here

Unleash the imagination


Thanks to everyone who has already supported Cara’s Imagination Playground appeal – the playground which is all about creativity.

There’s still time to make a donation and support our efforts to buy our own Imagination Playground, so everyone in our Cara Community has a chance to let their imagination run wild.

What we love about the Imagination Playground is that there’s no right or wrong way to play. The blocks come in different shapes and sizes to fit together but the colour’s a uniform blue so the people playing can project their ideas on to them.

We also love that we can build the Imagination Playground up and around people who have reduced mobility so everyone gets the chance to partake in play.

And while it’s called a playground, the reality is it’s for everyone. 

Any donation to Cara $2 and more is tax-deductible. To make a donation, click here

Jenny's Cambodian adventure


A special education classroom in rural Cambodia is a long way from Cara’s services for children, like Kids Club and respite.

But that distance has been bridged by Cara staff member and occupational therapy student Jenny Inverarity, who completed a nine-week occupational therapy placement with the Komar Pikar Foundation as part of her studies with the University of South Australia.

Jenny, who has been working with Cara as a children’s community support worker for the past six months, worked in the local school, trained staff and parents in disability and visited people at home. She says she “learnt more than I could ever have imagined”.

“Living in rural Cambodia provided the experience of being in the minority and out of place – my placement partner and I were the only westerners in the town,” Jenny says.

“I believe some children in town had only seen white people on TV and as such they seemed perplexed and horrified by us... Even in my last week it was a common to have locals pull off the road to stare at me.

“We were also the only people who spoke English. We had a translator for work who we could call if we needed, but my charade skills, and basic Khmer have dramatically increased.”

Jenny says an invitation to cook Australian food for the children required skills from far outside kitchen.

“In Chouk there are no fridges, ovens, or microwaves. Our only cooking equipment was a wok. We decided to cook pancakes and consequently in the local markets had to do a rather lovely rendition of the chicken dance to find eggs. We were eventually successful.

“We also purchased some Nutella in the capital Phnom Penh. Many of the children had never tasted chocolate so that was a special moment. The local staff reciprocated the favour by feeding us ants, chicken feet, catfish, fermented fish, bread dipped in condensed milk, delicious curry and kilos and kilos of rice.”

The hilarity of the culinary adventures, mime skills and being stared at like a minor celebrity got Jenny thinking about some more serious things, she says.

“The important link between these fun and challenging experiences is that they are all things many of Cara clients experience every day.

“Being the minority because they have a disability, being stared at in the community, being unable to communicate needs, understand your options, or understand what is going on around you.

“In fact by only speaking English, and having very little Khmer language, without our translator, we were effectively, deaf, mute, and illiterate. In some ways we were more severely disabled than some of our clients.

“The funny part is this made it easier to communicate with the children, we didn’t have to try to empathise or try to use simple language or hand signals, as our communication skills were as limited as theirs.

And the impact of Jenny’s experience has lasted far longer than her nine weeks in Cambodia, she says.

“Have I changed the world through my aid work in Cambodia? No. But I like to think I have changed someone’s world through the therapy and training that I provided. Has Cambodia changed my world? Yes, it has ignited a passion for disability rights in developing countries, and given me a new lens through which to see minority groups in Australia.”

Happy campers at Douglas Scrub


Patting the animals, collecting wood for the camp fire, an impromptu dance party – anything can happen on Cara’s Camps for Kids.

Cara runs 15 camps for children and teenagers with disabilities with incredible support from volunteers. Our recent camp for 14 children was at a Girl Guides’ campsite in Douglas Scrub near McLaren Vale on the June long weekend.

Camps for Kids manager Emily Heard says camp life takes normal life and turns it upside down!

“In everyday life kids with disabilities often have to miss out, sit out or watch from the sidelines. That’s never the case at Camps for Kids, where every single activity is tailored to each child so everyone can take part,” Emily says.

Qualified staff are trained by a registered nurse as required to meet every child’s individual need, including campers who require nutrition or medication via gastrostomy.

Staff are also trained to support children to use assistive mobility equipment, like wheelchairs, walkers and Ankle Foot Orthotics.

That means that the campers themselves can get on with the business of being a kid!

For campers like Tiahnee, her favourite thing is clear, it’s “hanging out with my friends”, while Matthew loves playing games, playing hide and seek and singing and signing along to music around the bonfire.

“We want the kids to have an opportunity to come to camp with their friends, many of the children have come on camps for years so they know the staff, the volunteers and the other campers and they’re happy to see everyone,” Emily says.

“We want all children to have that opportunity to have fun, go on an adventure and really have that rite of passage, of going away on camp.”

If you would like to include Camps for Kids into your National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan, Cara is registered to provide this service under the Participate Community cluster.

For more information about Cara’s Camps for Kids phone 8347 4588 and ask to speak with the Camps for Kids team.

Fun, friendship and a weekend Getaway


Catching a movie, heading to a museum, wine tasting or justchilling on the sofa – it’s all on the agenda at Cara’s Getaways program.

Getaways is all about having a weekend adventure for adults with disability.

Regardless of anyone’s developmental age, Getaways is about doing adult things like any group of friends. That includes a long weekend away, like the Getaways crew went on to Toc H Camp near Victor Harbor.

Getaways manager Peter Jelfs says it’s great to see strong friendships developing among the Getaways groups, who travel together every fortnight.

“It’s wonderful to see the friendships develop throughout the group – it’s one of the benefits of spending that regular time together,” Peter says.

Peter says Getaways is all about choice and control for people with disability.

“The Getaways guys really drive what we do for the weekend. It’s about the suggestions they make and then we have a vote. “We’re also very relaxed about bed times and wake-up calls – if you want to sleep in, that’s your choice. We’ll let you know if the sleep-in will run you late for another event you want to do and if that’s the case you might change your mind, but the choice comes down to you.”

Getaways are available for adults aged 18 and older who wish to get out and about, have adventures and socialise.

For more information, ask to speak with Peter Jelfs when you phone Cara on on 8347 4588.

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