Being a sibling of a person with disabilities can sometimes be tough. Interchange Outer East (IOE) runs a program called Sibs, which gives children and teens in this position a break from their family circumstances.
Monash Gully District Freemasons have been involved with the Sibling Program since its establishment, with RWBro Keith Thornton instrumental in promotion of the program in the Monash Gully District.
With the support of FFV, more than $285k has been contributed to Interchange Outer East and the Siblings Program since November 2014 – at least $107K of this total has been contributed by the District Lodges. This includes a recent contribution of $25,000. FFV Executive Officer Neil Cripps and Chairman Rodney Lavin, along with five Freemasons from the Monash Gully District were delighted to be invited to the cheque presentation in February, at the Ferntree Gully IOE office.
Sibs is only one of five programs like it operating in the country. Family support programs like Sibs are not funded under NDIS, and would be unable to continue without financial support such as the funding from FFV and Monash Gully District Freemasons.
Sibs provides wonderful development opportunities for siblings of disabled children through fun after school activities and camps supported by skilled staff and trained volunteers. The children can spend some time of their own away from the demands of a family situation which revolves around the needs of their disabled brother or sister. They make connections with others in the group who understand the challenges their situation can bring, because they are in it too. Participants form a support network, learn coping strategies, a better understanding of what defines them as individuals and often, lifelong friendships.
During the visit, IOE presented a touching thank you letter written by a Sibs participant. In it she wrote:
“When I first joined the siblings program, I was only just 9 and now I am currently 19 years old… After the realisation of what this program provided for me, it felt like I finally had my chance to really be a kid and to not have to worry about all the bigger issues that would wait for me when I got home.
Now as I am at the end of my time in the siblings program I urge you all to know just how important this type of program is for people like me and how much of an impact this has had on us and our lives to help us develop necessary skills and techniques to help support us in the long run.” - IOE Sibling