John Gough is so thankful for the support he has had during his dark times, he is now giving back the best way he knows how with almost $20,000 raised for charity.
John, of Port Macquarie, lives with cerebral palsy and for much of his adult life battled loneliness and poor mental health. But since joining the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) two years ago, life has changed and he is now a happy and active member of the community.
Several Fridays a month John sets up a fundraising stall in front of shops around town to raise money for various charities. He sees this as 'his job', and his family agree that it's a lovely way of giving back to the community.
John has raised money in support of Crohn's disease and for the NSW children's hospice Bear Cottage, among others. He has already raised close to $20,000.
Just a few short years ago it was a very different story. His brother Michael says John lives on his own and prior to joining the NDIS he often felt trapped by his situation, disengaged from the community and not participating in social activities.
"He would do anything to get out of the house," Michael said. He adds that his brother was often found wandering about town, sometimes getting himself into potentially dangerous situations. All John wanted to do was talk to people.
During the long years when John received minimal support, Michael and his wife spent a lot of time caring for and spending time with him. But work commitments meant that giving John the daily assistance he needed was difficult.
"There are certainly people out there who are worse off than us," Michael said. "However, it's never easy being a carer without any help."
John's NDIS funding means he receives one-on-one support from care workers through Centacare's Port Macquarie office five days a week, for three to four hours each day.
This has opened up a whole new world for John, and his family has seen a huge improvement.
"He's gone ahead in leaps and bounds," Michael said.
He adds that Centacare, along with NDIS partners Mid Coast Communities and Social Futures, "cannot do enough to help".
John has become a very active member of his community, and with a support worker goes fishing, on walks, out for coffee, to concerts, Saturday sport mornings, barbecues, ten pin bowling, horse riding and out to dinner in a group once a week.
"Basically, anything he wants to do, he does," Michael said.
In his spare time at home, John's hobby is restoring people's furniture. He does this free of charge for friends and family, sometimes with the help of his support worker, as his cerebral palsy means he has difficulty lifting, particularly with one arm. He is always keen to source spare parts and enjoys lacquering and sanding to upgrade outdoor furniture, benches and tables.
Michael says John no longer requires mental health support as he is thriving and forming new friendships, and his family doesn't have to worry about him wandering the streets aimlessly at night.
In the past two years John has been on two big trips - to the Gold Coast and on a cruise - as well as some shorter ones. This is something his family could not have imagined two years ago.
"Seeing the smiles on their faces before and after these trips is incredible," Michael said. "It's so nice to see people helping others."
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