Acheiving dreams and inspiring everyone along the journey

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2018 marks a very special achievement for Erina, being selected to represent the Ovens & Murray in the Special Olympics, held in Adelaide in April.

Erina has been supported by Mercy Connect since she was 8 years old. She is now 31 years old and is very much the backbone of Mercy Connect and who we are and what we stand for.

Erina, alongside 5 team mates from the Ovens and Murray team made their way to Adelaide to compete in the Olympics from the 16th – 20th April this year, where over 1,000 athletes competed in 11 different sports.

The opening ceremony was held at the Titanium Security Arena in Findon, Adelaide, where Erina and the local team had the opportunity to walk out into the stadium to the cheers of their supporters.

This was the first time attending the Special Olympics for Erina, where she competed in Bocce and came home with not 1 but 3 bronze medals!

“My favourite part of the Olympics was winning the medals and walking along the beach in Adelaide” Erina explained.

Just like the Olympic and Commonwealth games, the Special Olympics is run every 4 years. It is an opportunity for athletes with intellectual disability from all over Australia to demonstrate their skills and sportsmanship at the games.

The 2022 games will be held right here on the border in Albury/Wodonga. Erina can’t wait to represent Bocce in her home town and see all her family, friend and Mercy Connect there supporting her and the Ovens and Murray team.

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At Mercy Connect, Erina is an Outreach participant, where she has her own independence by living in her own apartment but still has occasional drop in support from Mercy Connect staff. Erina is also a keen participant of Mercy Connect day programs, undertaking a number of activities including working in the cafe and the art program.

Her favourite thing to do is work in the Bottlebrush Cafe. The Bottlebrush Cafe is an on-site cafe that opened in early 2017, which is run by participants, supported by staff. They are open on a Wednesday and Thursday at the Head Office of Mercy Connect in Thurgoona. Erina enjoys working in the cafe because of the people she gets to work with and the ability to make a range of food dishes. In particular, she loves learning to make healthy fresh food.

On a Tuesday, Erina participates in the Art Program which sees the group create different artworks using a range of different mediums and methods. They also have the opportunity to visit local art museum such as Murray Arts Museum Albury to develop more knowledge and understand what they have been learning in the group.

In the 23 years that Erina has been a part of Mercy Connect, she has learned and developed many skills that assist her in everyday life. For Erina, some of the skills that have been most beneficial and enjoyable have been the skills she has learnt in the past two years in the Bottlebrush Cafe kitchen including coffee making on the professional barista coffee machine.

When asked about why she has enjoyed being a part of Mercy Connect for so long, her response is simple “I love Mercy Connect, not only because of the activities I do but because of the staff. They are nice and they are good to chat to and they support you in what you do”.

One of Erina’s most loved staff members is Helen. Helen supported Erina for over 8 years to undertake a range of activities and developing a number of skills in that time. One of her favourite activities to so with Helen was gardening at Mercy Connect day program outlet Catherine’s Corner in Lavington. Erina loved spending time doing this with Helen and chatting away talking about TV shows – including Erina’s favourite  Home and Away. Though Helen no longer works with Erina directly, it is obvious the positive effect that Helen’s support to Erina has given her in everyday life.

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