“We all grew up together. We are family to each other.”
They went to school together, worked together, and live together. Siblings Joy and Dennis and their friend Michael have been in each other’s company for over 50 years, and are best mates to this day.
Since childhood, the trio have been intrinsically linked through Ability Centre.
As children with disability, Joy, Dennis and Michael were not allowed to attend mainstream school. So their first interaction was at the Spastic Welfare Association’s Sir James Mitchell School.
When asked if they got up to much mischief at school, the trio erupt into laughter.
“Yes, it was bad luck for the teacher!” says Michael.
“I had a very good teacher there,” says Dennis. “And she came out all the way from England. And her name was Mrs Pritchard, and she was a lovely teacher. And she was a very good person and she helped me all the way… She got me that far, and we all wanted to keep her.”
Their bond continued after school as they transitioned into the workplace at Ability Centre’s social enterprise, Goodwill Engineering which is still a thriving business today.
The three also moved into a share house together with the assistance of Ability Centre, and although they have moved 5 or 6 times over the years, they have always were at home together under the same roof.
Again, when asked how long they have living together, the response was met with raucous laughter.
“Too long!” says Michael.
When a discussion starts up about what’s for dinner that night, there are no arguments or protests - Joy confirms that they’ve been together for so long, that they know exactly what the other likes and don’t like.
Michael, Joy and Dennis are a testament to Ability Centre’s dedication to offering their clients services and support throughout their lives - from young children, to working adults and now, into retirement. The three have accessed a comprehensive set of services, and developed strong and meaningful relationships with staff.
One of those staff members, Karen O’Shea, has been alongside the friends from the very beginning of their time with Ability Centre.
“We all grew up together. We are family to each other. Karen is part of our family,” says Michael. “She does a lot for us. If we ask her to do something for us, she’ll do it. She’ll do what we ask her to do if she can. She listens to us. She makes us feel like we’re important. She wants to make us happy.”
Dennis agrees. “She is very kind and friendly to everybody, not just us, to everybody. She is very busy but always finds time for us and she takes the time to understand what we need.”
Michael, Dennis and Joy’s story is one of friendship and love, and there’s no doubt that in the years to come they’ll continue to do everything together - including getting up to just a little bit of mischief.