9 February 2024

Walk ‘n’ Connect Fridays in Shell Cove to build stronger relationships within growing NDIS community

| Kellie O'Brien
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National Disability Council Walk n Connect

Riani Goodridge is helping organise the National Disability Council’s Walk ‘n’ Connect Fridays in Shell Cove. Photo: Supplied.

In a bid to encourage physical activity and foster genuine connections within the Illawarra community, the National Disability Council (NDC) has launched the new initiative Walk ‘n’ Connect Fridays in Shell Cove.

To be held weekly from 16 February, National Disability Council (NDC) client engagement coordinator Riani Goodridge said the program aimed to address the challenges of social isolation faced by many National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants in the region.

Riani said the event offered more than just a walk; it provided a platform for genuine human connections in light of the growing number of active NDIS participants in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven region, which stood at 10,281 as of March last year.

“We want to step beyond the typical online provider-client relationship and truly get to know the families, participants, and even other providers and support coordinators,” she said.

“(NDC director) Jess (Redfern) spearheaded this idea to bridge the gap that today’s predominantly online services have created.

“At NDC, we’re not just about providing services; we’re about crafting relationships, understanding stories, and being a steadfast part of the community’s fabric.

“We’re here not just to serve but to genuinely connect.

“With a decade in nursing, I’ve seen the profound impact of real, human connections.

“It’s about making each individual feel seen and heard, especially in the vast realm of NDIS, where personal touch often gets lost in the system.”

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The walk will start at 9:30 am each Friday from Donut Jam, symbolising a collaborative effort between NDC and businesses to foster inclusivity and community engagement.

“This partnership is a testament to our philosophy of collaboration, not just coordination,” she said.

“This inclusive stroll around the marina is open to everyone and offers a fantastic opportunity to connect, unwind, and exchange stories in a supportive environment.

“Post-walk, we’ll gather at Donut Jam to enjoy some of their famous custard-filled donuts and continue our conversations.”

Riani said other benefits of the Walk ‘n’ Connect Fridays over the usual expo events were combating social isolation and promoting mental wellbeing by encouraging outdoor activity and social interaction.

“I’m really big on mental health. It’s so important for your mental health to not be stuck indoors,” she said.

“I want people to hang out afterwards and get to know each other because it’s good for participants to get to know other participants in the area as it can be quite isolating when it’s just you and your support worker or just you and your family.

“Go out, get some exercise, get that fresh air, meet new people and get out of your comfort zone.”

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Riani said as a dedicated NDIS support service provider, NDC wasn’t an advocacy organisation but rather supported every aspect of a person’s care from big things like short-term accommodation for respite, to the smaller things like in-home support for cleaning.

She said the main aim was providing empowering choices and enriching experiences for NDIS participants, sharing examples of participants who had booked stays at the Novotel and visits to the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

“We’re ensuring that each experience with NDC is as unique as the individuals we serve,” she said.

She said having previously had experience with NDIS participants who hadn’t left the house, the walk would encourage people to get out and enjoy their own backyard.

“We’re excited to host this event and hope it brings the community closer together,” she said.

All are welcome, regardless of whether they’re connected to the NDIS.

Those interested in joining Walk ‘n’ Connect Fridays from 16 February at 9:30 am can register here or contact Riani directly at [email protected] for further information or coordination.

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