Claire Gonchee: SBH Queensland : Westfield Local Heroes 2019
Rising above severe personal challenges to help others
Determined. Strong. Passionate
Claire Gonchee was born with disabling spina bifida and hydrocephalus, enduring social isolation, bullying and multiple hospital stays, which can last months.
Despite this, she has managed to complete a Human Services degree and is engaged, but jokes she needs to stay out of hospital long enough to actually get married.
She is also a dedicated board member and secretary of SBH Queensland, supporting what she describes as the charity’s “life-changing programs and therapy services” for people with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus.
In the volunteer role, Claire is giving back for the support she has received from the charity since she was a child, when she participated in a specialised playgroup and attended school holiday camps.
Something that Claire has learned from the charity over the years and wants to share with others is that it is ok to be a disabled person and there is nothing to be apologetic about.
Claire has a powerful voice in board decisions on governance, strategy, volunteering and advocacy for members.
She also puts many hours of work into planning and developing grant applications and coordinating events.
She is an engaging speaker and often shares her story at public events to raise awareness about the condition.
She also helps to facilitate opportunities for the more than seven hundred Queensland members to engage socially, to volunteer and to seek work opportunities.
“I endeavour to support SBH Queensland to best represent our community,” says Claire.
“We support seven hundred and fifty clients across the state through therapy, group programs, advocacy, information resources and outreach trips to regional Queensland. We achieve this through our multidisciplinary therapy team, including physiotherapists, occupational therapists and social workers.”
Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation.
SBH Queensland will use its grant to provide a four-day personal development workshop for adults with spina bifida and hydrocephalus.
The intensive program focuses on education, capacity building and social development and helps people to make sense of the difficulties of living with a disability.
For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here.