Catharina Howman: Firstchance
Catharina offers a guiding hand when families are at their most vulnerable
The $10,000 grant has enabled Firstchance to expand their Little One's program to more families in the community. A Resilient Families group for families with a child with a disability such as Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder.
The money has also funded further fundraising events for the program to provide future activities for those who attend the weekly group.
The project funded through the Local Heroes grant has allowed 15 families to join the Little One's group. The funding secures a family's place in the program, giving them a sense of belonging, whilst also allowing their children to learn and grow.
When families across Newcastle, NSW, find out their child may be living with a disability, Catharina Howman is there to help.
As a family worker at disability support service Firstchance, she is often the first point of contact for parents who discover the development of their child or baby is not typical.
They may be feeling extremely isolated and struggling with a sense of grief and loss as they attempt to adjust to what is the start of a big change in their lives.
But at the point when many are completely overwhelmed, Catharina steps in to provide comfort and information about the support services they can access for their child.
“At first we just listen to the family and let them know that what they are experiencing is real and that we are there to help them work through some of the issues they are facing,” she says.
Catharina sticks with the families all the way as they learn to navigate the system and how to access the support that is available to them.
Through her group for families with young children, she also helps parents in similar situations to develop networks and make friends, which gives both parents and children a sense of connection.
“There is no pressure for them to be at their best and there is no judgment. We have a shared understanding and take the time to get to know individual children, not just their disabilities,” she says.
Catharina says she is “overwhelmed but very honoured” to be recognised by her local community and voted a Westfield Local Hero.