Chloe McCarthy recently completed a student placement with Vincent Care. In mid-September she accepted a part-time AOD Support Worker role within the BIP program. She shares her story or remarkable coincidence with us.
I’m studying my masters in social work, I’m in my first year and this has been my first year placement and we get placed in various places and I put it out there to do something a bit different. I’d worked with young people a lot, around trauma and education and wanted to work with adults. I’ve learnt an incredible amount about AOD and homelessness sector at Ozanam Community Centre and Ozanam House.
I’ve been working with the STAR program doing the counselling and running sessions and case management at Ozanam House. This is my last week of a three month placement. I’ve learnt heaps, just so much.
After my dad passed away my uncle just kind of shut down a bit and went off the radar and that has happened before, so it wasn’t totally unusual. Other family members had tried to track him down for a few months at that time but had no luck. That was eight years ago. He and my dad were very close. There could have been lots of other things going on for him but the death of my dad, his brother, would have had a significant impact on him.
He had disappeared before so the family figured he’d get in touch when he was ready, but there had been no word from him since.
I was at OCC in my second week of placement and helping out with lunch time service and learning how they run lunch and I was waiting at the door and I thought ‘that is my uncle!’ He is blind, he can only see things really close so he didn’t see me he just walked passed and I just grabbed his shoulder and I said “it’s Chloe your niece” and he was really excited. We sat down and shared lunch. He was really excited to see me, and now I see him a couple of times a week at OCC and I’ve found out he just lives 15 minutes away from my home so I go and visit him there too.
Mum and my brother were really excited that I had bumped into him and so they’ve all just caught up with him as well.
He’s talked a little about what’s happened, a relationship breakdown but our conversations are more focused on telling stories of when he was younger and what he did during his life when he lived in Warrnambool. I didn't see him that much as a kid. He lived with us a little bit when I was a child. He tells me about where he used a work, when he was cleaning the MCG; he used to be a jockey. He’s 74 and is in pretty good health, he gets around on the trams although his eyesight is failing.
I guess my experience and my study is good and bad in terms of our relationship now. I want to help him more than he might want. When I’ve suggested Meals on Wheels he said no, he wants to keep coming to OCC, but in terms of what he’s gone through it has helped. I was brought up to accept everyone and help everyone.
He’s very proud to tell everyone he’s my uncle, I wasn’t sure of the boundaries in terms of telling people he was my uncle but he told all the staff, and introduces me to his friends.