Let’s face it, life is tough. We go through all sorts of ups and downs and our own unique experiences. When we get into a funk and feel trapped in a bad period, it can feel like we have the whole world against us. It’s times like these when the small courtesies and kindnesses matter the most to us. Small gestures of gratitude and appreciation, a simple ‘thank you’ or a calm smile.
This lesson was one of the many that Ben learnt when settling into his new role at My Berries Caboolture.
For just over four months now, Ben has been working hard in his role. He drives the truck down to the local farm, picking up the freshly grown berries and other supplies before returning to My Berries. From there, he helps with the manufacturing of the berries.
After we asked further about what it meant to ‘manufacture’ the berries, Ben was happy to explain.
“We take strawberries, mangoes, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. We package them and process them and send the best ones to the shops all across Australia. I chop the green bits off the strawberries, sort all the berries, and package them.”
It hasn’t all been ‘berry’ times when it comes to Ben, however. Previously, he had been struggling a lot with anxiety and substance abuse. He’s quick to admit drugs and alcohol were “a big part of his life.”
For a while, he was in a period of career trial and error, figuring out that carpentry, labouring, and other similar jobs weren’t for him after giving them a go.
It was at this point that Ben thought of looking for some employment assistance. He did some research and discovered an organisation called EPIC Assist, and after some thought, decided to just give them a go!
EPIC Assist (EPIC) is a local Disability Employment Services (DES) provider that helps people with disability prepare for, find, and keep a job they love at a supportive and inclusive workplace.
Going into his first appointment with EPIC, Ben didn’t really know what to think. He hadn’t been properly employed in a while, so he was feeling almost underqualified to speak about the subject of his own career.
These worries were dashed the moment he started speaking with Lynn from our Caboolture office.
“EPIC heard me, understood me, and provided me a service to help me back into employment,” Ben explained.
“Every time I’ve felt not sure about something I’ve been able to pop into the office to see my Employment Consultant, and Sam my Mental Health Consultant. I can ask them all sorts of questions, or just say, ‘I’m not sure about this’ and they’ll understand and point me in the right direction.”
Ben made sure to mention that the staff of the Caboolture office made him feel more than welcome. Staff members would greet him by name at the door and ask him about his day.
“Everyone’s always in a good mood and always happy to help me.”
Since starting his job at My Berries, Ben has developed a new kind of mindset when it comes to interactions in and out of the workplace. Encouragement goes a long way, and a simple smile can make all the difference.
After being pleasantly surprised with the positive feedback he was receiving from his bosses, Ben made it his mission to spread positivity to the employees around him too.
While it might sound cheesy, Ben discovered there’s real power behind a smile. As there is a language barrier between him and some of the fruit and strawberry pickers, he reasons that a smile is a simple yet effective way of sending important messages like, ‘thank you,’ ‘that’s great,’ and, ‘I understand.’
He explained that smiles have become one of his favourite parts of going to work. The simple few minutes of arriving in the morning and giving a pleasant greeting to all his co-workers. Getting ready to start the workday knowing that what he’s doing is making a positive difference and he’s being productive. And of course, he’s earning money so that he can do more stuff he wants to do!
With a much more positive outlook on life than he once had, Ben’s plan is to keep himself employed at My Berries and continue to learn new lessons every day.
“I want to have a good future, and keep improving myself. I want to make money and use it for good, for things I enjoy that aren’t my addictions. Just being the best version of me that I can be.”
My Berries Director Allison McGruddy said EPIC has matched My Berries with employees whose energy and attitude match the positive culture of their business.
“We’ve taken the time to find duties that suit Ben’s skills and we are proud to be supporting his studies with on-the-job training for his Certificate III in Food Processing,” Allison said.
“With EPIC’s assistance, we are focused on helping Ben continue his professional development and reach his career goals.”
In reflection on this new direction his life is taking, Ben insists that it’s thanks to the opportunity to work that he’s been able to turn himself around and feel so much happier about his current situation.
“Work has helped me achieve what I’ve wanted to achieve and has given me a zest for life that I can’t appreciate enough. Being able to afford food, shelter, clothes, petrol, and all the other necessities. I just really appreciate having this job and people that understand me and tell me that I’m doing all right.
“I’m part of a family now, I’ve got a real connection”
We asked Ben before we left what kind of advice he would give to someone who’d been in his situation. Someone who might be on the fence about reaching out to EPIC but are worried employment isn’t something they can manage.
“No matter how you feel, put yourself out there. Do what you can do, not what you can’t do, and just accept the new! I’m just so grateful and thankful for everything EPIC has done, for everyone who’s spoken with me and supported me. They don’t let my disabilities define me and treat me like I matter.”
Since choosing EPIC Assist, and starting his employment at My Berries, Ben has felt on top of his future for the first time in a long time. And as he continues his employment journey, learning a new lesson every day, EPIC Assist will be by his side every step of the way.
Good stuff Ben, keep it up!
If you are living with a disability, injury, health condition, or mental health condition and looking to find meaningful employment, contact EPIC Assist today.