RESILIENCE and courage.
They are the words that come to Alison McPhee’s mind when she reflects on the families of children who live with a disability.
The 21-year-old Belmont student was speaking after being named both the Hunter Region’s Young Volunteer Volunteer of the Year and overall winner at the NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards, held last week, for her work with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance.
Ms McPhee, a fourth-year physiotherapy student at the University of Newcastle, was recognised for her contribution to the Australian CP Check-Up research program.
The early intervention program allows medical professionals to monitor the condition of children with cerebral palsy, guarding against secondary complications such as dislocated hips, muscle contractures and other spinal or joint problems.
In her nomination for the award, the Cerebral Palsy Alliance said Ms McPhee had proved herself as showing “a knack with children, relaxing them with her smile and fun-loving nature”, which paid dividends for the program as children and their families are at ease with what can be a stressful time.
“It was a massive honour,” Ms McPhee said after receiving her awards.
“I never really expected to get any award out of it so it was very humbling.”
Ms McPhee said her two years volunteering with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance had taught her that families of children with a disability were among the community’s strongest members, calling them “inspirational”.
“I really enjoy working with kids and their families,” she said.
“I really value the people who I’ve worked with because they’ve been inspirational.
“The family’s resilience and courage to face every day while they’re going through so much really does make you stop and think about your own life.
“It puts everything in perspective.”
Ms McPhee encouraged others to appreciate those with a disability and stressed the importance of social inclusion.
“It’s important to understand that children with a disability are still children,” she said. “We should be supporting these families as much as we can, ensuring that children with a disability are included, living a normal life as much as they can and not pushed to the side.”
The NSW minister responsible for volunteering, David Elliot, thanked all volunteers for their contribution to the Hunter.
“The efforts of volunteers here today have, no doubt, greatly improved the lives of Hunter residents … [and] people who volunteer are often happier, healthier and more connected to their communities,” he said.