Sisters of Charity Foundation Australia

How Sarah found training, a job, and a new life

Despite living with autism, Sarah was desperate to work and be independent, but experienced dozens and dozens of rejections. She had almost given up hope when she learnt about Jigsaw – now there’s nothing stopping this young career woman!

“Being different isn’t easy, and I was bullied at school – teenage girls, in particular, can be cruel. I hung out in the library or the computer lab, or I chatted with the teachers instead of being out there in the meat grinder that was the playground. The library was a safe place as it was deemed uncool. The teachers and librarians, being adults, accepted me as I was,” says Sarah, who has autism.

Sarah’s disheartening job search

When it came time to find a job after school Sarah, like many other people with a disability, faced an impossible challenge.

“I applied to heaps of jobs, trying to get in the system… I wrote my own applications and expressions of interest to positions in everything from hospitality work to dog walking to retail, and no one was biting – absolutely no one was biting,” Sarah recalls. “I was pounding the concrete, emailing every company I could think of, putting out resumes left, right and centre, and nothing solid came of it.”

Autism disability job training

Sarah is delighted with her new role as Office Assistant at Fighting Chance.

In the meantime she volunteered as a shelver at the local library, as well as with Lifeline selling books. “That was great, but there comes a point when you want to stand on your own feet and pay your own bills,” she explains.

Jigsaw: a stepping stone toward a career

Finally, Sarah met a careers counsellor who told her about Jigsaw, a social enterprise that gives people with disability the opportunity to develop work skills in a real business, join the workforce for the first time, and use those experiences to transition into other roles. The organisation’s motto is: 'People prepare best for work, through work.'

“I learnt a lot and did a lot of growing up at Jigsaw,” Sarah says fondly. “I gained experience in digitisation, file management and managing my emotions and reactions – I can be a stress head! I am so much more confident now and able to advocate for myself.”

Autism disability job training

Jigsaw was established by Fighting Chance in 2014.

She gained a reputation as the quality control girl working for clients such as Squirrel Street, Hireup and various councils – Northern Beaches, Fairfield, Hunters Hill and Queanbeyan.

Looking to the future

The day came when Sarah was ready for her next challenge.

“When the chance came to interview for a role at Fighting Chance, I felt that this was the opportunity I’d been waiting for, to move on to somewhere supportive, where I could make a difference, give back to society and feel good about being in a mainstream work environment,” Sarah explains.

Her newfound skills, employment history and confidence meant she aced the interview, landing the position of Office Assistant. She was thrilled.

“I dream of having a job that will give me enough income to build a little nest and live happily… It’s become something that’s no longer a pipedream, but something achievable for me,” she beams.

Autism disability job training

Fighting Chance Co-founder Laura O’Reilly at Avenue Parramatta.

Giving people with disability a Fighting Chance

The Foundation has supported Fighting Chance (and its sister organisations, Jigsaw and Avenue) through the Community Grants Program since 2012.

“Our partnership with the Foundation goes so much beyond the grants that have been made,” says Fighting Chance Co-founder Laura O’Reilly. “I consider the Foundation a real mentor organisation to Fighting Chance, we’ve really appreciated their advice and support. The Foundation has also introduced us and made connections for us to other Foundations and players in the community that are able to help us.

“I truly don’t know if we’d be here without the support of the Foundation. I’d like to just say the biggest, most heartfelt thank you for everything your supporters have done for us and your friendship over the years.”

We wholeheartedly support Fighting Chance’s vision of an Australia in which people with disability are fully included in the workforce.

 

How We Help

Each year we’re able to make a difference to thousands of people across the country with funds generously donated by compassionate Australians. We support initiatives that focus on benefiting the disadvantaged, marginalised and socially isolated people in our community.

Find out more

Check out our latest blog posts