My Australian Experience

The following excerpts were written by Pam Martin, Training Support Manager at Grafton. The entries highlight Pam’s experience providing consultation and training in Australia.

8/16/13  – It’s hard to determine the beginning of this journey for me, without a little history.  A few times over the last year or so, Lisa(Marshall) or Kim would ask me if I had any materials to support the training efforts over in Australia, such as task analyses, visual supports, etc.  If I had anything, I would forward it to them.  At some point I jokingly started asking, “So, does this get me a ticket to Australia?”, never  imagining that I would ever really get to go. 

Then a couple of months ago, Kim asked me for some assistance with a social story for a client that Grafton is currently providing support for in Australia.  I jumped at the opportunity, because I love writing social stories, and inwardly I was thinking how cool that would be to be able to help support someone halfway around the world.  And of course I asked, “So, does this get me a ticket to Australia?”

7/29-7/30 – While on vacation at the beach, I was checking my email one morning, and Kim happened to notice that I was online.  She asked me for future planning if I had a passport, and I confirmed that I did.  I recall thinking, maybe I will get to go someday ( someday meaning  a year or 2 down the road in my mind).  And then I dismissed it from my mind.  After all, I was headed to the ocean to soak in the sun and waves. 

7/31-8/1 – I received a text from Kim asking if I wanted to go to Australia this month and could I stay for 2 weeks?  Within an hour, I had spoken to my mom- the person I always go to for advice, rearranged some appointments and told Kim yes.  I was feeling excited, nervous, and scared all at the same time.  What would I do over there?  Could I really contribute?  What about the trip there?  So many questions swirling around in my head.

8/2 – Kim began to include me in the email streams regarding the plans for the upcoming trip and announced to the team that I would going on this trip. (She had previously mentioned to the folks in Australia that I was included in some of the emails as I had been assisting with the stories, and paid me a very high compliment in the process- thanks, Kim).  Shamsi (Sadeghzadeh) and Lisa quickly offered support, and within a day, Lisa had sent me a nice detailed email on what to pack and what to expect, which was really helpful.

8/5-8/14 – Returning from vacation, I plunged in to a new hire training cycle, and all I can say is that the last 2 weeks have been a frenzy of activity for me.  Between managing the new hire class, arranging for training with a new contract employee while I would be gone, getting all the travel details( including packing, weighing my suitcases and repacking), and trying to learn as much as I could about the Australia clients, most days I didn’t know if I was coming or going.  And I had the opportunity to participate (mostly listening) in 2 web conferences with the Australian team and one of the families.  Sleep was a luxury during this time. 

8/6/14 – My music pastor and Praise Team at church prayed for me and the team at rehearsal this evening.  Being covered in prayer gives me assurances that I wouldn’t otherwise feel.

8/17/13  2:00 am – Another night of being up and down .  As thoughts continue to play over in my mind, I keep coming back to the question, “Why me?  Why did they really choose me to go on this trip and will I be able to make a difference?”  I still have another story to write for one of the clients in Bundoora about our upcoming visit.  He knows his American friends are visiting again, but I am not sure if he knows someone different is coming this time (me).  So I really need to get the story done.  Still feeling very overwhelmed by all the people both at work and in my personal life who have wished me well on this trip.   I hope I can live up to everyone’s expectations. 

8/18/13  1:30 pm – Preparing to leave Winchester and feeling excited for the adventure ahead, but a little apprehensive.  I’ve been gone from Winchester for more than 2 weeks before, but never on the other side of the world.  Today’s message at church reminded me of what, or better stated, who to hold on to for assurance.  It’s also a great comfort to know that I am traveling with people that I trust. 

8/18/13 11:00 pm LA time – Navigating through LAX was like going through a maze.  Had the opportunity to assist an older lady traveling alone.  Her children were very grateful.  We have boarded the flight to Melbourne.  Shamsi is praying that no one sits next to her.  ( 5 minutes later- alas 2 people were seated beside her so her row was full).  After take-off, Shamsi was able to find a more comfortable seat.  I am not sure who was happier- Shamsi or the 2 ladies she left behind. 

8/20/13  – 7:38 pm– Earlier this afternoon, we went to visit a client receiving services from CBM at her home.  She seemed apprehensive at first, hiding behind Meg, our CBM liaison, but then quickly warmed up to us.  She talked to us about her artwork, and showed us a picture of her sister and niece.  Once Shamsi explained why we were there and that we wanted to help her have a better life, she opened up a little more and shared what she would like to accomplish.  According to Meg, this was a really big step for her. 

Next, we attended a presentation by Sam T. of CBM to a group of case managers at the CBM Learning Center, which is the site for their new hire training. 

8/21/13 – woke up at about 2 am (after 6 hours of sleep).  It was about noon back in the states on the east coast, so I did Facetime with my mother and sister.  Couldn’t go back to sleep right away- this is a usual sleep cycle pattern for me- so I read for a while and finally drifted off until it was time to get up for the day.

Our first meeting of the day today was with the parents of a young lady diagnosed with autism and ID receiving respite from CBM.  The young lady spent most of the time in her room at the respite site while we were there, so we did not get to spend much time with her.  From reading her file and talking with the parents, she presents like many of the clients we serve in the Winchester region.

  While Shamsi spent some one on one time with the client we met yesterday, I spent time at the CBM office.  I had begun to review the file of another young lady we were to see today when the team leader (equivalent to our house managers, I think)came by the office, so I spent time talking to her instead about this young lady, who appears to be in crisis, having incidents every 2-3 days as reported by the team leader.  They were anticipating that she could potentially have a problem later today when her housemate would be leaving to go to a birthday dinner with her brother.  So we tried to put some proactive strategies in place to try to avert the crisis.  As of the time we left the home, it appeared to work.  I also spent some time meeting with Sam T., mostly discussing my role at Grafton and the evolution of comfort vs. control. 

There was a repeat of last night’s presentation to a different group of people from a variety of services in the area.  Daryl spoke about Grafton during this one. 

We finished off the evening having dinner at a pub with Daryl. 

I have taken in so much information that my brain is in overload.  I am still trying to process what my role is, but remain grateful for this tremendous learning opportunity.