It's Wednesday night, and the After Hours Event (AHE) is in full swing at Oakleigh Bowls Club. The bar is open, and attendees enjoy partner dancing, singing, and best of all: great conversations and the making of new friends. Time is set aside to practise specific communication skills, like giving a short speech in front of the group, engaging in role-plays about tactfully telling someone that they are causing you a problem, and in having conversations on a set topic. All are aimed at working to improve the life skills of those who need them the most. AHE cater to a specific group of people who often miss out on these kinds of opportunities: people with intellectual or cognitive disabilities.
Being physically healthy and active can make a big difference to people's self-confidence. Donna Gabriel created AHE to address these various issues through the implementation of a diverse and entertaining social program.
At AHE, partner dancing is a particular favourite. Donna believes this is because it's like speed dating - you get to spend a short time with everyone - with the added bonus of even left/right brain activity, which stimulates cognitive function.
Mark enjoys meeting people and making new friends in the program, and hopes to eventually find a girlfriend. David finds the program to be
excellent socially and appreciates having
increased awareness of each other, awareness of how [we] socialise. Donna is a very strong pro-active woman, a real go-getter. I think there should be more of it.
How the program began
In 2010, Donna Gabriel and Dave Glazebrook introduced a program called Social Impact, covering dating, relationship and social skills, through Impact Support Services and the Lord Mayor's Charitable Fund. Donna says she was shocked by the positive feedback from the participants in Social Impact. Questions about their opinions, hopes and dreams, and helping with social skills, gave participants a huge boost in self-confidence, which showed that many might never have had these opportunities without Social Impact. The responses also show that those who devise programs for people with disabilities can accidentally underestimate what their clients need or are capable of.
Riki, who was a participant, found that the program helped her to improve her self-confidence; she has learned to respect herself more and be careful of whom to trust. She says that Donna and Dave were the greatest
kick-arse leaders, and that they really know how to interact with the participants as equals and teach the material at an appropriate level. Riki now helps to support Donna and the participants during AHE.
The next step
In 2012, Donna developed AHE to focus on general friendship and communication skills, self-confidence, safety issues when socialising in public venues, and respect and safety regarding sexual relationships. To this mix, she added the enjoyment of music, physical fitness and movement. Some activities are also run by special guest presenters.
So far, AHE is unfunded, and Donna donates her time for free. Donna is seeking funding from various sources, and Arts Access Victoria has offered to auspice AHE (this covers the legal incorporation requirement if AHE receives funding). Various other organisations have also seen the merit in this program, giving AHE publicity through newsletter articles and at festivals.
Seeking new venues
AHE is looking to extend its program to the bayside or Mornington Peninsula areas, and the northern and eastern suburbs. Donna welcomes any venue suggestions, stipulating only that the venue should have a bar (such as a bowls club, golf club, RSL) and be wheelchair accessible and close to public transport.
After Hours Events is relevant for adults with a disability which affects their social or learning abilities.
Oakleigh Bowling Club
Corner Drummond & Logie St Oakleigh. Melways map 69F6
3rd Wednesday of every month
RSVP: EACH MONDAY PRIOR, Minimum numbers required.
Contact Donna Gabriel: 0414 250 932 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ENTRY $20. DRESS NEAT CASUAL. DRINKS AT BAR PRICES
Please note After Hours Events do not provide transport or 1-1 support.