Scott Petty describes himself simply as ‘a maker’. However, to participants in Achieve’s Northern Rivers My Life program he is much more – a mentor who passes on practical skills and knowledge, an encouraging friend, and the creator of equipment which the program’s budget otherwise could not afford.
Scott has been using his practical skills – particularly in woodwork – to support people with intellectual disability for more than 15 years. He says nothing gives him more pleasure than finding new ideas for construction projects to involve people he supports.
“Really the projects just pop into my head, then I go off and find ways to bring them together. For example, we had planned to buy artists’ easels for the people we support but they were too expensive for our budget.
“I immediately thought it would be more affordable and satisfying to buy the wood, then work with people we support to actually make the easels with our own hands.
For the easel project Scott sourced the wood, pre-cut the components, then showed Day Programs participants how to sandpaper the wood, and safely use nails and screws to assemble four easels.
Starting from that initial project 18 months ago, Scott developed an ongoing woodwork program based at the Casino Day Programs Centre. Following the easels, participants moved on to making book-shaped photograph frames and wooden Christmas ornaments.
Everyone has an opportunity to participate. One person has visual impairment and has learned to use his heightened sense of touch to complete his part in each project.
Achieve Social Educator Donna Wray also supports the craft program by taking participants on outings to find natural materials such a pine-cones, gumnuts and seed-pods to create table centrepieces.
“People we support are amazing to work with on these craft projects. They really enjoy the shapes and textures of the various materials – especially seed-pods. It is a great sensory experience as they feel the differences between rough, smooth, sharp and spiky textures.
“I love my job and I wouldn’t change it for the world!” said Donna.
Meanwhile, Scott has now moved on to his next big idea – the use of a 3D printer to create chess pieces. He will then work with My Life participants to make matching wooden chess boards, and also has plans for another project to create wooden chopping boards.