Re­nee con­tin­ues to ‘ride the wave of life’

Yarrawonga Chronicle - - Front Page - BY RACHEAL WIL­LETT

Re­nee McCarthy found time for a quick chat with the Yar­ra­wonga Chron­i­cle re­cently among her vol­un­teer com­mit­ments, men­tor­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and gen­eral very busy lifestyle.

Her sched­ule is a far cry from two years ago when she found her­self at a cross­roads in her life, when she says she had “de­cided to re­treat”.

“I didn’t know what I was go­ing to do or where I was headed,” she said.

“So I’d de­cided to re­treat. I was just go­ing to with­draw from ev­ery­thing.”

But some­thing changed for Re­nee, in a fleet­ing mo­ment of brav­ery she ap­plied for the Women with Dis­abil­i­ties Vic­to­ria En­abling Women Lead­er­ship Pro­gram.

“I didn’t know what to ex­pect and at first I won­dered what I had got my­self into when I sent of my ap­pli­ca­tion and got ac­cepted,” Re­nee said.

“Then I went to the very first ses­sion and thought ‘ok, I’m meant to be here’.”

The En­abling Women Lead­er­ship Pro­gram of­fers women with a dis­abil­ity the chance to chal­lenge them­selves, dis­cover their strengths, gain con­fi­dence and find a voice within their own com­mu­nity.

The free, six-week pro­gram, builds self-es­teem, teaches par­tic­i­pants about their rights as women and as a woman with a dis­abil­ity and de­vel­ops lead­er­ship skills.

“I knew I was dif­fer­ent. I knew I had a dis­abil­ity but that wasn’t a word we used when I was grow­ing up,” Re­nee said.

“I learnt to ac­cept my­self for my strengths and my weak­nesses. It was a jour­ney of self-dis­cov­ery that helped me fo­cus on the pos­i­tive and push the neg­a­tive aside to achieve what I wanted to achieve.”

Pro­gram par­tic­i­pants not only learn to ad­vo­cate for them­selves but also for oth­ers, set­ting them on a path of com­mu­nity ad­vo­cacy and in­volve­ment that Re­nee has em­braced.

She con­tin­ues to be one of the long­est serv­ing vol­un­teers with YNH Ser­vices – cur­rently with the Oral His­tory Group and in the role of dis- abil­ity sup­port – and also vol­un­teers to help run day pro­grams with PALS (Pro­vid­ing All Liv­ing Sup­ports).

Re­nee is a mem­ber of the Moira Shire Coun­cil Dis­abil­ity Ad­vi­sory Group, a level one ta­ble ten­nis coach and was cen­tre stage at last year’s Na­tional Day of Dis­abil­ity Con­cert held in Yar­ra­wonga as the MC.

In a full cir­cle jour­ney, she was also a men­tor to par­tic­i­pants in the En­abling Women Lead­er­ship Pro­gram held re­cently in Wan­garatta.

“I had a men­tor dur­ing my pro­gram and we are still very close – we talk at least once a week,” Re­nee said.

“When the pro­gram was get­ting started in Wan­garatta I be­came in­volved and when the op­por­tu­nity came up to be a men­tor I saw it as a chance to give some­thing back that was so good for me.

“It’s re­ally im­por­tant for the women in the pro­gram to have some­one to talk to so they can dis­cuss any is­sues or ask ques­tions. I was happy to be able to do that.”

In­for­ma­tion ses­sions will be held in com­ing weeks for the 2017 En­abling Women Lead­er­ship Pro­gram to be hosted with in the Moira Shire area, run­ning for six weeks from June 29 to Au­gust 3.

Af­ter re­al­is­ing first-hand the ex­tra­or­di­nary ben­e­fit from com­plet­ing the pro­gram, Re­nee had ad­vice for any women con­sid­er­ing get­ting in­volved.

“Just do it,” she said. “I would never have the con­fi­dence to do all of the things I am do­ing now if I had not done the pro­gram.

“I dis­cov­ered who I am, I ac­cepted who I am and I found a way to move for­ward.

“I learned to ride the wave of life and I’m still do­ing it now.”

An in­for­ma­tion ses­sion for the 2017 En­abling Women Lead­er­ship Pro­gram will be held at Yar­ra­wonga Neigh­bour­hood House on Thurs­day, June 8 from 9am to 10am.

To reg­is­ter for the in­for­ma­tion ses­sion, for more in­for­ma­tion, as­sis­tance to ap­ply, or help with trans­port, please con­tact Jane Old­field at Women with Dis­abil­i­ties Vic­to­ria on 9286 7807 or email jane.old­

Re­nee McCarthy has gone from stu­dent to men­tor thanks to the En­abling Women Lead­er­ship Pro­gram and a healthy dose of sheer de­ter­mi­na­tion.

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