Wesley Mission Queensland’s ORCA Project has come a long way since it first started in late February 2018 out of Albany Creek Uniting Church. Originally created with the purpose of helping young people with disabilities enter the workforce, the ORCA (opportunities, readiness, community and abilities) Project has evolved from its humble beginnings into a platform of innovation and entrepreneurism. Stephanie Brown reports.
Journey last checked in with Rev Alison Cox—Wesley Mission Queensland’s Project Officer, Disability and Inclusion—last year when the project first started. Since then, her vision for the program and experience has developed into something much bigger.
“I thought I was going to start up a café initially,” says Alison. “I then realised that this was only creating another mould that young people with a disability would need to fit rather than finding out who they really were themselves and the stuff that they were interested in.
“ORCA allows people to be themselves and to help them to grow in their confidence and capacity, while developing skills that can be applied across a number of jobs, but in the process find out what they want to do and where they want to work.”
“Albany Creek Uniting Church has played a crucial role in the start-up of the ORCA Project. The church’s part in the program has been to support the development of small social enterprises/businesses that provide meaningful work for young people,” says Alison.
Ethical Groceries Group is one of the microbusinesses that the ORCA Project has developed to provide their participants with real world work experience. Ethical Groceries Group sources locally and ethically grown fruit, vegetables and groceries. They then pack the ordered items together for delivery or pick up on Wednesdays from Albany Creek Uniting Church or Wesley Mission Queensland Wheller Gardens, Chermside.
“Ethical Groceries Group has been a wonderful starting point for our participants. They’ve learnt core work skills through this microbusiness and the full customer service experience,” says Alison.
“Our connections with the church have assisted in getting ORCA participants either employment or work experience.
“The congregation has helped ORCA participant, Jordan, to secure an employment position at GHD in Brisbane city. Another participant is assisting educators at Aspley Early Childhood Education Centre, which is operated by Aspley Uniting Church.”
During March the ORCA Project held their first celebration to showcase the participants’ wonderful work, experiences and achievements. More than 250 people attended the celebration at Albany Creek Uniting Church, including family and friends, business owners, local community members, work experience hosts and local parliamentarians.
“ORCA has been an incredible journey of growth since we first started. There were seven young people who enrolled in the first session and now we have 27. We are continuing to grow and look forward to nurturing these young people into their working life.”