Ben Richards, like many CFA members, has joined Mooroopna Fire Station in the hopes of building relationships and learning new skills. The 28 year old also has Down syndrome.
Ben has been a part of Mooroopna Fire Brigade officially since August.
In late 2018 Ben set a goal with his family to volunteer with the CFA to allow him to contribute and be more involved in his community.
“It’s always been a bit of a dream for Ben. He loves emergency services and was the first to suggest he volunteer for the fire brigade,” Ben’s sister Vanessa Richards said.
In July Ben started going to regular Monday night meetings at Mooroopna Fire Brigade.
“He was so engaged,” Vanessa said. “He loves being involved and valued, being a part of the community.”
In the first few weeks Ben participated in a training exercise, enjoying wearing his Personal Protective Clothing (PPC) and holding and squirting a fire hose.
In August Ben was voted in unanimously as a member of Mooroopna and has been attending training and meetings independently since.
“For training I have learnt to put the hoses out and roll them up,” Ben said.
“I can turn the pressure on, I squirt some water first, then we put the fire out. It’s pretty cool - and lots of fun!”
Ben’s mother Franscesca has seen such positive changes in Ben and says he looks forward to the meetings and training every Monday night.
“He enjoys taking part in all the activities and they’ve included him in everything,” Francesca said.
“I’m so impressed how they’ve welcomed him, provided him with all the gear and one of the members picks him up each week for training.”
Steven Johnson, Captain of Mooroopna Fire Brigade, has supported Ben and liaised with his family throughout the process.
“He walks into the room and it lights up,” Steve said. “Everyone is a bit closer and happier when he’s around.”
“It’s boosted morale within the brigade,” Steve said. “Everyone is pitching in and helps Ben at meetings and training."
"He’s done an entrapment drill, squirted hoses, and been through the same process as every other member in order to take part. He hasn’t missed a training.”
Vanessa explained how the brigade send photo updates, so Ben’s family can see how he contributes.
“They’re like a real family at Mooroopna CFA and it’s made a huge difference to the whole experience,” Vanessa said. “They’re warm, friendly and welcoming, always so positive - they’ve really taken him in, and he loves every minute.”
“He walks into the room and it lights up. Everyone is a bit closer and happier when he’s around.”
October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month
Down Syndrome affects around 270 Australian babies each year; however, it doesn’t determine development. Everyone with Down syndrome is unique, with their own talents, abilities, thoughts and interests. For more information on Down syndrome, have a look on the Down Syndrome Australia website.
Click here to find out about education and employment, and download resources.
If you’re a member, and you’d like to find out more about CFA’s Inclusion and Fairness, including the Action Plan, see the Intranet here.
Author: Daisy Cleland