07:35am Wednesday 20 November 2019

Friendship through volunteering

Megan and Francesca

Megan Dal-Ben and Francesca Lachman

For third year Bachelor of Occupational Therapy student Megan Dal-Ben, who studies at the Monash University Peninsula campus, volunteering has provided her with life skills and an irreplaceable friendship with 10 year old Francesca Lachman, who has been blind since birth.

“I had been working as a disability support worker for over a year when I realised that there are a lot of barriers that prevent children and their families from obtaining the full support that they usually need.

“By volunteering with Extended Families, I have been able to provide flexible support, and also develop a great friendship with Francesca. It’s been amazing watching her gain confidence and independence over the time we’ve spent together,” Megan said.

Her position with Extended Families is Megan’s first volunteer experience. She was attracted to the organisation because they make the effort to match volunteers with a child that has similar interests, with the aim to provide friendship.

Because of Francesca’s disability, most of her life is spent interacting with adults. Megan, 21, is young enough to be close to Francesca in age but old enough to be sensitive to her needs.

“It’s all about pushing her boundaries. Given that occupational therapy is my background, I help her learn new things and develop skills so she can become more independent. It’s a great experience for me to be able to use the skills I have learnt from university and apply them in a real life situation,” Megan said.

Francesca’s parents are dedicated to improving the quality of life for the blind. They have been the driving forces behind a new specialist school for vision-impaired children that will open next year in Berwick.

Seminars outlining the school’s activities will be held at the Nossal High School, within the grounds of Monash University Berwick campus at 6pm on Saturday 5 November and 10am on Sunday 6 November.

For students interested in volunteering within Monash University, visit their career opportunities site.

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