Building bridges, breaking barriers
A friend in need prompted a life rethink for Stephen Fortune.
I want to remove barriers for people who need support. That’s the driving force for me.
Stephen Fortune chose Social Services as a career after experiencing a difficult situation within his group of friends.
One of our friends was having a hard time,” he recalls. “None of us was prepared for that experience, and none of us knew what to do. This prompted me to want to study something in social services.”
Stephen has always been drawn to the idea of a career that makes a positive impact on society, rather than being driven by financial reward.
“The Certificate was really interesting, but at the end of my studies, I felt I could make more of a difference in Disability Services,” he says. “As a highly pragmatic person, that was appealing to me.”
Stephen enrolled in a Diploma of Social Services specialising in Disability Services, and it proved to be a positive decision.
In his second year placement, Stephen worked at Enabling Love, a Dunedin organisation that brings people with disabilities together for romance and friendship. Its founder and chief executive, Josh Perry, has cerebral palsy.
“Josh needed a reader-writer to work alongside him after he launched Enabling Love,” Stephen explains. “My role was to make his job easier by taking care of the tasks that could slow him down. For example, writing an email – Josh can do this, it just takes him longer than it takes me.”
Since then, Stephen’s been involved in organising a number of Enabling Love events, including speed dating, movie nights and sports nights.
“A couple who met at our very first event are still together now,” Stephen says with a smile.
The work placement led to a permanent job with Enabling Love, a position funded jointly by the Community Care Trust and Josh Perry.
His next major task is to partner with the School of IT at Otago Polytechnic to develop an accessible app for Enabling Love.
“It will be designed for people with a wide range of disabilities, with features such as high contrast screens and simple navigation,” he says.
Ultimately, Stephen’s interested in working in government to improve processes by which people can seek systemic change.
“I want to remove barriers for people who need support,” he says. “That’s the driving force for me.”
Are you a compassionate, open minded and optimistic person? Do you value manaaki, whanaungatanga and partnership? Aligned with local and industry needs and national strategies, this programme will provide you with the practical knowledge and skills you need for support work in social service, disability or mental health and addiction settings. You will choose to specialise in Community Facilitation, Mental Health and Addiction, or Social Services. Our graduates have a high employment rate and many are offered work during or after their fieldwork placements in the second semester.
Want to help people and their whānau improve their quality of life? Our industry-relevant programme will prepare you to enter the social service sector as a counsellor, career practitioner, or to offer holistic services in the health and wellbeing sector such as mental health support.