Author Archives: Co.As.It.Community Services

Renata and Emily: a true example of progress

NDIS client with Co.As.It. Support Care Worker

Progress is usually defined as “development towards an improved or more advanced condition.” In other words, it would be the equivalent of what Renata Oparah and Emily White have been building together.

When Emily walked through Co.As.It.’s door for the first time, she didn’t know what to expect – that introverted behaviour had pushed her away from basic aspects of life, such as eating out and making new friends or having pets.

It was a relatively new world when Renata, a Support Care Worker with Co.As.It., crossed Emily’s path, and things began to change. As time passed, Emily started to relax and gain the confidence to embrace new experiences towards a renewed life – which involved engaging with people in conversations and patting animals.

A whole approach was put into practice encouraging Emily to explore the vast surroundings around her without fearing the unknown. In every single nook and cranny: on her games, Japanese animes, mangas and tons of books.

“Before meeting Renata, my life was a bit boring. I didn’t want to go anywhere. After meeting her, everything changed. I want to explore so much now,” says Emily.

Animals are essential to Emily’s development, as she loves to snuggle up with her two Labradoodles and visit her favourite horse – “Courage” on the weekends.

The friendship and commitment established between Renata and Emily have proportionated countless fruits for both.

“My work with Emily is a reflection on what I give and how we can break down barriers for disabilities and how by doing that, someone else can thrive,” explains an emotional Renata.

One of the secrets of such progress is the communication kept with Emily’s family and herself.

“It’s collecting the information on what they want for Emily in the future. And Emily has input into this when we discuss it. She’s actively involved in her care, where she wants to go, and why. We must remember that through all things and respect her right to choose,” finishes Renata.

Clive Brazier: the puzzle man

QCSS Provider - Co.As.It.

Deciphering Clive Brazier’s stunning concentration and perfectionism in building gigantic and arduous puzzles is much more complex than putting hundreds of pieces together in a short time.

Clive (51) has been a QCSS (Queensland Community Support Scheme) client with Co.As.It. for about one year. A remarkable man shrouded by hundreds of puzzles: on the walls, on the coffee tables in the living room, on the fridge and stashed in several boxes in two large cabinets.

He started this hobby as a child – in fact, Clive still keeps his old “Summer Haven – 1200 pieces puzzle” given as a gift when he turned five years old.

As he says, there is a sense of accomplishment every time Clive assembles a new game – around eight per year. He currently works on a 9000 pieces-puzzle: a ship facing a dreadful storm in the ocean, forecasted to be finished in eight to ten months.

“This is the longest puzzle I have ever built. Usually, I do puzzles containing 6000 pieces, which takes me 45 to 50 days to complete,” says Clive.

“Puzzles with fewer colours are the most difficult ones to be built. This happens because most pieces look the same, and there is no colour pattern to follow, not a point of reference like the one I’m building now, for example.”

What Clive definitely expects is to celebrate Christmas and admire his newest masterpiece: the 9000 pieces-puzzle.

Giuseppe Vitale: blowing out 100 birthday candles

Coasit Aged Care Services in Brisbane

Giuseppe Vitale turned 100 in grand style, surrounded by friends and family in one of his fondest places: Casa Serena. The Social Group Activities Centre was beautifully adorned in his honour – a mix of balloons, video slides, music, lively guests and a memorable gigantic cake. Amid laughter and photos, the “birthday boy” still found time to jig to one of his favourite songs: the chicken dance.

Giuseppe’s relationship with Co.As.It. started in 2018: it was a timid beginning where he used to enjoy solitude, sitting on a chair next to the entrance door at Casa Serena. Tough times as he sadly had just lost his loving partner.

Yet, five years later, he looks rejuvenated – or, as Grace Pennisi, SGA Coordinator, likes to say: a true Benjamin Button. Giuseppe’s energy is contagious – the Sicilian centenarian who arrived in Australia in 1937 loves singing and dancing. Such passion stems from his vivacious earlier days in the community – when people would get married, Giuseppe with a couple of his friends would serenade under their windows.

Giuseppe’s list of passions also includes pasta and chocolate. “He doesn’t look like a big man but always eats,” says one of his daughters.

In the wake of his birthday, Giuseppe has recently received special letters from authorities: King Charles, Anthony Albanese (Prime Minister of Australia), Annastacia Palaszczuk (Premier of Queensland) and Pope Francis.

We wish Giuseppe our congratulations in reaching such an important milestone,

Auguri from Co.As.It.

Celebrating Jelica Zlatkavic’s 100th birthday

Coasit Aged Care Services in Brisbane

Celebrating Jelica Zlatkavic’s 100th birthday without citing her passion for people wouldn’t be living up to her real story.

Born in Serbia, former Yugoslavia, Jelica landed on Australian soil in 1971, ready to embrace a new and unknown life far from her traditional habits. Her relaxed way – never too stressed – and proneness to consume homemade food is believed to be her magical formula for longevity.

“She used to have a garden and harvest her own veggies. Natural food is important for her, and I can confirm that she has never been on a diet,” says her daughter, Mary.

“My mom is an easy-going person. She loves good company and having food on the table when she receives a visit. Despite the language barrier, she has become friends with an Italian neighbour, and they always have lunch and morning tea together.”

Jelica is an enthusiast of the benefits and magnificence of outdoor life – she still goes shopping whenever she can. Her grandkids also play an essential role in taking her out and about for a sweet cappuccino with crispy chips. So it is a big family, loving and supporting the lovely centenarian: three children, six grandchildren and seven great-great-children.

Such a remarkable life experience, she has recently been awarded special letters from King Charles, Anthony Albanese (Prime Minister of Australia) and Annastacia Palaszczuk (Premier of Queensland).

It has been 15 years since Jelica started receiving assistance from Co.As.It. Community Services.

Aoife O’Donoghue: an inspiration to all

NDIS at Amici House

Aoife O’Donoghue is a familiar face at Amici House, where she fills the place with her enthusiastic smile and artistic talent. Amid impressive brush strokes in the NDIS Art Class, the 26-year-old girl has discovered herself as an athlete.

Part of the Special Olympics Moreton North Team, Aoife competes in swimming and bowling. She reigns in the pools, confident enough to say, “when the modality is backstroke, I enter a competition to win.” It will not take long until her freestyle reaches the same level.

“I’m training three times a week, and I’m getting better,” she proudly reveals ahead of an important interstate tournament on May 28 – her sixth swimming competition since she started with the team at the beginning of 2022. Questioned on how she handles the pressure before jumping into the pool, Aoife attributes her success to breathing exercises.

In parallel, in the wake of promising results in the pool, Aoife decided six months ago to have a go at her bowling skills. Friday has now become her sacred day to pull a few pins down for the team.

“My week is really busy with my practice at Moreton North and art class at Amici House. So I have only the weekends to rest now,” explains Aoife, who also volunteers at the Sandbag Community Centre.

Aoife is supported by the Co.As.It NDIS Team, including community care workers, a support coordinator, an art teacher and a podiatrist, on her quest to achieve her goals.

“It’s rewarding to be part of Aoife’s journey as she continues to build her capacity and blow us away,” says Paola Matute, NDIS Coordinator at Co.As.It.

Next time you open the sports section of a newspaper or watch the news, don’t be surprised if you come across Aoife’s image holding medals and a trophy.

Angiolina and Gaetana: celebrating 100 years old in 2023

Coasit Aged Care Services in Brisbane

It was in 1923 that women’s one-piece swimsuits began to be worn. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Lon Chaney, was released, and Warner Brothers was established. Most importantly, that year marked the birth of Angiolina Cupo and Gaetana Zumbo, two centenarians that are part of the Co.As.It. family.

Gaetana turned 100 on February 9, while Angiolina blew out her candles on March 17. Both clients, were effusively celebrated recently by the Co.As.It. team. Initially, Gaetana’s family moved from Italy to Argentina. It was years later when Australia became her home where she started working as a dressmaker. She has one son, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Angiolina’s story also begins in Italy – her family left their beloved country in 1955 looking for a better life in Australia. They opened a fish and chips shop and worked hard to provide for their young family. Angiolina has five children, 15 grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren.

The lovely ladies confided to one of our coordinators the secret of their longevity. They said they were blessed to reach this age: one day at a time without worrying, always boasting a smile and not forgetting that “having loved ones around us is one strength that keeps us going.”

We are blessed to have Angiolina Cupo and Gaetana Zumbo in our lives! Happy Birthday!

HCP client has his house improved

HCP provider in Brisbane

Simple actions can remove barriers and rapidly change lives. Imagine how frustrating it is not to feel safe whilst entering your own home.

Our client; Llew, faced difficulty accessing his home via the back patio. He brought the matter to the attention of his Home Care Package (HCP) Coordinator and as a result, a referral was swiftly forwarded to our in-house Allied Health Team for the Occupational Therapist to visit Llew and assess his needs.

After the visit, the OT recommended custom-made steps and handrails installed in the patio area, facilitating Llew’s access to his house. A new handrail positioned along the front door ramp was also organised.

“My client Llew is on a Level 1 Home Care Package, and he was able to accumulate his HCP funds to pay for the Occupational Therapist, assessment and equipment,” Care Services Coordinator Kris Clark said.

“Llew told me he is very pleased with the equipment, which provided him with security and making him feel safe. He is now more confident with his mobility and he is reassured that at anytime his needs change that he can approach the Co.As.It. staff.”

A day to be remembered: International Women’s Day 2023

International Women's Day Co.As.It. 2023

Co.As.It. brought a vibrant community together on Saturday (11) in a memorable event to celebrate International Women’s Day 2023 under the flag “Embrace Equity”.

In a journey specially prepared through the colours of the Mediterranean, VIPs, guests, and staff at the Greek Club honoured the advances and the crucial work carried out by women in the community services industry.

Kim Skubris entertained the guests over five hours of celebration, networking, and friendship, accompanied by a sumptuous brunch and fashion parade by Laura Churchill (Brisbane Fashion Month).

Guests’ kind-heartedness outpoured as raffles were quickly sold – with proceeds going towards Co.As.It.’s Dementia Support & Mind Wellness Program. Winners were gifted with wines, store vouchers and hampers, among other prizes.

In a touching speech, Brisbane’s Lady Mayoress, Nina Schrinner, singled out the importance of organisations such as Co.As.It.

“We cannot underestimate the importance of organisations like Co.As.It. as they will come in [to support the community]. They are the white knight coming over the hill to help,” Lady Mayoress said.

“Dementia is the number one killer of women in Australia, while isolation is one of the most significant contributing factors to that. I’m talking about serious life-changing issues related to this. You watch your relative being perfectly fine physically before you, but their mind has gone. We need the support of those specialised organisations.”

In 2022, it was estimated that 401,300 Australians were living with dementia, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures.

Minister for Education, Minister for Industrial Relations and Minister for Racing, Hon Grace Grace, reinforced the necessity of embracing equity and praised the work conducted by Co.As.It.

“We need to continue to embrace equity to be sure women and men have an equitable challenge in life and the ability to grow,” the Minister said.

“Co.As.It. does such a fantastic job, and I don’t think there is one person in this room who hasn’t either directly benefited from Co.As.It. or indirectly seen the benefits for someone they know – when we think about our Mammas, Nonnas – what a great organisation to look after them.”

Cr Vicki Howard, Central Ward’s first female Councillor elected in 2012, affirmed that Co.As.It. stands for the ability to connect people through their language.

“The organisation has the ability to help people in their own language. This is just so important. More than 30% of our people within Brisbane come from countries other than Australia. So we have organisations such as Co.As.It. that bring people together and are always there to support them,” Cr Vicki said.

Through a recorded video, the Consul of Italy in Brisbane, Luna Angelini Marinucci, regretted not being able to participate in the event but emphasised the strength of women in the 21st century and the importance of the work done by Co.As.It. within the community.

Dina Ranieri, CEO of Co.As.It. highlighted that the organisation has organised International Women’s Day for about 14 years as an opportunity to celebrate the excellent female staff and all volunteers.

“As we are an organisation that looks after the elderly and those with a disability, we attract a lot of females because they are the ones that have that caring nature. With over 400 staff and more than 85% women, it makes us realise we are a force not to be taken lightly.”

“Today, we celebrate women’s incredible achievements and renew our commitment to gender equality. We remember the sacrifices our past strong and determined women made to ensure we would be treated equally and not be put aside and forgotten.”

Casa Serena and Ruth Allison: a love story

Casa Serena Co.As.It.

Sixteen years ago, Ruth Allison began her journey as a volunteer at Casa Serena. After decades of teaching, it was time to step aside from the school and dive into a new world: Community Services.

Ruth stumbled upon Community Services due to her willingness to practice Italian and serve the local community. “I used to teach high school. When I retired, I didn’t know what to do next. I was only sure that I wanted to speak in Italian and have contact with our community,” she says.

“Days later, I saw Co.As.It’s advertisement asking for volunteers able to speak Italian. It was love at first sight”.

Last December, for one last time, Ruth supported and spread love to each of her unforgettable clients (friends, as she calls them). Friendship, as she emphatically says, is what will be kept from these almost two decades at Casa Serena.

“There are lots of pictures of birthdays, parties and Christmas. There are also those special moments of happiness and tears that I will always carry on me.”

Ruth recalls that her first interactions with clients at Casa Serena were strictly in Italian, as most of them couldn’t speak English. Among her initial tasks was assisting clients in contacting the local parish, teaching English and even helping a romantic client find a bride.

“My experience as a volunteer was great. I recommend to anyone interested in serving the community talk to Co.As.It. My time at Casa Serena was amazing, and people have always been nice to me in a very welcoming way.”

Now, it is time for Ruth to look after herself and enjoy her retirement – and, for sure, become a periodic visitor to our “Community Centre of Friends”.

Meet Paul and Desley: our dynamic duo

Paul and Desley at Co.As.It.

Desley Anthony (72) and Paul Anthony (86) are the accurate representation of the term ‘dynamic duo’.

The couple has been attending all activities offered at the Amici House – a Community Hub part of Co.As.It Community Services – a charitable organisation with a heritage of helping the multicultural community for over 40 years.

Since last year, both partners have been attending exercises, Latin dance, art, technology classes, and the woman’s group (for Desley).

“The classes are very helpful in keeping us active. It is all easy and fun. Not to mention that I have learned so many things in the technology classes,” said Paul.

“We love to do the exercises, but our favourite class is Latin dancing. We just love that. We’re not terribly good at it, but it makes us happy and active,” Desley says.

A consistent social life like the ones of Desley and Anthony has been proven to offer many health advantages, such as less risk of depression and a longer life span.

The Australian Loneliness Report has pointed out that higher levels of loneliness are associated with more elevated levels of social interaction anxiety, less social interaction, poorer psychological well-being, and inferior quality of life.

Chiara Dal Sasso, counsellor of the Mind Wellness Team at Co.As.It., says that ageing is usually accompanied by fears or never-explored traumas from the past.

“There is the fear of the end of life. You look behind and think about what you have done or if you have done enough, and if something should have gone differently,” Chiara says.

“In addition, traumas reflecting past times might emerge, such as witnessing domestic violence, alcohol abuse and war. They might appear again if these traumatic situations have been hidden over the years and never tackled.”

The fact is that our mental health shifts in multiple ways as we age, and staying active and socialising are powerful medicines against any deterioration in life quality.

At Amici House, seniors and community members will find activities and services such as yoga classes, art classes, women’s groups, technology classes, Latin dancing, NDIS art classes and health services (podiatry and physiotherapy).