Companion Story - Angela Ballinger

 

Name: Angela Ballinger

Role description:  Learning Support Officer, running Seasons for Growth, along with our Chaplain, Nat Finn, for 12-16 year olds.

State: NSW

Year first trained in Seasons for Growth: November, 2003

Why did you decide to train in Seasons for Growth Throughout my history of community involvement I have found this program to be beneficial. When I started working in the high school there was a definite need to run Seasons for Growth, not only for obvious loss and grief, but also for grief associated with loss of identity, family separation, siblings and extended families and so on.

How many groups have you Companioned?  I have Companioned at least 4.

Are there any highlights of Companioning that you would like to share?  Have you any special stories about Seasons for Growth groups or program participants you would like to share? The highlights for us have been that we value and respect our students. We also share biographies and pictures of Bethany Hamilton, Oprah Winfrey, Mick Vujic, and so on,  to show the challenges people have and how they manage to overcome and inspire. We do feel the group dynamics are important, so we consider who we put together in our groups. We work closely with our students and catch up regularly. At the end of the group we buy a small gift, a tree of  life key ring  with coloured stones, to give to each participant, along with a card filled with inspirational words that relate to them personally. We also get the students to write the qualities that they see in each other, in another card, and give these to each student to keep. Our students have an understanding of loss and grief on a mature level and are happy to engage in the group. Our favourite thing is that we get to take our students to the beach for a morning tea and hand out certificates, which makes them feel special, and ends our Seasons for Growth group in a natural setting, reinforcing their connection with nature, the natural world and the metaphor of the seasons.

Do you have any advice for other Companions? Our advice would be to build a relationship with the students before they participate in the group, as this builds trust and works well for us.

What has been your biggest personal or professional learning from being involved with Seasaons for Growth?  The maturity, compassion and understanding that everyone is unique and no two stories are the same and our students are very appreciative of the support. 

Finally, what part of the program do you treasure or enjoy most and why?  The fact that the program is connected with the seasons; we use pictures when talking about each season and the connection with nature gives an easy, reflective understanding by showing changes in colours and  physical changes. 

* This photo was taken on our celebration day.