Peas in a Pod: Sense support worker, Graham, uses his own interests to build a deep connection with Tony

On the left is a man we support (Tony) and on the right is Graham. Both are smiling towards the camera. Standing outside a front door.

Graham is an enthusiastic and passionate member of staff at Sense TouchBase South East, a Sense day opportunity for people with complex disabilities based in Barnet. He is also a support worker for the Sense Intervenor Service which supports people who are congenitally deafblind to access the world around them. He has been with the organisation for less than 18 months and, in that time, has developed a strong connection with the people he supports while incorporating his own hobbies and interests in the role.

Originally from Australia, Graham came to the UK in 2005 for what was initially a short term visit but ‘as you get entrenched in London life, you end up becoming part of London and the next thing you know, it is 13 years later’. While in London, Graham spent most of his time working in music retail due to his deep love for music. However, coming to a new country can be lonely and isolating and so, after a while, Graham decided it was time for a change.

His first role after leaving the music industry was working with young men with autism. While this was very satisfying, Graham was feeling burned out and needed a change. This was when he discovered Sense. After success at the interview stage, management immediately saw Graham’s passion for his work. Graham started off right away incorporating his hobbies into his work by teaching drums and setting up big sensory music sessions.

2 men sat in a coffee shop. Graham is on the left and smiling, Tony is on the right and holding a coffee cup and smiling.

Roughly around the same time, Tony cautiously started his first day at TouchBase South East. Tony has learning difficulties, limited hearing and no useful vision, making new environments quite daunting. He had spent a lot of his life in a traditional day centre, isolated with little or no interaction with other people and often spending his days asleep. Due to government funding cuts, the activities he enjoyed most – braille and cooking – were stopped. The family decided that it would be best for him to leave the centre and be at home. Tony was at home for over ten years with no access to services and entirely dependent on his family.

Perhaps not surprisingly, these past experiences showed themselves as a shy, withdrawn Tony; a Tony that is barely recognisable today.

Thankfully, Graham was there to welcome Tony to TouchBase South East and put his concerns to rest. So much so, that on Tony’s second day, Graham took him rock climbing.

Graham had never supported anyone to do such an adventurous and potentially dangerous activity. Neither did Graham know about Tony’s childhood love of climbing trees when Tony still had his vision. Tony, reliving his childhood and Graham being prepared to manage, rather than avoid, the risks, had a profound impact on them both. Since then, the two have worked closely together with Graham supporting Tony in the community an extra day a week as part of the Sense Intervenor service.

2 men walking outside a residential area. On the left is Tony who is being supported when walking by Graham on the right. They are wearing warm clothes.

When speaking to Graham, he was very clear that it was the people around him that made Sense such a special place to work for. Both the people that are being supported and everyone else connected to Sense. His past and present experiences (especially his work with Tony) have helped shape him and the way he works with others. Graham embraces risk as part of life, and positively challenges others to do the same, qualities that are so important at Sense. Working together has benefited both immeasurably. Tony is more confident, talkative and adventurous, while Graham has developed and nurtured his unique approach to care. Tony has learned to trust Graham as Graham has learned to support Tony to live life to the full. After a year of working together, the difference is astounding. One thing is clear when talking to them together; their journey is far from over.

For more information about working at Sense and to see our current vacancies.

One thought on “Peas in a Pod: Sense support worker, Graham, uses his own interests to build a deep connection with Tony”

  1. wow, such a great and uplifting story – I had the pleasure to work with a Sense group, while I was working at Stubbers Activity Centre back in 2009; where I was privilidged with leading a (one!) climbing session, which left a lasting beutiful memory in me: I rarely had such a great group in my shprt, seasonal stint.
    You go, Graham and Tony! You are awesome!

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