The Oamaru Mail, 19 October 2009
By Randall Johnston
NINETEEN-YEAR-OLD Petra McCleary has gained confidence and a whole new set of skills since starting work at the Lavish Soaps and Trade Aid stores.
Before leaving St Kevin’s College with NCEA Level 3, the young musician was referred to Workbridge.
Workbridge was established in Oamaru five years ago, to help people with disability find suitable employment.
With the help of Oamaru-based employment consultants Sandra Familton and Diedre Dalziel, Petra was able to find work that wouldn’t put her at physical risk.
“When I was 14 I found out I had developed scoliosis which was basically bending my spine into an ‘S’ shape,” she said.
This meant that she had to have several operations to support her vertebrae and according to her mother, has more than $20,000 dollars worth of titanium in her back.
“It means there are lots of physical activities I can’t do. Heavy lifting is out of the question and I get quite tired in the afternoon.”
These limitations have proven mere fodder for the resilient lass, and her involvement in the Elim Church has given her an even greater inner strength.
“We go to church every Sunday and I hang out with the other guys from the youth group quite a bit.”
Once Petra had found part-time jobs at both stores, an assistant was sent to see her at work to assess whether there was anything she needed.
“I was getting a bit sore from standing after awhile, so Workbridge got me this chair that kind of supports me while I’m standing.”
Petra and her family feel lucky to have one of the world’s leading scoliosis experts `just an hour away in Dunedin.
Dr Hodgins has published some of the most highly-regarded papers in the field of spinal abnormalities and is recognised as a top authority on the treatment of scoliosis.
As well as holding down two part-time jobs, Petra plays classical guitar and is currently enrolled in an introduction to art course at Aoraki Polytechnic.
Petra has been part of the workforce for two years now and said she has learnt heaps of things she otherwise would not have.
“Its been good learning the till and Eftpos and that. I used to be quite shy so it’s also been great meeting heaps of cool people and making new friends.”