Sharon Nicholls clearly remembers the day she decided to change her life.
She was looking after her friend’s son with a disability when the epiphany struck her – she wanted to help people like him.
Opportunities were limited in her hometown of Stanthorpe at the time and higher education seemed out of reach for a country girl raised on her family’s modest farm.
Undeterred, Sharon took matters into her own hands and completed a Certificate III in Disability Support and left behind everything she knew to find work in Toowoomba.
Her first job was as a live-in support worker for people with disabilities working for then HHelp, which is now known as YellowBridge QLD.
That was 20 years ago and Sharon celebrated the anniversary this week with her YellowBridge colleagues who she considers to be more like family than work mates.
“It was the best move I ever made,” Sharon said. “I have never looked back.”
“I always liked helping people but I never imagined turning it into a real career.”
“As a young person growing up on a rural farm, I had very limited aspirations for my future.”
“My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner and have the self-confidence to back myself.”
Sharon spent the first 15 years working as a live-in support worker in YellowBridge’s supported independent living houses.
She formed deep relationships with her clients and their families and dedicated herself to their welfare and care.
“I have learnt so much over the years about how to be a good support worker,” Sharon said.
“You need to listen well and take the time to understand what they want for their own lives and then help them to achieve that.”
“It isn’t about taking control of their lives and dictating what they do. It is about helping them realise and fulfil their own potential and dreams.”
“I am a happy, go-lucky type of person. I like to have a laugh with my clients and it is easy to do when you love your work and the people you support.”
For the past five years, Sharon has worked as a one-on-one support worker, helping her clients with daily living needs, shopping, social outings and learning new skills. She has also acted in Team Leader positions within the YellowBridge disability support program.
After a quick tally in her head, Sharon estimates she has worked closely with about 60 clients over her 20-year career.
“I love seeing the joy on their faces and watching them achieve things they didn’t think they could do,” Sharon said.
“I feel a connection to them because I also didn’t think I could do things, but look at me now?”
“I have been given opportunities to develop myself, take on higher duties and realise that I am capable.”
“Being confident about yourself and your place in the world is a wonderful feeling. I feel honoured to help my clients feel like that too.”