Hi. My name’s Andrew and I’m the Senior Activities Officer at Royal Far West.
What’s your role at Royal Far West?
My most important role here is making the kids happy, and treating the client families like they are members of my own family.
We prepare for each family before they arrive, starting with a handover discussion every Sunday. We also write daily reports, which could include noticeable achievements such as becoming more confident, or possible challenges on excursions. We share these with our health and school teams, ensuring we all give the best possible support for each child.
How do you do this?
The children start their week on a Monday. During the daytime they are with RFW clinicians or at the RFW Department of Education School. Once school finishes it’s time for the recreational activities. That’s where my team to take charge!
Each week we plan a full itinerary for the RFW kids and their siblings. The aim is to give them as many experiences as we can, keeping in mind their different ages and skill sets.
The Kindy kids range from 3-6, Juniors are 7-9 and the Senior kids are 10-17 years of age.
Our first rec activity is generally from 3.30–5pm, then we break while the kids have dinner with their parents and carers. Then we regroup for a 6.30-8pm activity from Monday to Thursday.
Activities are generally held at Manly (karaoke, yoga, dancing, pool, table tennis, air hockey, Nintendo, playing at the beach) and gardening and cooking using some of the produce from our rooftop garden.
Wednesday is family night, where the parents and carers join us for Bingo, Scattergories and Dutch Auction, where families construct items such as monsters from various bits and pieces.
We also do external activities, including the Harbour Bridge walk, ferry trip across the Harbour, Castle Walk, bike riding, Sydney city lights drive, 10-pin bowling, the Swamp Walk, where we look for bandicoots and bush turkeys at North Head, and the kids’ favourite, indoor rock climbing! We’re so lucky to have friends like My Fast Ferry, who give the kids free rides across the harbour, and many more give us very generous discounts, which helps to stretch our recreation activity budget.
What do you love about your job?
Giving back to country kids. When they first arrive here, many are very shy and unsure of themselves, and of what to expect. Everyone at RFW works very hard to make the kids and parents feel safe and secure, and generally by about day three most will be more settled. (I worked out early on that you need a lot of patience to do this job!)
I just love it when the kids start to feel confident, and muster up the courage to come up to me and say ‘hello’. It’s also lovely when kids are here on return visits and bound up to me with a big smile, saying ‘hi Andrew’.
I still get blown away by the number of kids who have never seen the beach! I never tire of hearing these kids’ stories. Some have never experienced rain, crowds of people, or lots of shops. Recently we were all on the bus one night when one of the young girls, who lives in a very small and isolated community, started screaming. She was overwhelmed by the traffic lights, and the shop and house lights, which were coming near her too fast and too close for her liking. The life experiences of so many of these kids is very different to those of city kids.
Why did you want to work at Royal Far West?
A few years ago, I was looking for a change of career. I’ve always loved being around my nephews and nieces, and when a part-time role in RFW’s Rec team became available, my wife encouraged me to apply. I was thrilled when I got the job! It was very funny to see my new work mates’ faces when they realised that Marissa, who has been working at RFW for 25 years, is my wife! I was offered the full-time role of Senior Activities Officer after a year and I’ve never been happier.
Visiting us soon? Take a look at Time Out’s 21 awesome things to do in Manly