Community Spotlight – Meraki Disability Services
This month we caught up with NRL Forward for the Parramatta Eels, Ryan Matterson about his off-field passions for helping the disability community, and a passion he has turned into a business.
Q1. Ryan, you have been heavily involved in the disability community over the past few years, can you share your experiences of volunteering?
I have been an ambassador for Heroes With Ability for 4 years now. It is something that has played a major role in shaping me into the person I am today. This sparked my passion for helping families within the disability community, which led to my brother Dean and I, launching our own disability support service.
Q2. How did your volunteering work lead you to creating your own support business?
Working with Heroes With Ability and the NRL as a community ambassador has allowed me to express my love for helping the community. However, my brother Dean has worked at Giant Steps, a school for children with autism for about 5 years now. Seeing Dean bring joy and smiles to the students faces, and also their families made me realise more people deserve to have a support service they can rely on and wholeheartedly trust.
Q3. Tell us about Meraki Disability Services and the services it offers.
Meraki Disability is a support service in which we have launched to not only provide quality care for our clients but to relieve the stress and ease some of the responsibility for the families, knowing their loved ones are in great care. We are currently working with self and planned managed clients, which we support through day programs on weekdays and weekends. During the holiday periods we still offer day programs but also arrange retreats to get away and have some fun.
Q4. Is there meaning behind the business name “Meraki”?
We stumbled upon the word “Meraki” when we were told from a Greek friend that 'we care for people with meraki'. At the time we thought it was a miss pronunciation, however went home to later google the meaning and the word meant “when you leave a piece of yourself, your soul, creativity, and love in what you do”. That is exactly how we live our lives and a motto we live by.
Q5. What are your aspirations for Meraki Disability Support?
Our aspirations are very clear and simple, we want to strive to enhance the lives of as many clients and their families as possible. While maintaining a high level of support we attempt to provide individualised care to our unique clients. With each client we can help build skills to develop confidence and gain independence, while having as much fun in the community.
Q6. In your opinion, what makes a great support worker and what qualities do you look for in your employees?
We believe a great support worker must work with a sense of “Meraki”. They are passionate about making a difference in the community, as they are reliable, trustworthy, respectful and patient. Knowing the value of communication is vital, while understanding when to positively support the client or assist them while promoting independence in the right situations. All in all, the relationship between the support worker and the client and families is paramount to providing the best care.
Q7. What has been the most rewarding aspect of supporting your clients?
The biggest rewards are definitely the ones most people take for granted. I still remember the day one of our amazing nonverbal clients ordered his first meal using his personal communication device, the smile on his face will stay with me forever. Another moment I was left speechless was when one of the families we work with told us their child has been using the road safety tips we had taught him when crossing the road. Assisting with the development of tools to live an independent life means the world to us.
Q8. You are hiring for several positions at the moment. What roles do you have and how can people apply?
The Meraki family is slowly growing every day and we appreciate all the love and support we receive from all the families. We are currently looking to extend the family to more clients and to hire more support staff committed to the “Meraki” way of life. You can find us on Facebook @Meraki.Disability and Instagram @Meraki_Disability or you can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Q9. You're a busy guy with being a professional NRL player, volunteering, and creating a disability support business, what do you do in your spare time?
It does get a little busy but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m currently looking to further my knowledge in psychology, starting a course in the new year. My brother and I are best mates and when we aren’t lacing up the boots or trying to make a difference in the community, we are very family orientated. Normally you would find us around the dinner table sharing a meal with mum and dad. When all the food is gone you would find us enjoying the beach or in church.
Q10. I have to ask, any hot tips for the NRL season 2022?
It has been a long time but I'm getting the feeling it’s the year of the Eel haha