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Mission Champion Callan

Volunteering at our Preston op shop has helped Callan overcome social anxiety and smash stigmas about people living with autism.

24 August 2020

There’s something about Callan; from his infectious humour and love of sharing a good joke with staff and customers alike, to his heartfelt honesty and empathy for those around him.

The 21-year-old says volunteering at our Preston op shop has helped him overcome social anxiety, as well as smash any stigmas he has experienced from other people while living with autism.

“I like engaging with customers and volunteering has helped me build my social skills,” Callan says.

“Before, when I started, I had bad social anxiety which I still kind of get to a lesser extent and I’m also on the spectrum as well but volunteering has helped me to engage with more people.

“I love silly humour which is not offensive, like the Mighty Boosh, and enjoy making jokes with customers to try to start a conversation with them and see where it leads.”

Callan initially visited the op shop to complete 10 hours of community service, as part of his university assessment for his childhood education studies - but he never left. He says volunteering has helped build his confidence and be comfortable in his own skin.

“It has made a very big difference in the past year and in my job as well - I really find I’m in my groove and socialising when I’m volunteering,” Callan says.

“For me, I think, a lot of people who I’ve volunteered with, they have had it rough in their own ways, their own struggles and everyone kind of gets each other, on the same wavelength, which I haven’t had before; they’ve been very welcoming to me.” 

The feeling is mutual amongst his colleagues, who also reflect Callan is part of the tribe at the Mission; adding they enjoy his exuberance.

“We love Callan’s ‘on point’ banter, great sense of fun and values he brings to our shop,” Jacob Miller, Preston Store Coordinator says.

”He has no hesitation in mentoring other volunteers or coming in to do additional hours if needed; he has top customer service.”

Callan, who also works at a gym providing sensory friendly activities to kids, says people ‘don’t need to understand autism’.

“You need to understand the person you’re talking to,” he says.

“Labels shouldn’t be what defines a person; about whether they’re verbal or non-verbal. Learn about people with autism, what their needs are and how to accommodate them – get to know someone with autism and ask questions about how to help and support.

“Everyone, no matter what their background, deserves respect.”

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Sacred Heart Mission acknowledges the traditional Aboriginal owners of country throughout Victoria and pays respects to them, their culture and their elders past, present and emerging.

Sacred Heart Mission has always aimed to be a place that embraces a sexuality and gender diverse community; everyone is welcome at our table and we believe a diverse community is good for everyone.
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