My name is Andrew, buffalo is my nicknameJune 2, 2021
Andrew Italiano likes to keep busy and thanks to his long-standing involvement with CatholicCare Diocese of Broken Bay’s Disability Futures program that’s no problem. Depending on the day of the week you might find him painting, cooking, working as a barista, sorting fruit and vegetables for the needy, swimming or playing tennis.
Andrew, 48, has an intellectual disability and a mental health diagnosis, and has been a client of CatholicCare for more than 15 years.
When Broken Bay News caught up with him recently, Andrew was completing his first piece of artwork at the Boonah Creative Arts studio – a painting of a buffalo. Boonah is designed to meet the needs of artists with disabilities. Established in 1995, the space also operates as a gallery, which is open to the public. Proceeds go to the artist, recognising their talent and achievement.
Andrew says he chose a buffalo for his first painting because it has a special meaning for him.
“Buffalo is my nickname,” he says. “Because I’m big and tough and I fight for people’s rights, especially for women’s rights.
“That’s why I’m painting a buffalo.”
Through dedicated disability hubs, community and home-based locations across Northern Sydney, Northern Beaches and the Central Coast, CatholicCare provides a comprehensive range of individual and group programs for those living with disability.
Disability Futures supports people to develop the skills and capabilities they need to gain independence and participate in society, providing opportunities for choice, inclusion and achievement at home and in the community.
Andrew attends Disability Futures activities three days a week and is hoping to make it four days soon.
One day a week he sorts and bags fruit and vegetables and helps set up a grocery delivery point for Live Source, an organisation that directs food to people in need. He has recently been appointed as a team leader for that project.
He says he feels good about helping people.
“I do feel good, because I’m a very compassionate person,” he says.
He starts his week by joining friends at Disability Futures for swimming or tennis and on Fridays you can find him behind the coffee counter, whipping up a first-class coffee for people who’ve placed an order for their favourite brew.
“I like doing that very much because I’m very sociable. I like having coffee with people,” he says.
Andrew also takes part in the cooking and photography programs.
“I cook a lot of pasta,” he says. “My family is Italian, that’s why. I can even translate Italian for people who can’t understand it.”
Andrew says one of the main reasons he enjoys his days taking part in the Disability Futures program is the caring staff, including the Activity Leader for Andrew’s group, Natasha.
“I’m absolutely very content,” he says.
“These beautiful people treat me like a king. They’re like family to me. Natasha has got an incredible smile and a heart of gold. They are very protective of me and I introduced CatholicCare to my family and my girlfriend Jess and they all know each other. They’re friends for life.”
He has also made good friends among the other clients and Natasha says he is a much-loved personality around the place.
“Andrew comes from a close-knit and wonderful family and he is so polite, gentle and respectful,” she says.
“He also makes a big contribution. For example, when he’s packing the fruit for Live Sources, he’s a very capable, strong and fit volunteer and his work is very much appreciated.”
For more information about CatholicCare’s supports for those living with disability call 1800 324 924 or visit www.catholiccaredbb.org.au.