OT alumnus nominated for Western Australian of the Year
Curtin occupational therapy alumnus, Nicholas Maisey, was nominated as a finalist in the Western Australian of the Year Awards for a socially innovative project he founded.
Mr Maisey was nominated for the Youth Award, which recognises ‘excellence in commitment to citizenship, mentoring, leadership and artistic pursuits resulting in a positive impact on the lives of others at a state, national or international level’.
In 2010, when Mr Maisey was in the final year of his OT degree, he identified the importance of human connection as a basic determinant of health and happiness. He then founded Perth-based social enterprise Befriend Inc. to effect change towards an inclusive and connected world.
“When I was an OT student in my third year, a young man emailed the OT school seeking friendship. His simple, honest words resonated with me, so I went and met him, got to know him and began to understand how difficult it can be to get connected. I realised that it is the people that we share life with that give us so much meaning and joy, but that we can all struggle to attain that in our lives, at different times, for different reasons. We underestimate its importance, yet the evidence shows us connectedness is the key to living long, happy, healthy lives,” Mr Maisey said.
“I started Befriend to spark an inclusive, connected world. Befriend makes it easy for people to get connected. On the surface, this looks like social gatherings, events, workshops and training that create opportunities and develop skills. But at our core, what we’re really doing is growing a culture of inclusion, because true genuine connection starts with being valued and included.”
From its modest beginnings in 2010, as an informal social club that met for Sunday barbeques, the Befriend network has grown into a thriving social network of more than 4,300 individuals. It empowers people at risk of social exclusion to enhance their social and community participation through regular, localised small-scale activities. It aims to increase self-confidence and independence and increase mental and physical wellbeing.
Mr Maisey said the support of the School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work had been invaluable to Befriend’s success.
“Head of School, Angus Buchanan, has been one of our biggest supporters since the beginning. Lecturer, Emma Ashcroft, is one of our key volunteers and now sits on the Befriend board and Kate Fischer, sessional academic, has connected more than 100 OT students with Befriend via fieldwork experience.”
Befriend is a not-for-profit organisation run by a small group of passionate volunteers, and the organisation is always keen for new people to become involved. As well as Mr Maisey’s nomination for Western Australian of the Year, the organisation was showcased at the 2016 WA Community Services Excellence Awards, and recognised as one of Western Australia’s leading local innovators in the space of inclusion.
“I was extremely excited by the opportunity that the awards would present to raise the profile of Befriend, so that more people would hear about who we are and what we’re doing, and contact us to get involved. It’s my name that’s nominated, but I truly see myself as a representative of the Befriend community. This is a win for all of our members, volunteers and supporters who have grown and nurtured Befriend over the years,” Mr Maisey said.
The winners of the Western Australian of the Year Awards were announced at a Gala Awards dinner at Crown Perth on Friday 3 June 2016. Ashlee Harrison, CEO and Founder of mental health charity; zero2hero Inc, won the award.