Founder and CEO of Afea, Esha Oberoi spoke with Nas Campanella on ABC Radio Sydney about the workforce challenges in the support work industry.
After a string of unrewarding jobs that lasted no more than 6 months, Esha Oberoi fell into support work in her early 20s. As Esha puts it, she walked in and had a pulse, therefore was hired. Only on-the-job training, and not much in the way of background checks.
Esha felt a deep connection with her clients, noticing they were feeling the same isolation she had felt through her teenage years due to her depression and anxiety. That’s when she decided to do something about it.
Founding a business at 24
Noticing that many of her clients didn’t need full-time care, Esha decided that she would attempt to redefine what care meant, and how it was delivered.
This started not in residential care, but in the home. By educating families to the benefits of home care, Esha was able to keep people in their homes, with their families for longer. All they need is a skilled support worker with whom they have a connection.
Shifting industry standards for support work
The pattern of the industry has always been to hire a support worker, and send them to clients. Esha knew that this wasn’t going to be helpful for anyone, so she decided early on that she would invest heavily in training, and upskilling.
Today our support workers (Afea Carers) have an induction, on-the-job training with their clients, and regular on-site check-ins from our Care Managers.
Challenges with finding support workers
The industry has seen many changes since the role out of the NDIS, which has seen many providers pop up, and a shortage of support workers. Esha wants the community to know about how rewarding this industry is, and how many opportunities can come from it.
We share how we’re celebrating friendships and committing to making new ones
The 30th of July is the United Nation’s International Day of Friendship. You might say this year hasn’t exactly been ‘friendly’, has it? There’s been anti-racist protests, increasing anger between some of the most powerful nations and of course a global pandemic. So, I’m sure you’ll agree that celebrating and strengthening friendships has never been more important than it is now. What is the International Day of Friendship and how can you celebrate it?
What is the International Day of Friendship?
The UN General Assembly declared the 30th of July as a day of significance in 2011. They believe that friendship between people, cultures and countries can inspire peace and build bridges.
“The resolution places emphasis on involving young people, as future leaders, in community activities that include different cultures and promote international understanding and respect for diversity.”
That sounds like something worth celebrating to us! At Afea, celebrating diversity and promoting international understanding is a huge part of our culture.
With that in mind, here are some ways you can celebrate the International Day of Friendship (even if you’re in lockdown).
Call or see your friends and tell them how much you care about them
This is an obvious one – on this International Day of Friendship, it’s important to get in contact with your friends. Since COVID-19 hit our shores, you may not have seen your friends as often as usual (or perhaps not at all). For many of us, the focus has been about getting through each day and supporting our family, so spending time with friends has taken a back seat. Which means it’s even more important to reach out to your friends today.
If you’re lucky enough to be living in a state with fewer restrictions, perhaps arrange to have coffee or dinner with a friend. Tell them how much they mean to you, even if you haven’t had a chance to see them over the past few months. If you’re back in lockdown (we’re with you Melbourne 😢), then give a friend a call or set up a video chat. Being in lockdown is incredibly isolating and being able to see or hear our friends is vital for our wellbeing.
Send your friend a card
Who doesn’t love receiving mail? Next time you’re at the supermarket, pick up a lovely card and write a heartfelt message to a friend, then post it or drop it in their letterbox. Or if you’re trying to do everything online right now, you can design personalised cards with companies like Moonpig. You can even add a picture of you and your friend and if you order by 2pm, it goes into today’s post.
Bake for your neighbours
International Day of Friendship isn’t just about celebrating the friends you already have but also about making new ones. While we have to stay close to home in these difficult times, we’ve all realised the importance of our local network. If you haven’t got to know your neighbours very well, a way to make a friendly impression is to bake them some biscuits or muffins.
Having good neighbours means there’s always someone to chat to over the fence or outside your door. You can also offer simple things like picking up some milk when you’re at the shop or being a standby in case of an emergency. It’s these simple interactions that can be so helpful in times of isolation and can help spread the message of friendship.
Reconnect with someone in your past
Maybe it’s that girl you went to primary school with or a colleague you’ve lost touch with. Perhaps it’s someone you had a great connection with, but your friendship drifted apart. Today could be an excuse for getting back in touch. Send them a text or a message on social media. It doesn’t have to be too long, just something like ‘I thought I’d use the International Day of Friendship as an excuse to say Hi. I hope you’ve been doing ok over the past few months.”
It’s nice to get in touch with people right now because there’s no pressure to meet up in person if you don’t want to. You can just send a friendly text and re-establish the connection.
As International Day of Friendship is about diversity, use this day to learn more about the diverse cultures that make up Australia. If you’re in a workplace, everyone could share their favourite dishes from their cultures. Or they could share a bit about their backgrounds and the favourite parts of their cultures.
If you’re in lockdown, you could do some research about diversity. There are amazing ABC TV programs such as Waltzing the Dragon, You Can’t Ask That and other perspectives on SBS Voice’s website. You could even commit to learning to cook a new international dish and serve it for dinner.
Do you have any other ways of celebrating International Day of Friendship?
We’re often asked, “What does Afea stand for?”. Is it a word? An acronym? An anagram?
To make sense of the story, you have to go back to the beginning. When our CEO Esha Oberoi founded the business in 2008, she had been working in a nursing home caring for the residents. She quickly noticed some of them didn’t require round the clock care and could have remained living at home.
Esha had been battling with poor mental health for some time and noticed the same feelings of isolation and helplessness in some of the residents in the nursing home. She decided to be the change she wanted to see and created a service that sought to empower the older community with independence. Providing support in the comfort of their own homes would prolong the need for residential care.
Through helping others, Esha gained self-confidence, and her own wounds started to heal. Her clients were her family, and her true family were there in support. She had found her place in the world.
The name for the business was never going to be something clinical or obvious. With Esha being so personally attached to her Mission, it had to come from the heart. She decided it would be an acronym of her immediate family’s names, her father Anurag, sister Freya, herself Esha and mother Anju.
Afea stands for family. This is the foundation on which the business was built and remains to this day, despite growing to operate nationally.
Employees think of their team and their clients as an extension of their family, their workplace a second home. All decisions made are in the best interest of the Afea community, and that’s the way it will always be.
Check out our culture book for the Afea journey and to hear from the team!
As it gets colder outside and we snuggle up under the blankets at night, spare a thought for those in our community who do not have a warm bed or shelter tonight. While anyone can find themselves experiencing homelessness, a person with a disability may be at a higher risk of it, and find it harder to overcome once they are experiencing it. Hospitals and Government agencies are stretched and are on high alert because of COVID-19, it is vital during this time that we provide support to those that are most vulnerable to homelessness.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reports that 1 in 12 people who engage specialist homelessness services (SHS) have a disability, and of those, 1 in 3 have a ‘profound disability’. AIHW state that SHS clients with a disability need a greater number of different services and support for a longer period than those without disability. Furthermore, 62% of SHS clients with a disability also experience a mental health issue, as opposed to 35% without. This limits their capacity to navigate the healthcare system and organise the necessary supports required to address their situation.
Even without the extraordinary drain on resources caused by COVID-19, hospitals often find it hard to discharge patients with a disability, due to the nature of confronting care needs of this cohort. These patients remain in hospital for longer than necessary because their circumstances are not fit for them to be discharged.
Often this comes down to the person not having the necessary supports to be safely discharged. Supports may be in the form of care at home, transportation, community-based or appropriate housing. At times, when the criteria are not met, hospitals have no choice but to send the person to a residential aged care facility.
Hospitals and aged care facilities are under pressure at this time more than any other, as they are not appropriate places for people to be housed unnecessarily. The public sector, not-for-profit organisations and disability providers all must work together to source housing options for people with a disability.
People with a disability deserve to be living in a safe, stable home that offers necessary supports, while allowing them to become independent. Hospitals and aged care facilities are not a sustainable option, and provide only a short term solution. Accommodation providers can provide fully supported living arrangements where 24/7 care, organised interventions, allied health supports and engagement with community helps the individual improve their ability to live independently with stability.
Afea Care Services has been working closely with case managers, social workers and Government agencies to ensure no one is left behind. We have been assisting homeless people with a disability to access the funding they are entitled to and navigating the health care system. We are accomplishing our Mission to Empower People through our initiatives in sourcing suitable housing options for people with disabilities and facilitating the process to access NDIS.
If you are currently working with a participant who may be at risk of homelessness or an NDIS participant with a goal towards living in Supported Independent Living, we would love to help you.
Please call Nadeeka our Business Development Manager on 0410 066 154 to discuss further!
Meet Aditya. More affectionately known as Adi around the office, he is one of the newest members of our Intake Team, who on-board each and every client of Afea’s. His friendliness, enthusiasm for helping others and ability to learn quickly, immediately made him a valued part of the team. Here’s a little about his journey in 5 Minutes with Adi.
“My name is Aditya and I have recently completed a degree at UNSW. It’s completion overlapped with COVID-19, which impacted every aspect of life. Cancelled travel plans, delayed graduation ceremonies and large amounts of uncertainty about my future.
Amidst all the chaos, I was fortunate enough to stumble across Afea. My journey here has been nothing short of magical. I would love to take you on a trip down memory lane to explore how I came across the best workplace I’ve been a part of.
I was born and brought up in New Delhi, where I was a typical boy who loved his sports and jumped on every opportunity to avoid studies! My parents have always had a big influence on my life in terms of my values and work ethic. I finished high school in Delhi and moved to Pune to pursue my bachelors and then went onto work for Zomato. The true impact of this move was something I would come to realise in the future.
I arrived in January 2018 to begin my journey Down Under. With no family, friends, or a network in Australia, this was a challenge that scared me, yet, I was excited to face it. My love for travelling, meeting new people and talking helped during those initial months here.
The more of Australia I discovered, the more I fell in love with it. A feeling of gratitude took over and I was thankful to be where I was. Australia is the perfect place for someone like me with a passion for sports and travel. I knew during my 2 years at university that I would love to give back to the country I now call home in any way I can.
Fast forward to February 2020, fresh out of university, I was keen to start my career and use my skill set to its maximum potential. That’s when I came across Afea.
Right after my first phone interview, I knew there was something special about Afea. The interaction was extremely warm, comfortable and I felt heard. Things progressed forward and I was lucky enough to be invited to their wonderful office for further interactions. The moment I entered there was a positive vibe that hit me. I am a big believer in energies and frequencies between people and environments, and Afea was a workplace that had an X factor to it. The people, the office, the warmth – everything caught my eye and stuck with me.
Afea gave me a chance to be a part of a family. That’s exactly what we are – the amazing interactions, constant support and backing from the entire group is phenomenal. We push each other to learn and grow each day and to take pride in the way we operate internally and externally.
From a fast-paced tech-selling environment in India to the Disability Sector in Australia, the change was a drastic one which I was apprehensive to face. The industry, providers, all stakeholders, all ‘Afeans’ welcomed me with open arms. The interactions I’ve had over the past few months have been some of the best of my life. The people I’ve met, the stories I’ve heard are some of the most precious memories that I will hold very close to me.
The culture created by our CEO, Esha, is commendable. An environment of understanding, respect, and support. One thing that really stood out in those early days, is Afea’s genuine desire to help the community. I saw teams go above and beyond their duties to help individuals, and the passion everyone has for what they do is contagious. I too, thankfully, caught the bug.
I strongly believe that there is nothing more important than one’s family and to see the direct positive impact the work we do at Afea on the families we help is heart-warming and it keeps us going.
My love and passion for Afea and the healthcare industry has grown consistently, and I owe it all the wonderful people I’ve met, and the conversations I’ve had. I can confidently say that the people in this industry is what makes it stand out from all others.
The last few months have been surreal. I look forward to the times to come with Afea and the beautiful journey that lies ahead…”
There are certain people in the world that have a lasting impact on you, no matter if you meet them for five minutes or have known them for five years. Our very own Anju is one of those people.
It is rare to see her without a smile, she is never upset or angry, and always keeps her cool. Even when she was stuck in a lift near the office, fighting off a panic attack due to a mild case of claustrophobia, she was still laughing her head off whilst on loudspeaker with her teammates, who were helplessly waiting for the fire fighters to arrive.
Anju is the office mum. Metaphorically because of her caring nature, but also very literally. She is the mother of our CEO, Esha. When Esha first started the business over 12 years ago on her own, her mother was there every day.
At first bringing lunch because she knew her daughter wasn’t allowing herself enough time away from work to eat it. Then as they got busier she started answering phones. Skip ahead over a decade and Anj is still here, everyday supporting her daughter, Afea’s clients and all of her colleagues.
Anj doesn’t need to continue to work. She comes in every day because she loves it. She loves her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, all of whom she gets to see most days in the office, she loves her work family, and she truly cares about the clients she’s supporting every day.
This month we celebrated a milestone birthday of Anj’s in the office. We surprised her with a high tea while some of her family from overseas joined virtually.
Happy birthday Anju, Afea wouldn’t be where it is today without your commitment, positivity and propensity to go above and beyond.
The practise of mindfulness and meditation are getting more and more accepted in everyday life. Large corporations such as Google encourage their staff to practise mindfulness to increase wellbeing and focus. Schools often use it to settle children after breaks, and many medical practitioners recommend its use to treat different conditions. But even so, there are a lot of persistent misconceptions about mindfulness and what it actually is. So here’s 6 myths about mindfulness for you to meditate on.
1. Mindfulness is emptying your mind
Probably the most common misconception about mindfulness, when the in fact, the opposite is true. It is about focusing all of your attention in a purposeful way. Thoughts will pop up, and the aim is to notice them come and go, without attaching any positive or negative feelings to them.
2. Mindfulness is meditation
Although they overlap, they are not the same. Meditation is taking time to focus your awareness, whereas mindfulness is a more broad term, referring to being aware of and focused on anything you’re doing at a particular time.
3. Meditation and mindfulness are spiritual
Although they are both big parts of certain spiritualities and beliefs, they are not inherently spiritual at all. The main ideology that focusing your attention on everything you do, and being present in every moment is about the self and is universal.
4. I have to sit awkwardly
Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, mindfulness and meditation actually works best if you’re comfortable. The more comfortable you are, the better you can start focusing your attention elsewhere. It is best practised in a sitting position or lying down.
5. It’s just taking time to rest and relax
Although the effects of meditation can be very calming, the practice itself it actually quite challenging. But don’t worry, it gets easier with time. It is recommended that beginners start with 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Experienced people can remain in focus for hours!
6. I don’t have time to practise mindfulness
Mindfulness is a way of being, it can be practised anywhere, anytime. The idea behind it is to focus on what you’re doing, in the moment you’re doing it, whole-heartedly.
Next time you brush your teeth, drive a car or eat a meal, try focusing on every movement you make. When other thoughts pop up, tease your mind back to the task at hand attaching positive or negative feelings to them. The better you get at this, the more you’ll be able to live and enjoy the moment, and be able to handle stressful situations level-headedly.
This month for Mindful in May, we’re sharing our advice for being more mindful in everyday life. Although ‘mindfulness’ is a bit of a buzzword at moment, it’s not a new phenomenon. The practice itself dates back centuries and is seen in many different cultures. The benefits have been backed up by plenty of modern scientists and medical practitioners too, but if you still need convincing, we’ve broken it all down in this blog.
What is mindfulness?
In a nutshell, mindfulness is paying attention. It’s a widespread misconception of mindfulness or meditation, that they’re about emptying your mind. When in fact, they’re the opposite.
The aim is to use all of your attention and focus purposefully. You may concentrate on a sound, a colour, a place in your mind, or even your own breath.
With our busy minds, it’s inevitable that we lose focus, other thoughts and feelings will pop up. That’s ok, mindfulness teaches our brain to be more aware of its thoughts, rather than not having them at all.
You want to notice these distractions ‘without judgement’. In other words, acknowledge the thoughts, but try to not let them take over, or label them as inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It often helps to think of them as leaves in a stream or clouds in the sky that you’re watching float by.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Many studies have shown that mindfulness increases the speed of success in treating some mental health and even heart-related conditions, including high blood pressure.
A study by Dr. Sara Lazar from Harvard University shows a correlation between regular mindfulness and growth of the pre-frontal cortex, a part of the brain that regulates emotion and focuses attention. There are even some studies that suggest mindfulness helps build immune systems and fights age-related decline in the brain!
Practitioners promote mindfulness as a way of getting in touch with yourself. Recognising when thoughts are arising and controlling your reactions to them. Longer-term effects of regular practise can result in more focus, more patience, better decision-making abilities (the ability to use logic, over preconceived judgments) and even better memory.
So how do I do it?
Firstly, there is no one way of practicing mindfulness. There are different approaches depending on what you’re trying to achieve. Sometimes you might want to practise mindfulness to lower your heart rate when feeling nervous, other times it might be to sort through all of the thoughts in your mind to find a clear way forward.
A great way to start is by looking online. There are a free online guided meditations for specific purposes. Different approaches work for different people, try a few different resources, and see what works best for you. It’s like anything else we do, the more you practise it, the better you’ll be.
A super quick meditation for anytime, anywhere
This really simple method of mindfulness helps to calm yourself and reset a busy brain. It can be done with your eyes open anywhere.
Firstly take three deep, purposeful breaths, then silently think of three things you can see. With another three breaths, silently say to yourself with each “I can see thing 1”, “I can see thing 2”, and “I can see thing 3”. With another three breaths, silently name three things you can hear. Finally, name three things you feel. These can be physical, i.e. “I feel the chair against my back”, or they can be emotional “I can feel some butterflies in my stomach”. Take a further three breaths and you should feel calmer. This can be repeated for deeper effects.
This meditation acts as a ‘reset’ button for your brain. It allows you to pause all of the thoughts that are buzzing around your head, and focus on one thing at a time. The slow, purposeful breathing, will lower your heart rate, giving you a sense of calm.
There has been a lot of news coverage of the situation many concerned parents find themselves in, or about to be in. However, juggling full-time work and home schooling children isn’t all bad says Afea Care Coordinator Ammee, who is enjoying the extra time with her family.
been working from home for nearly a month, and we work on a roster of one week
in the office, one week at home. I feel I am more productive when I work from
home, I am more relaxed because I have stopped chanting my daily mantra “Hurry
up! Get moving! I need to catch the metro in time!”
I can move freely in the apartment and choose to either work from the dining table, kitchen benchtop or my daughter’s favourite study table. I also get a shoulder massage, which is very rewarding. The best thing about working from home is that I am physically and mentally present for my children during a time when they need to feel a sense of security.
are some challenges of working from home though, I miss my work family, the
laughter and the chit chats! Having to juggle work and being part of the
home-schooling journey with my kids is also a challenge. I was never an ‘A’
student during my school days so having to teach my two children at home has
am lucky my children are 10 and 14 so are at an age where they understand the restrictions and are
compliant with it. The present situation makes them nervous as well, so they
are happy to follow the rules.
they are happy to be at home most of the time, they do miss their friends and
being outdoors. The only reason they miss school itself is because there is
less class work compared to home schooling, and of course, they don’t get
allocated chores by me when they’re at school.
The first week very tricky as we were all getting used to the
concept. However, my children connect with their friends and keep in contact
with their teachers via email to stay on track, this helps me focus on my work.
We now have a routine that we’re starting to
settle into, I am up before the kids and I use this peaceful time to meditate. Once the children get up and we all
prepare and have breakfast. After we are
ready, I log into my work and the children get on with their online schooling.
We break for lunch and enjoy a meal together and catch up on school chats and
facetime with my sister (who was in isolation for 14 days). Back to work again
with my sister in the evening. Some days, the children and I will play
basketball on the mini hoop that we have in the apartment or play board games,
some evenings we
go for a
walk, ride a bike/scooter/skateboard, other evenings we exercise our facial muscles by
arguing with each other! After dinner is cooked, we eat our meal together,
relax in front of the TV and practice the last pose of yoga, Savasana (lying
down) for a fair few hours.
Looking after myself is important for my
whole family, so I have a few strategies. First and foremost, I stay away from
people. I catch up on sleep and allow myself to slow down, which has been a big
reward. I have
started practicing yoga after a very long time which I am thoroughly loving!
My tips to other parents in my position: embrace each day as it comes,
keep affirming, I CAN DO IT and ALL IS WELL! Don’t overly concern yourself with
what is going on in the news and the rest of the world, try to focus on your
present situation to maintain your sanity!”
We’re all affected in one way or another by the COVID-19 pandemic. Without forgetting the tragic loss of life that has resulted, it is a good opportunity for us all to find comfort in the things closest to us. Our families, our friends, the roof over our heads; the time we now have to think about what is truly important in life, and how we can change our world for the better, from the inside out.