Conor O’Kane joined Cedar’s Inclusion Works Northern programme to access support in achieving training and employment goals.

Conor explained:

“I have always been enthusiastic about contributing more to my local community and giving back. However, during the COVID19 pandemic some of my goals had to be put on hold but with the help of my Case Officer I took part in other activities to keep me active, one of those was a weekly quiz run by Cedar, I feel it is important to stay connected with people where possible.” 

Conor’s Case Officer was in regular contact with online activities, information on qualifications Conor could access and as a point of contact for reviewing Conor’s wellbeing. 

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Conor said: “I completed my L2 in Computerised Book-keeping either side of the lockdown and I am very proud of myself for sticking with it in spite of the interruptions and changes in delivery from classroom to online and back again!”

He continued: “Now on the other side of lock down I have took up a voluntary position with Good Morning Ballymena, which is a very rewarding role being responsible for morning calls to the elderly to provide a friendly voice once a day and reminders about daily appointments.” 

Conor has also kept an active social media Facebook profile called Seven Smiles hoping to encourage others. He was also honoured recently by being put forward as a Disability Champion through the National Diversity Awards, a competition running through the entire UK and recently attended the awards ceremony in Liverpool.

Conor recently identified a volunteer opportunity with a local voluntary organisation PEG or Portglenone Enterprise Group. PEG facilitate community involvement through a wide range of activ

ities, advice and support. They were formed in 1995 to address community need/ to develop and sustain a vibrant community/ to encourage community involvement and to ensure an effective and sustainable organisation. 

“This seemed a perfect fit for me and with the support of my Case Officer we secured a work placement.  I have assisted them develop their online presence.  I really enjoy the challenges this presents and the opportunity to further develop his ICT skills whilst making a valuable contribution to my local community.” 

Whilst in this voluntary role with PEG a book-keeping opportunity arose. Conor had completed his L1 & 2 Computerised Accounts during my time with Cedar and Inclusion Works and was perfectly placed to fill this post.

Conor said: “I am delighted to say that I have secured this role and start this month in a part-time paid capacity – this really is a dream job for me and I am looking forward to the fresh challenges ahead.  It demonstrates that determination and resilience really can pay off in the end.”

Cedar Case Officer Colum Higgins added:

Conor is a committed participant on the programme and always shows great resilience and strength of character whatever obstacles he may find in his path.  He is a great example of how the Inclusion Works programme can work with the right amount of dedication and determination from all the relevant parties involved.” 

Inclusion Works supports adults with disabilities to build employability skills and experience to be work ready, then move into a paid job, college course or volunteering on leaving. It is person-centred, encouraging and supporting individuals to design their own programmes around their needs and aspirations, building confidence and independence. If you would like to know more about Inclusion Works please visit our dedicated page.