Before life in a wheelchair, Connor (35), spent his days working as a mechanic. He was passionate about the trade, but his knowledge of diesel mechanics and hydraulics felt redundant when his life became restricted to a wheelchair.

Turning to gardening has been a therapeutic outlet for Connor, a Mission Australia housing resident in Coffs Harbour. Connor now spends a large portion of his days in the community garden.

“I just truly love the community garden. It's been my happy place,” says Connor. “Personally, this garden has given me an outlet because before that, I started a fair bit of healing after ending up in a wheelchair.”

Connor with his dog

The community garden has become a pivotal part of the Mission Australia Centre (MAC) at Coffs Harbour providing residents like Connor with a space to connect and feel a sense of belonging.

Connor, also a volunteer at MAC Coffs Harbour, applies his skills as a mechanic into the community garden, germinating seeds and discovering ways to cultivate fresh produce from the garden.

“I’ve used my worldly knowledge to help residents cultivate their food better, provide a lot more supplements in their diet and a lot more native Bush Tucker foods as well.”

“Coming here and participating in this keeps me alive,” says Connor.

Since landing in a wheelchair, I didn't think that I would ever really be able to contribute to anything anymore but getting involved with Mission Australia, I've really found a new purpose in my life, and I didn't know that that part of my life was able to happen.”

Connor interacts with many of the other residents as both a resident and volunteer at MAC Coffs Harbour.

Regularly spotted maintaining the garden, Connor uses every opportunity he gets to extend a listening ear to other residents.

“I help, just by listening,” says Connor.

‘Since coming to Mission Australia, I've really been shown the value of just being able to sit and listen.”

“That's what Mission Australia has done for me... I’ve met so many amazing people who have just pretty much been there for the ride since I've rolled through the door.”

“It’s very, very cathartic just to help someone without any expectation of money or anything. It's just my place to help, and if I'm helping someone, it's bettering my place.”

When Connor moved into one of our accommodation services in Coffs Harbour, Connor felt grateful for the support.

"It's given me a lot more freedom. It changed my life. Everything is wheelchair accessible for me. I find it a lot better than where I lived, which was not wheelchair accessible at all. Mission Australia has given me a lovely, safe home to live in.”

For Connor, the sense of community and support he’s gained has made the biggest difference in his life.

Connor on his garden

“I found a new a new lease on life, a new way to walk... You're building more of a life than what you had before,” says Connor.

And as for the community garden, Connor continues to tend to it each week.

“It's more than just a garden, this is an open-air community hall where everyone can come for good organic food. It gives me a sense of purpose and it's giving me the ability to just give back.”

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