Embracing my potential
Hello, my name is Charitha De Silva and I want to tell you about my life.
When I was 3 years old I came to live with my mum Mary, my dad Jim and my three sisiters – Bridie, Siobhan and Gaby. Since then I now have another sister, Bindi, who came to be part of our family almost 10 years ago when she was 11. And I am now an uncle to Otto, Dash and Halle.
My birth mum and dad could not look after me as I was very sick and had a lot of disabilities, and the doctors said I was not expected to be able to talk or to live past 12 years old. Well I sure showed them. Tomorrow I’m moving out of home for 3 months with my friend Bridget to share a house in Paddington with her sister. I’m really excited and a bit nervous. I am learning to cook and I have lessons at home on a Monday with Mel. I really like cooking and my family love eating what I make.
One of the best things that happened to me when I was 3 was to come here to Pathways, now called Plumtree. Everybody really helped me to have confidence in myself and got me ready for school. Also here is where I met my best friend Bridget who I call Pretty Bridget. To help me talk I had speech therapy for more than 3 years almost once a week after school.
I made more friends when I went to high school and we still meet when we can.
Also when I was in high school I realised I liked boys more than girls and wanted a boy friend. I march with Twenty10 at Mardi Gras and with mum and some friends. I don’t have a boyfriend yet but I hope I will one day. Mum and I started a social group for LGBTQI people with intellectual disabilities called The Rainbow Bridge Social Club. It is now part of Participate Australia and we go out often, sometimes for a meal or to the pictures or other fun things. I have been going to Participate Australia since I was 4. It is for people with intellectual disabilities and has lots of different activities and courses. I really enjoy it.
After I finished school, I learnt how to make coffee and I got a job in the city as a barista. I really loved it. Mum and dad helped me to be confident in catching the train, getting off at Wynyard and walking to Pitt Street where the office was. The people were really nice and liked the coffee I made. But then Covid happened and the office closed down. I hope I can work in the city again.
In 2020 I started the 2 year course at Uni2Beyond at Sydney University. I really enjoyed it and hanging out at Manning at lunchtime and learnt to travel by myself to and from the Uni. Two of the subjects I did were in Early Childhood Health and Development. That’s what I’m really interested in and would like to work in.
I have been to visit my sister Gaby in Vancouver in Canada twice. I went on the plane by myself which I really like, so I can stay awake watching movies and I don’t have mum telling me to go to sleep. Also Gaby and I went to Hawaii and then I made her go to the Las Vegas. I loved it but she didn’t. I’m going back to stay with her and Justin next year by myself. I can’t wait.
I still live at home with mum and dad and Bindi and her boyfriend. And I also volunteer here at Plumtree on Tuesdays. I really love that.
Thank you for listening to my story.
Charitha is a Plumtree Preschool graduate (back then known as Pathways) with a moderate intellectual disability. After finishing high school, he and his mother set up the Rainbow Bridge Social Club, a safe social space for young LGBTIQ+ people with intellectual disabilities.
Charita has attended classes in early childhood health and care at Sydney University under the Uni2Beyond programme, which gives young people with intellectual disabilities a taste of university life. He now works with the children at Plumtree Preschool.
This script is from Charitha’s presentation at the Family Conference 2023 co-hosted by Kindred, Plumtree and Now & Next.