Bella O’Hara wins award for her inspiring learning and working journey

Bella O'Hara receiving her winner's award at the Learn Local gala. Picture: SUPPLIED

By Callum Ludwig

A champion of Cire Services’ First Impressions Clothing Exchange (FICE) program has been recognised for her inspiring story of gaining retail-related skills.

Bella O’Hara won the Pre-accredited Learner Award (skills for work) at the Victorian Government’s Learn Local awards ceremony last Friday 24 November.

Ms O’Hara said she was honoured to win the award.

“Just being nominated was very exciting, for what I do in the community and being an advocate for disability means so much to me and knowing that I’ve been an inspiration for women and that people look up to me,” she said.

I don’t let my disability define who I am and I did feel a lot of emotions. I didn’t think I was going to win, but it’s good to win something that means so much to you.”

Ms O’Hara had found it tough to find work she was comfortable in prior to joining the Reconnect program and later FICE, where she volunteered one or two days a week at the Mooroolbark and then Lilydale stores, learning invaluable work and social skills that made her so much more confident.

Ms O’Hara said for those who volunteer at FICE, it makes it much easier to make the leap to find work.

“I have to thank Maria because she has been mentoring me and been my rock and my world for a year, I learnt so much about retail and what Cire do to help women find work or do all these events,” she said.

“I’m just so grateful to be part of a big community and what FICE has done not just me, just other people as well, I would recommend for anyone to volunteer at FICE because it will change their life, it’s changed mine for the better.”

The FICE program, operating out of stores in Lilydale and Yarra Junction, provides a safe space for women looking to find their way in the workforce or to get accustomed before returning to work as well as offering an array of pre-loved and brand new women’s clothing at an affordable price to help community members look their best without breaking the bank.

Ms O’Hara said her time at FICE has helped her so much in her new part-time job at her local bakery.

“I’m enjoying every minute and every day that I do get a chance to work, a long way from when I first started at FICE, I was very shy, I didn’t know anybody but when I met Maria, she really brought me out of my shyness, out of my comfort zone,” she said.

I got to serve customers at FICE a couple of times and used the cash register, which I didn’t even know how to use to start and I love serving customers and talking to people.”

Ms O’Hara waned to thank Maria and Renee from Cire Services, her mum, her brother and sister Jack and Natalie and all of Cire Services for their support and encouragement.