“IT’S HUGE!” - MSWA Albany progress update, August 2021

02 August 2021
Caroline Clarke-Smith, MSWA Volunteer, staff and Client

Over her 25 years as a volunteer, employee and Client, Caroline Clarke-Smith (pictured at the back) has seen MSWA’s presence in Albany grow from a small support group to the development of a $7m facility for people living with neurological conditions.

“I go driving past the building site all the time,” says Caroline of the new development. “I wear my MSWA hat so they know who I am! All the site workers are fantastic, they’re doing such a good job. The Services Centre side has now been clad and the Accommodation side just got its roof on – it’s huge!”

MSWA Albany Services Centre and High Support Accommodation Development Update

Work in progress: the MSWA Albany Services Centre on Pretious Street. The entrance to the High-Support Accommodation units can be seen on the right.

Fellow staff and Clients are excited about the planned opening in 2022. “We’ve been thinking about the things we’ll be able to do with all that space.”

Caroline has been working for MSWA for 12.5 years, and volunteering for over 25 years. “In the past I would get bored with a job after a few years. But I love this job. I always say that MSWA must being doing something right!”

She and her family moved to Albany in 1994. “I’d been working in Kalgoorlie for five years when I started having problems on the left side of my body. They eventually sent me to Perth for an MRI and I was diagnosed with MS. I never went back to Kalgoorlie! We’d been tossing up whether to move or not, so it sealed the deal.”

On arriving in Albany, Caroline joined the local MS support group, which was the only presence MSWA had in Albany at the time.

“As the years went by, it changed from a social and advocacy group into a more structured thing – hiring some staff and a physio – and I became more heavily involved on a voluntary basis. More and more services came on board – nursing, massage – up to where we are today, about to move into a brand new facility.”

As the full-time Outreach Coordinator, the thing Caroline is most looking forward to about the move is the opportunity to have more space and flexibility.

“Currently we struggle with storage space, staff space, Outreach space. I’ve been talking about the new possibilities with the Clients who come to Outreach. For instance, starting a jigsaw puzzle and being able to leave it out!”

She reports that the local community is very supportive of the high-support accommodation units that form part of the development. “MSWA is the first here to offer supported accommodation geared to people who are under 65. The alternative is going into aged care.”

Caroline is also a big supporter of the MSWA Albany Swim and has been involved since its inaugural year. “The last Swim was fantastic. I think we got $38,000. Albany is a very generous place, especially if you walk in the door and speak to people in person, which is something I always try to do.

“People are starting to see how the money they donate is being spent in the local community; that they’re helping outfit our new physio department.”

The new facility is on schedule to open its doors in 2022. Caroline says, “I’d really like to say thanks to the Great Southern community for being supportive. There are businesses and certain members of the public who have been so generous to us over the years. Big thanks to them for all their support.”