Edstart logo white

Toowoomba student empowering young people with disabilities


Growing up, Rheanca Lincoln was diagnosed with severe medication-resistant eczema, a skin condition that causes extreme inflammation and makes tasks like getting out of bed or taking a shower extremely painful and difficult. Living with this condition has made The Glennie School alumni aware more than most of the challenges of living with disability, not that she’s let it hold her back.

Rheanca loves lending a helping hand, regularly volunteering with local organisations and community events. In 2022, she founded itchY, an online platform supporting teenagers with eczema, connecting them with others to help navigate through the emotional, physical and psychological effects the condition can have. The Edstart Achievement Award winner has a strong interest in social and climate justice and wildlife conservation, particularly birds, and is always keen to question the purpose of doing things and see if there is a better way.

An idea born at the ABC Heywire Regional Youth Summit

Last year Rheanca was invited to the ABC Heywire Regional Youth Summit, where a group of regional Australia’s sharpest young minds discussed the good things about living outside the big cities, as well as what could be better. Attendees split into teams to develop ideas aimed at improving life in the regions. This is where Rheanca’s initiative We Are Not Alone Day, an event to empower young people with disabilities, chronic illness and neurodiversity was born was born.

The challenges of living with disabilities in regional locations came up frequently in Rheanca’s group, with all the members being affected. They spoke about the social discrimination and loneliness involved and wanted a way to make life for those affected safer, more inclusive and welcoming.

Believing one of the best ways to combat these issues is through social connection, they settled on creating an event to empower young people with visible and invisible disabilities. Raising awareness, building friendships and fostering a sense of belonging were some of the outcomes they wanted to achieve.

Putting in the work to make it happen

After the summit, Rheanca and her team pushed forward with planning for the event, to go ahead in her home town of Toowoomba, Queensland. Her prior experience with events helped Rheanca get started, and she applied for the Edstart Achievement Awards and the 2023 Heywire grant to help fund the event. She soon found out she’d won both, and We Are Not Alone Day was on its way to becoming a reality.

Organising the event’s guest speakers, workshops and entertainment was a huge effort, as well as finding a venue that met their accessibility requirements. Wheelchair access, air conditioning, and a dedicated quiet space were required, and they wanted an Auslan interpreter and food to suit dietary and cultural requirements. Different support services had stalls on the day, spreading awareness of what’s available in the region.

Rheanca used the $1,500 grant she received for winning the social impact category of the Edstart Achievement Awards to make the venue, a medical space, more inviting and comfortable for attendees. This included buying decorations, tables and chairs, plants and a custom media frame for guests to take photos with.


Fostering connection and friendships at the event

Rheanca called the event a definite success with a great turnout. She was blown away with attendees telling her how grateful they were to be able to connect with others and share their story, many having the realisation for the first time they weren't the only ones in their situation.

A performance from D Dance Academy, a local dance studio for people with disabilities was a crowd favourite, and the food on the day was a hit. The lunchtime workshops which included everything from colouring to discussions about accessibility were also positively received, with many attendees getting involved, forging friendships and connection.


Future plans for We Are Not Alone

Rheanca wants to keep momentum of the first event rolling and has plans to expand We Are Not Alone in the future. Events in other parts of regional Queensland are on the agenda, as well as different formats such as workshops and other forms of advocacy. She’s excited to see how far it can go!

About Edstart
Edstart is a leading technology and financial services company providing funding and payment services for education. We offer fee management solutions to schools and flexible payment plans to parents to help make school fees easier to manage.

To see how we can help you, visit our main website.

Find out more

Related articles

Edstart Australia Pty Ltd ABN 48 611 024 205 holds Australian credit licence number 485096

Copyright © Edstart Pty Ltd 2024