Every once in a while, we cross paths with people who leave an incredible impact on us. As a lending company, Ume Loans takes care of clients from all walks of life- we’re a judgement free zone. Although our systems and processes have adapted to allow for efficiency and customer experience improvement, one thing has stayed consistent throughout- our approach to customers. A particular customer who we arranged a small loan for not long after being established reminds us of our consistent service approach.
Chris Plumridge, founder of Peer 4 Peer has made a remarkable impact in the Sunshine Coast community through his mental health support mission. In 2012, Chris was admitted to a mental health ward after attempting to take his life. During his time at the facility, it became clear that human contact and staff support was far from what the patients required.
“If I had 10 minutes of interaction with paid staff, I’d have been exaggerating” says Chris.
Chris reclaims that he found most of the respite came from the other inpatients, as they had nobody else to reach out to.
After being discharged from the ward; losing his home, his business, and all financial security, Chris volunteered at any mental health service he could on the Sunshine Coast. Despite no longer being within the “support facility”, Chris found that there was nowhere to turn for help- the healing process does not halt as soon as you’re back in the community.
One particular Christmas, a company Chris was working for at the time had announced their closure during the festive season. He insisted that the clients still needed visits and care during that time- likely moreso than ever. He took it upon himself to visit the clients, despite the business closure. Once the company heard of Chris’ generosity, they were incredibly displeased. That’s when Peer 4 Peer was born.
Peer 4 Peer operates as a nonprofit organisation, and focuses heavily on the support for those recovering from trauma or mental illness. They provide 1 on 1 peer support, small group healing retreats, supportive art group classes, and more. Simple experiences such as having a tea and heartfelt discussion, or someone to drive you to the supermarket can make a world of difference to a client.
With just over 20 staff who have all experienced mental illness themselves, Peer 4 Peer operates in a subtle and grounded manner. Staff do not wear uniforms, nor do they drive sign written vehicles. If a staff member and client are having a 1 on 1 outing, it is simply seen as two people out and about.
The respite programs Peer 4 Peer offer are generally designed on taking a very small group of people away for between 4-7 days. They vary in style of what the clients want to do- some are coaching clinics focusing on depression or anxiety, others are purely relaxation- healthy conversations, good food, and mild activities.
All of these services can be funded through NDIS, which allows clients to share experiences that may not normally be possible for them. In an entirely selfless manner, Chris goes above and beyond to grant wishes of both clients, and people he crosses paths with. From taking a vision impaired person waterskiing, to planning a week’s fishing trip for someone who had not been in years- if there’s a will, there’s a way.
Ever flourishing, Peer 4 Peer has extensive plans to develop on the Gold Coast yet still maintain their boutique approach. They have also developed another project- Queer 4 Queer, which offers support to those in the LGBTQIA+ community.
In years to come, a nationwide establishment would be ideal. Majority of referrals come through privately, or through word of mouth- the demand for their services is exponential.
Chris’ generosity, commitment and sincerity has impacted countless amounts of people, and will continue to do so for many years to come. His incredibly raw and touching story reaffirms that you can still make a difference, despite any challenges life can send your way.