Updated: Dec 4, 2019
In the inner- city suburb of Fitzroy Melbourne, where the street art, music and bohemian cultures thrive is a hidden act of kindness many would not recognise. As you walk down the street the remains of the colonial bluestone consumes you, the scars of a World that was once a reality for this enclave is now masked by the authentic creativity of a new generation. This intertwining of two Worlds arises through her bright blue warehouse in between the disheveled classic Victorian homes, something so out of place yet so rightfully at home.
The heart of this haven is embodied in the burst of rainbow colours graphitised in the shape of Buda, the reflection of the oasis sanctuary of peace, acceptance and strength she creates for her clients away from the jungle of the cruel realties.
Her clients are unique individuals, seen by others as confined in their abilities but celebrated in her haven. They all have something to achieve and she believes they all should have the opportunity to do so.
She greets you at the door, her bubbly smile welcoming you before she even said hello. Wearing all black she takes the role as a hidden figure blending in with her surroundings, but the glittery eyeliner that reflects in the light gives an aura seen only in certain individuals.
Her name is Margie Cerato, a woman who has dedicated her life to making a difference in others. Working for 30 years in the fitness industry she nurtures and helps a range of clients from three up until the age of 90 recognising individuals unique strengths, skills and transforming their lives through her charity ‘Celebrating Abilities’.
Margie’s clients suffer from a range of disabilities including Autism, MS, Down Syndrome, Mental health challenges, ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s, learning to walk after strokes, amputees, transplants, cerebral palsy and more but the inclusive environment she has created has seen client’s blossom.
(All of the photos were supplied by Celebrating Abilities )
Celebrating abilities is about getting rid of the stigma around disabled people focusing and empowering abilities and not disabling them from participating in a normal life. This is done by focusing on the complete mind, body and spirit connection and well being and believing that it is achievable for everyone, no matter their capability.
Margie also has focused on assisting the families and carers who support her clients.
“We cater for all not only the clients but for their carers and families. We make it inclusive so we always ask for someone to bring a support person along to help with the activities and even join in as well, which is nice.”
Therapy is on many different levels at the studio, one of these includes two rescued therapy cats, which roam the studio and assist in her holistic approach of inclusion and comfort.
“All therapy animals should be included in all studios it really makes a difference for those clients who are a little nervous or suffer from anxieties. The cats keep them happy and are quite relaxing, especially their purr it's quite therapeutic, which is nice to see because a lot of the kids who suffer from Asperger’s and Down Syndrome love them.”
She hugged herself inside the blue silk like a cocoon protected from the insecurities taking a risk brings. Her rent runs out at the end of the year and despite her constant smile, the strain in her eyebrows and slunk of her shoulders highlights the weight it has taken on her. She covers all the expenses on her own. A sense of fear crosses her eyes knowing times are tough and without more funding Celebrating Abilities will have to make a move, but the positivity beams through her a willingness to defy all odds.
Margie says the support from the community has meant everything to her and without their help this would never have been possible.
“When I first started Celebrating Abilities in 2012 I originally didn't get any support, I was doing it all on my own so now I’m so lucky to be linked to some community groups, people and volunteers that really support us, which really helps make a difference. I'm still working, 12 hour days but hopefully in the future I won't have to do that.”
(Special thanks to BNI Action referral Fitzroy and Katija Vlatkovich from Mis Fit Digital for supporting Celebrating Abilities, in particular for their Fundraiser on September 20, 2019)
Celebrating Abilities philosophy and values are all about H.E.A.R.T (Happiness, Energy, Abilities, Restorative and Together) and this heart stems from Margie and her desire to give back to others.
The future could be endless for this non-for profit organisation and Margie has so many goals on so many different levels to achieve this.
"My goal or my dream is to be able to help hundreds of people a year. We are no where near that goal yet but we are helping 20 to 30 a year which is great but my goal would be to help hundred but to do that we need more funding to keep the doors open and to keep thing going and i'll just do my best to keep it going."
There are many amazing individuals who are selfless dedicating their time to assists other and many would say she is one of them, but Margie doesn't see herself as extraordinary, but just as someone who would do the same in her position.
There is one message Margie reiterated and it’s the most important of them all to remember:
Vibes Fitness Fitzroy the home of Celebrating abilities:
(Photo Credit: Isabel Quinlan)