Matthew Bowles is a bright 24-year-old man who has worked with Goodwill’s Individual Supported Employment program (ISE) since August 2018. The ISE program helps individuals with disabilities secure and retain employment in the community. Dedicated Goodwill skills trainers (support coaches) help the employees manage relationships with supervisors, overcome workplace challenges and address any issues at home that may be posing a barrier to successful employment.
Goodwill assisted Bowles with his job search and prepared him for interviews to help him overcome his nervousness about entering the world of work. Bowles currently works as a dishwasher at a retirement community in Richmond, and he’s saving up to go on a honeymoon when he gets married; he is aiming for Paris, France.
Since age nine, he has developed a passion for languages and now speaks more than 30. “Nín hǎo, wǒ jiào Matthew. Hěn gāoxìng jiàn dào nǐ,” said Mathew during a recent visit. "That means ‘hello, my name is Matthew, nice to meet you!’ My favorite languages are Mandarin Chinese, Dutch and Swedish. Mandarin Chinese I’ve loved since I was 13. Dutch is a fascinating sounding language and Swedish is very beautiful.”
In his free time, Bowles works on his Chinese with a tutor, improving his grammar and accuracy to help attain his dream of becoming an interpreter for Mandarin Chinese.
Goodwill Skills Trainer Samuel Knight has worked with Bowles for the last five months. Knight checks in on Mathew regularly, making sure he is comfortable at work and speaking with his supervisors to mitigate any challenges that arise.
Knight joined Goodwill in September 2019 after working in a similar role with individuals suffering from brain injuries. Having a son with autism, Knight feels that the patience and understanding he brings to his work every day helps him provide the support his clients need.
“Having a job and being able to maintain it is so important,” said Knight. “I love when my clients get their first paycheck and you see the smile on their face because they’re finally working. It makes me so happy to hear what they’re going to do long term – save up to move out, or buy a car, or help their family out.”
The individual supported employment program allows people with disabilities like Bowles, the opportunity to develop a new dimension to their lives and grow their confidence. Often, they may not have many experiences outside of their homes, and working brings new relationships, skill building and the ability to be part of an inclusive environment.