Helping Youth With An Intellectual Disability To Embrace Life
Three years ago Recreate NZ brought its innovative programmes to the Bay of Plenty and now 80 or so local youth who experience a mild to moderate intellectual disabilities have a new lease on life.
Trips to Hobbiton, rides on Rotorua’s gondola and luge, picking berries and swims at the beach are just some of the outdoor activities on offer throughout the year. The charitable trust provides a mix of fun outdoor adventures, social opportunities and recreational activities for people aged 10 to 35 and operates in Auckland, Waikato and Christchurch as well as the Bay of Plenty.
“For the types of programmes we run, we’re definitely one of a kind in New Zealand,” explains Recreate NZ’s National Funding Officer Nicola Keyworth.
“A lot of young people with intellectual disabilities have never been away from home before. Just taking that step towards independence and self-confidence by being able to go away for a weekend and be with their peers and do what their brothers and sisters do is really unique and huge for their own personal development.”
Recreate NZ was started in Auckland by a group of parents 17 years ago and receives little Government funding. BayTrust granted $17,500 back in 2017 to help Recreate set up a base in the Bay of Plenty and has granted a further $23,800 towards its 2020 regional operating costs.
“The fact BayTrust has supported and believed in our offering for young people, has been incredibly key to our success. We’re very grateful,” Nicola says.
The organisation is two thirds self-sustaining but relies on community grants to run most programmes. “We know the outcomes of those programmes are incredible so we continue to do them. So funders such as BayTrust are absolutely crucial.”
Programmes are split into juniors (10-15), youth (15-25) and young adults (25-35) so age appropriate outings and activities can be organised for each group and new friendships can develop.
Building Life Skills
The latest BayTrust grant will help launch a new Life Skills programme in the Bay this year targeting school leavers who are not engaged in further education or moving towards employment.
Nicola says a similar programme is already on offer in Auckland and is self-directed, focussing on whatever practical skills people want to learn.
“We want to get to know the participants and what skills they need to become more confident moving into the community, whether that’s independent living or finding some volunteer or paid employment,” Nicola says.
“It’s just another stepping-stone for them post-school and it’s very much focussed on being in the community. Some people want to learn how to take public transport because they can’t drive, others want to learn how to make themselves a healthy meal for when they leave home. That self-directed learning is quite key.”
Recreate NZ’s Bay of Plenty Programme Co-Ordinator, Sophie McLaughlan, says she and her colleagues have noticed school leavers often require more support to learn practical life skills in the community such as budgeting and just need a place to continue their learning.
“We can also explore social skills – what’s an appropriate way to interact in a variety of differing social situations. All of that ties into how to be independent in the community and also how to interact in a work environment.”
Some of the BayTrust grant will be used to recruit a new staff member in the coming months and the Life Skills programme will launch shortly afterwards. Someone who is young themselves with a social work or youth work background would be ideal, Sophie says.
“One of the main things we’re looking for is a passion for young people and the ability to see those with intellectual disabilities as contributing members of society.”