The STRIVE self-advocacy team had another busy year and even the lockdown could not stop their work.
STRIVE is a team of people with Down Syndrome who are a members advisory and leadership group who advise and support the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association board, and are ambassadors and advocates for people with Down Syndrome.
Judging by the STRIVE report to the AGM recently, the STRIVE team has developed its skills and influence significantly during 2019-2020.
The team regularly meets for Funshop, which are workshops with different topics, where guest speakers share their expertise with the young ambassadors.
The past year, the meetings covered Research, Advocacy, Writing Reports, Tips for Public Speaking and developing a Succession Plan.
This final subject is particularly important as some of the STRIVE team have been in their role for several years, and may want a change, while it is also important to get new people involved with fresh energy and ideas.
Once Covid 19 started affecting our day to day lives and New Zealand went into lockdown, the STRIVE team started using Zoom meetings.
The group got together on eight occasions between April and June to share their Covid 19 experiences and continue their other work.
Aside from sharing ideas with each other, the group has been very active in the wider community on behalf of the NZDSA.
Andrew Oswin attended the Disability Consumer Consortium in Wellington, Edward Borkin presented to Auckland Timber Industry as well as the Auckland Success in Schools workshops, Erin Smith was a Support Buddy on the Youth Development Camp and Andrew presented at a meeting of Down Syndrome Australia.
The group worked with the Health And Disability Commission on the script for digital resources to help people with disabilities, in which Duncan Armstrong featured as the lead actor.
On the international stage, STRIVE was part of the a feedback group for the Down Syndrome International research on Covid 19, as well being part of a disabled person-led monitoring programme in Health and Wellbeing by the Donald Beasley Institute.
The STRIVE members have made huge progress as a group but are also proud of the successes they have enjoyed individually.
“On the 13th October 2020 I received and Achievement Award for the outstanding artistic achievement from Arts Access Aotearoa,” said Duncan Armstrong.
“I am taking up a leadership role in the kapa haka group in Invercargill and will be performing alongside other people with Down syndrome from the Invercargill Down Syndrome Group,” said Alexandra Hewitt.
Edward Borkin said will be going flatting which is a goal he has had before he even joined STRIVE, while Caroline Quick is a member of the EGL regional leadership group in Christchurch as one of three disabled representatives.
Caroline is also a member of the Disability Advisory Group for the Christchurch City Council, for which she is paid a meeting fee.
In the far north, Erin Smith is a youth leader in the Great Mates Social group.
“I am still a member of the Northlands DSA committee and I continue to enjoy my dance classes. I have done training workshops at work and I am helping with the induction training at work and doing meet and greets,” says Erin.
Andrew Oswin said he really enjoys being a self-advocate and a member of STRIVE.
“I am happy and privileged and to have made a commitment of service to the Down syndrome community and country of New Zealand.”