Amelia Meades was recognised at the National Achievement Awards for her incredible accomplishments in 2019.

 

The year 2019 was most definitely the year of Amelia.

It kicked off in February with Amelia attending a four day “Making it on my own” (MIOMO) course with about 30 other teenagers and young adults.

The course is offered to under 25s and aims to increase independence and support the transition to adulthood and resulted in a noticeable shift in Amelia’s view of herself.

 

But in terms of taking responsibility for her own development, this event was far outshone by Amelia’s decision a few months later to tackle head-on her long-term and debilitating needle phobia. Blood tests, vaccinations, dentists, everything that involved needles was a trial.

With a safari trip to Kenya planned for the end of the year, Amelia undertook a graduated exposure therapy at Anxiety Trust that culminated in a visit to the local doctor’s clinic to get up close and personal with some needles.

Amelia made a conscious decision to take part in the therapy in order to help herself and the therapist said that her engagement with the process was the key factor that led her to the point where she was able to receive her six vaccinations for Kenya without a qualm.  Her family were so proud of her – no more needle phobia for Amelia!

The five-week trip to Kenya and Australia with her family was reward in itself. Glamping in safari conditions and viewing the wonderful animal life.

Fortunately Amelia loves taking photos so she will have memories she can revisit for years to come.

Quickly following on from this though was the most exciting event of the year for Amelia and a significant achievement for a person with Down syndrome.

She was chosen from a large cast of wannabe models to walk in the NZ Fashion Week for an upcoming, edgy label called “Starving Artists Fund”.

To be selected required walking out alone in front of a bank of selectors with clipboards and cameras. Not for the faint hearted, but Amelia strutted her stuff like a pro, both in the casting and again in the fashion show at the Auckland Town Hall a few weeks later.

Subsequently she has had a couple of follow-up gigs, one being an article and photo shoot for Good magazine.  Look out for their September issue.

She also appeared on TV twice and featured in an article about her agent – Grace Stratton from “All is for All” – in the Air New Zealand on-board magazine.

Talk about the lives of the rich and famous!

But the year’s achievements didn’t stop there.  Amelia progressed so well in her weekly yoga classes across the other side of the city – a train and then bus ride away on a Thursday evening – that by the second half of the year she was invited to join the advanced class.

She also completed two silent residential weekend retreats during the year, both focussed on mindfulness through movement meditation.

 

Amelia was invited by Recreate to represent their Moxie produce team with her friend Abigail at the NZ Disability Services conference in Wellington and the two won for best market stall at the conference.

She helped man the merchandise stall at Buddy Walk for the second year running and was on the Sales Team for Moxie at several markets around Auckland.

Amelia also continued to participate in Special Olympics Aquatics twice a week with the Central Auckland team.

Meanwhile there was also the ongoing activity of completing her studies and working.

Amelia graduated at the end of the year from the two-year New Zealand Certificate in Skills for Living and Working programme at Unitec, achieving Merit in every unit.

In 2020 she continues to work part-time as a waitress and is in the pipeline for a second waitressing job.

She volunteers one day a week at the Titirangi Community Art Gallery where she helps mount exhibitions and supervise visitors, and two other days with Recreate’s Moxie programme, both in the garden and in the kitchen.

It’s a busy life!

 

By Rebekah Williamson

PHAB is a little organisation with a big impact.

PHAB primarily provides social groups for people of all abilities, across Auckland. We are always looking for new ways to engage with our community.

We have been doing a Girls Day Out annually, but after talking to many families we came to realise that the day-to-day routines for our mothers and daughters often revolved around care, and we wanted to provide a day that was uniquely about their relationship: bonding, learning and being together.

 

The recent Mothers and Daughters Day started with a cooked breakfast at the PHAB building, all the families came together and before long we were in taxis and off to our main activity for the day: Aerial circus for the day at the Dust Palace.

Kathleen Derrick. Photos: Natasha H’ng

We chose the Dust Palace in particular because of the large and varied range of costumes that they had, as we wanted everyone to walk away with photographic memories from the day.

Dust Palace was amazingly professional, and provided just the right amount of support, exceptional safety and empowerment to allow the participants on the day to grow in confidence as they explored the apparatus.

After lunch everyone dressed in costumes and got their time in the limelight for their photoshoots with their photographer Natasha H’ng.

Deborah and Faith Van Heeswyck

The afternoon was finished off at Kiwi Nails and Spa in Takapuna and cake and drinks.

We were lucky to have support from the Louisa and Patrick Emmett Murphy foundation, who saw the value in providing this special day and supported us to do so.

We are grateful to everyone who made this day happen. We are especially grateful to the Mothers and Daughters who were simply inspirational.

Auckland airport was filled last week with mixed emotions when  14 young adults and their parents prepared to board their flights back to all corners of the country after completing the annual NZDSA Youth Camp.

The participants and their supporters were still buzzing from their amazing experiences during the three-day camp in Long Bay, north of Auckland, but also shed a tear as they had to say farewell to all the new friends they had made.

The annual weekend is one of the highlights on the NZDSA calendar where young adults from all regions in the country are nominated by their local groups to be invited to this fully funded camp of fun, action, laughter and great food.

The change in the mood of the group and the interactions between the young people and their carers between arrival and departure was incredible to witness.

When the group first gathered on the Friday, most participants were understandably shy and nervous of what they could expect.

Some had never been on a plane, and some had never spent night away from their parents, as the young people each got their own room at the beautiful Vaughn Park, looking out over Long Bay beach.

The parents stayed nearby in another house on the same property, but for some participants even that small separation was a big step in growing their independence.

After the first introductions and getting familiar with their new surroundings the young adults were driven to Xtreme Entertainment where they proved to be extremely competitive in their ten-pin bowling and barely had time to eat the pizza on offer.

The Saturdays are traditionally action-packed at the Sir Peter Black Maritime Education and Recreation Centre (MERC) where the wonderful instructors gently guided the young people through the first steps of rock climbing and abseiling.

Some of the young people were clearly not impressed by what was lying ahead but all showed incredibly courage as every participant conquered their fear of heights and abseiled the intimidating wall.

The rock climbing proved to be a bit more challenging but again all participants gave it a real go and many of them managed to reach the top of the wall.

All that activity had created a real hunger, but the Rapid Response Team were there to the rescue and feed the crew a much appreciated lunch of burgers and chips.

In the afternoon, the MERC instructors brought out the archery gear and the participants showed a real knack of hitting the target. For many of them it was the first time they had handled a bow, and they all enjoyed learning this exciting new skill.

After a well-deserved rest, the youngsters dressed up for a beautiful dinner prepared by the Vaughn Park staff,  but any extra kilos were quickly worked off when the dining room was turned into a dance floor. The crew particularly enjoyed songs from Mamma Mia and Grease, but all showed their unique dancing styles with a variety of music.

A slightly jaded group arrived at breakfast on Sunday, before heading into an art session to reflect on the weekend and about the new things they had learned.

Several of the parents also commented about their own personal development and how impressed they were with their children trying new things and showing more independence than they had expected.

Most caretakers vowed to use the new lessons to let their children become more independent.

The weekend created some wonderful new friendships and many exchanged details to stay in touch.

The NZDSA Youth Camp is a unique opportunity to learn, for parents and their offspring, and build new networks.

If you are interested in attending at the next camp in late 2021, contact your local NZDSA representative and put your name forward.

By Diane Burnett 

To celebrate her beautiful baby girl Paige and World Down Syndrome Day 2020, Dawn Goddard had an inky idea.

Dawn wanted to get as many people as she can to get the world-renowned ‘the lucky few’ tattoo on 21st March, World Down Syndrome Day 2020.

Over 50 people from across country from the New Zealand Group for Parents of Children with Down Syndrome Facebook group showed an interest.

Off the back of this interest, Dawn contacted and organised quotes from a few tattoo studios and has confirmed that Aaron V, co-owner of the family owned private tattoo studio 2 Sparrows Tattoo in Pakuranga, has kindly offered to donate his time for free and change only $50 per ‘the lucky few’ tattoo to cover the cost of the materials required.

“The minimum cost for most tattoos nowadays is $150 plus, so this is amazing,” says Dawn.

Dawn, a photographer, also photographed the event and hoped to get the media involved to create a fun news story to raise awareness of Down syndrome for World Down Syndrome Day 2020.

The original idea and design started in the United States where Mica May, a designer, had an idea to celebrate being a parent of a child with Down syndrome by designing a special tattoo for #theluckyfew.

She shared her idea with several other mums at their first gathering, having previously only met online. Their connection was immediate, and they discussed getting matching tattoos to acknowledge their bond.

At that point Mica spoke up and told them about the reoccurring dream she’d been having for a long time.

 

In the dream, she wakes up with three black arrows on her arm – always the same design and always the same placement. As she described the design from her dreams, tears started rolling down the faces of the other mums, and everyone said “Yes! This is our design”.

The three arrows are the perfect symbol for parents of children with Down syndrome, because the number three is representative of the three 21st chromosomes that result in Down syndrome and the arrows represent how the parents of these special children rise up and move forward.

“We rise the highest after we’ve been pulled back and stretched — sometimes even more than we think we can bear,” says Mica May.

The group tested the design on themselves that evening using a pen and decided to all get the tattoo the next day. But what started as a bonding moment for a small group of friends has grown to include hundreds of other parents from all over the world.

Last year, in Newquay in the UK, thirty parents joined the global campaign to raise awareness of people with Down syndrome. Each got ‘the lucky few’ tattoo to show how proud they are of their children and siblings with Down syndrome, and a person with Down syndrome also got the tattoo along with her mother and sister.

Dawn contacted one of the organisers of this event and got the details for the original designer, Mica May, who she contacted. “She has given us her blessing to use the design,” says an excited Dawn.