Many familiar faces in the Down syndrome community have been named as finalists in this year’s Attitude Awards to recognise their amazing achievements.

The Down syndrome community has been well presented in five different categories and the winners will be announced at a gala dinner on December 1.

The NZDSA congratulates all the nominees and wishes them all the best for the awards ceremony.

The nominees from the Down syndrome community are:

Attitude Enterprise Award

Bradley Lewis from Invercargill runs his own business, K9 Munchies, making dog treats. Selling online and locally in Invercargill, Bradley is looking to expand his brand nationally to continue the journey to his own financial freedom.

Attitude Youth Award

Luka Willems is on his way to becoming an influencer in his community, to inspire and encourage others. He’s a YouTuber with some of his work being used by local and international Down Syndrome Associations and he represents Canterbury as a Para swimmer.

Attitude Creative Award

Carlos Biggemann is an internationally recognised photographer, who also writes poetry. He’s collaborated with 14 poets to create a book featuring his photography.

Lily Harper’s big passion is acting, recently taking on the lead role in “Up Town Girl”, performing in Palmerston North and Wellington. The show won three awards, with Lily taking the “emerging actor in a play” award.

Attitude Sporting Endeavour Award

Alfie Linn is a popular competitor in the Table Tennis community, and has represented New Zealand at international level. He loves feeling part of a team, is a great sportsman and his attitude to others, no matter who they are, is fair and just and he loves competing at all levels. 

Attitude Community Champion Award

Sarah Ferens as a teenager started a weekly social group for young people with Down syndrome, to help her sister Emma make friends. Using her disability knowledge, she created ‘A Family Collective’ which supports families and their young people to work and live independently.

 

Bridget Snedden from Auckland was last week recognised for her years of advocacy work around the world when she was elected as the new President of Down Syndrome International (DSi) at their 2021 Annual General Meeting.

“I am very humbled and proud to lead DSi Board of Trustees along with Vice President Rhonda Faragher from Queensland,” says Bridget who been a Trustee of DSi since 2008 and in recent years filled the role of Vice-President.

Bridget has been heavily involved in the Down syndrome movement at a local, national and international level since her son Alex was born in 1988.

After first joining her local Auckland association for support, she found herself on the Auckland committee a few years later.

At a meeting at the IHC office in Wellington, she met Cindy Johns where they hatched a plan and approached JB Munro to support them in rebuilding the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association, which at that stage was in abeyance and needed a new impulse.

The NZDSA was soon re-established and from 1993 until 2000, Bridget acted as the Executive Officer of the NZDSA.

The new DSi Presidents lives by the motto “You breathe, You belong” and is driven by her commitment to social justice.

“I believe that every New Zealander has the same right to live and enjoy life like their neighbours and friends,” says Bridget, who has had significant experience across the disability sector in both governance and delivery.

Bridget says she is proud to have been able to contribute to the change that many families of disabled children have made, so that their children can live a good life.

NZDSA National Executive Officer Zandra Vaccarino says Bridget’s appointment is a wonderful recognition for the work she has done for the Down syndrome community in New Zealand and abroad.

“Bridget has been a driving force behind the NZDSA for many years, and the wider Down syndrome community in New Zealand and abroad, so I think we can all feel very proud to have one of our own community leading the amazing work DSi does all over the world to improve the life of people with Down syndrome,” says Vaccarino.

 

 

 

Launching at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, WeThe15 plans to initiate change over the next decade by bringing together the biggest coalition ever of international organisations from the world of sport, human rights, policy, communications, business, arts and entertainment.

At a time when diversity and inclusion are hot topics, the 15% who have a disability want effective change to remove the inequality and inactivity. Like race, gender and sexual orientation, we want to have a movement all persons with disabilities can rally behind. A global movement that is publicly campaigning for disability visibility, inclusion and accessibility.

WeThe15 will shine a light on 15% of the world’s population. It will build greater knowledge of the barriers and discrimination persons with disabilities face on a daily basis at all levels of society. By doing so we will break down these barriers so all persons with disabilities can fulfil their potential and be active and visible members of an inclusive society.

For more information go to: www.wethe15.org

 

 

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!

 

Jacob Dombroski is an incredibly talented young man. James Webber from the Wellington Down Syndrome Association wrote the following nomination to describe Jacob’s achievements.

Jacob is well known in the Wellington region and nationally.

He has a passion for people with extra needs and is keen to advocate for people at a Government level.

Jacob is an actor, dancer, musician and basketball player amongst other talents.

I first met Jacob in 2016 when he was performing in a show that he had written, choreographed and performed, BigJStylez.

My eldest son, sister and I watched Jacob perform. It gave us such hope and joy and made the future of my youngest son seem much brighter amongst all the medical issues and fears for the future.

Jacob went on to win many awards for his show and this led to other acting, dancing and performance opportunities.

Jacob Domboski with Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy, right, and NZDSA national executive Zandra Vaccarino.

His acting career became viral when he did a short stint acting on Shortland Street as Winston Kimiora. I’m sure this helped to advocate for people who were born with Down syndrome.

His acting must have been fabulous as he was asked to act again as a barman on Shortland street. There have been many reviews about Jacob and his performance and one described him as “totally a performer who is going to connect to any audience”.

I believe this sums up Jacob well. He definitely connected with the audience when he was asked to speak at the Frances Clarke awards in Wellington in 2019.

During lockdown with Covid 19, Jacob contacted the WDSA chairperson, asking how he could help people with extra needs during this time.

He also created a workout video that he shared with others during COVID.

I don’t know all of Jacob’s story and journey however I am keen to learn more about this amazing young man who inspired me and my whanau when I had a little baby who was starting his journey.

The WDSA is blown away by Jacob’s talent, his empathy for others and his keenness to advocate for many different people.

 

 

 

There’s a huge gap at Hirepool in Lower Hutt where Colin Bailey used to work. He’s retired from the Hutt Road branch after more than 30 years on the job.

Colin’s farewell barbeque was an emotional day for everyone as Hirepool staff from across Wellington, along with Regional Manager Stuart Drew from Hawke’s Bay, came to say goodbye.

“He does leave a gap here – 100 percent,” Stuart says. “He swept the yard, kept it clean. No-one did it as well as he did. His work here was exceptional. He brought an excellent work ethic, a great sense of humour, a cheekiness.”

Stuart says he’ll miss Colin sneaking up on him and giving him a punch in the ribs. “It wasn’t just work; we were part of his extended family.”

He says employing Colin had been a success and Colin had worked to make it a success. “Years ago, someone came up with a great idea and he has stayed with us all that time. Colin still had to earn his way, which he did.”

Colin at his workstation. Photo: IHC

Wellington Area Manager Rod Groombridge worked with Colin for only seven or eight years but has known him far longer through Special Olympics New Zealand. Colin was a champion swimmer and Rod’s mother, Carol Groombridge, was the organisation’s first national secretary.

Rod says Colin was held in high regard by all the staff and treated as an equal. He says that was obvious in how many turned up to his farewell. A special sign reading ‘Colin’s Wash Room’ was hung over his work area.

“It was a funny old day. It was emotional really. We made that sign and we retired his broom.”

Colin had worked at Hirepool for longer than any of the team and through many of its former lives on the site – Projex, Hirequip and then Hirepool.

Hirequip used to hire out heavy equipment and when the trucks, diggers and huge road-sealing compactors came back clogged in mud Colin scoured their outsides with a water blaster and gave their cabs a dust-off ready for the next customer. He worked in all weather in gumboots, mask, leggings and a beanie to keep warm. In 2009 Hirequip presented him with a long-service award.

Hirequip’s successor, Hirepool, relocated the heavy machinery to another location and Colin switched gears. “I washed everything, the whole lot – washed all the gear, lawnmowers and rotary hoes.”

Colin started at Projex in 1985 or 1986, on work experience. He then took a year off to do the vocational life skills course at Petone Weltech before heading back to work.

Lee Bailey, Colin’s mother, says he got the job through IHC, working one day a week at the start. Before long “he was doing five days and he wanted to do six, but we put our foot down”.

This was a big commitment for Lee. “I would get up at 5.30am to get him to work. He went at 7am and was picked up at 2pm,” she says.

Last year, however, things changed. Although Colin’s job was waiting for him after lockdown, he was 59 and becoming increasingly tired. “Yeah, I would go home and sleep,” Colin says. As well, his father Ken died in September and Colin and Lee were having to adjust to the changes.

Lee, now 80, says she is glad to give up the early start. And Colin enjoys helping Lee around the house and mowing the lawns. He usually visits his old workmates once a week.

Source: IHC

 

Rochelle Waters recently received the NZDSA National Achievement Award from Rt Hon Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy. She was nominated by the Canterbury Special Olympics administrator Helen Mitchell, who describes how Special Olympics are just part of Rochelle’s terrific list of achievements.

I would like to nominate Rochelle Waters for the NZDSA 2020 National Achievement Awards.

I know Rochelle through her involvement with Special Olympics and am amazed at what Rochelle has achieved throughout her lifetime, which is why I would like her to be considered for this Award.

Rochelle started swimming with Special Olympics in 2002 after shifting to Christchurch from Hamilton, where she had lived for five years.

She began competing very early on in ribbon days held throughout Christchurch, Regional Games which were held throughout the South Island and then on to compete in National Games which have been held in Palmerston North, Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch.

In 2016 she became a Global Messenger for Special Olympics which has meant she has been called upon to speak about Special Olympics and what it has to offer and how she has benefitted from her involvement with Special Olympics.

She has been the Chairperson of the local Special Olympics Athletes Committee which meant she also had to attend the Upper South Island Regional Committee meetings and, after finishing her term as Chairperson, she still remains on the local Athletes’ Committee.

As well as being a member of the Special Olympics team, Rochelle belongs to Jolt Dance, which is a mixed ability dance group and has offered Rochelle a multitude of opportunities also.

Rochelle has performed in many shows with Jolt and has been a part of their teacher trainee programme which now sees Rochelle teach her own class of students with disabilities on a Monday afternoon.

She has travelled to Gisborne and Wanaka to perform in schools in a programme which is a collaboration between Jolt Dance and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra.

Rochelle attended Darfield High School and in her final year at school, secured work experience with the Darfield Bakery as a bakery assistant working out the back in the kitchen.

After she left school, she was able to continue doing work experience for three hours per day two days a week, as well as doing work experience at West Melton School, the primary school she attended, and also the West Melton Kindergarten.

Halfway through the year, the Darfield Bakery owner advised he would like to start paying Rochelle and then even offered her an extra day of work, which was a credit to Rochelle’s work ethic and reliability and the Bakery’s recognition of Rochelle’s work.

Unfortunately, this meant Rochelle had to give up her work experience at the school and the kindergarten, but Rochelle loves working at the Bakery and takes great pride in her work and enjoys the camaraderie she has with her work colleagues.

Helping out with flouring the tins for the bread, sweeping the floor, doing the dishes and icing the biscuits are a few of her duties.

Rochelle has attended self-advocacy camps with the NZDSA, which she has enjoyed immensely, and would eventually love to be a self-advocate on the STRIVE group.

She has also been on the Committee of the Canterbury Down Syndrome Association.

Rochelle has learnt to travel independently on buses and planes through her involvement with Special Olympics, Jolt and the NZDSA, and she is hoping to go flatting in the near future – maybe even with her boyfriend, Sam!

Rochelle’s family has had a significant role to play in helping Rochelle achieve all she has achieved.  Her Mum and Dad, Shelley and Jeff, and her two sisters, Jessica and Gemma, have supported and encouraged Rochelle along the way.

I know they are very proud of the confident, well-grounded young woman Rochelle has become.

 

 

Four members of the New Zealand Down syndrome community have been honoured for their amazing individual achievements at special function at Government House today.

Jacob Dombroski, Rochelle Waters and Amelia Eades were bestowed with a National Achievement Award by Governor General Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy.

The Governor-General, who is the patron of the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association (NZDSA), also handed out the Val Sturgess Volunteer of the Year Award to Kathryn Sadgrove from Northland.

The awards had to be postponed in 2020 due to the Covid 19 lockdown, so the selection panel had a difficult task picking winners from a large group of well-deserving and high-calibre nominations across two years.

National Executive Officer Zandra Vaccarino says that Amelia, Jacob and Rochelle are incredibly talented, independent young people who are wonderful role models.

These three young people demonstrate every day  why they will not let societal barriers disable them they are proud and determined  individuals who offer terrific skills and value to their families, their friends and their community,”  says Vaccarino, who is pleased the recipients and their families were able to enjoy the special occasion at Government House after the recent Covid scare in Wellington.

Zandra Vaccarino, Jacob Dombroski and Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy.

Jacob Dombroski received his award for his accomplishments as an award-winning dancer and actor, with multiple stints on Shortland Street, as well as his basketball performances with in Special Olympics.

The Wellingtonian is also well-known for his support work and advocacy in the Down syndrome community.

Zandra Vaccarino, Rochelle Waters and Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy.

Rochelle Waters is another well-known face in the disability sector, as an advocate for the NZDSA, committee member of the Canterbury Down Syndrome Association, competitive swimmer and Global Messenger for Special Olympics, as well as an accomplished performer and instructor for mixed ability dance group Jolt Dance.

Between all these activities, it is hard to see how Rochelle has time to hold down her job at the Darfield Bakery.

Zandra Vaccarino, Amelia Eades and Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy.

Amelia Eades was honoured for a long list of stunning achievements, most notably choosing to take her needle anxiety head-on, and get six jabs to travel to Africa before last year’s lockdown.

The Aucklander also completed a two-year course at Unitec, volunteers at the Titirangi Art Gallery, works for Recreate’s Moxie employment scheme and is an accomplished yoga fan.

On top of all that, Amelia was cast as a model for NZ Fashion Week, interviewed for several magazines and made two television appearances on the back of this.

Zandra Vaccarino, Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy and Kathryn Sadgrove.

Kathryn Sadgrove was awarded the Val Sturgess Volunteer of the Year Award as the driving force behind the Northland Down syndrome community ever since her son Thomas was born in 1991.

“The Northland and New Zealand Down Syndrome Community are very grateful and proud of Kathryn,” says Vaccarino, who took the opportunity to divert some of the limelight back to the Governor-General.

“We are incredibly grateful to Dame Patsy who has been a fantastic patron and ambassador for the Down syndrome community. We have been honoured to be hosted regularly at Government House and we will be sad to see her leave later this year.”

The New Zealand Down Syndrome Association is extremely proud of Michael Holdsworth becoming a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in this week’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.
The NZDSA believes Michael is the first person with Down syndrome in New Zealand to receive this kind of honour.
Michael was recognised for his decades of work for Special Olympics and his advocacy work for full inclusion of people with Down syndrome in their community in New Zealand.
NZDSA President Kim Porthouse says that Michael has been a trailblazer for people with Down syndrome, both during his education in mainstream schools and his employment with IHC.
“Michael has been a great role model and has helped to remove a lot of barriers for people with Down syndrome,” says Ms Porthouse,
“Aside from that, he is also an accomplished musician and his piano performances have been a regular feature during the NZDSA National Achievement Awards at Government House,” says Ms Porthouse, adding that Michael himself was a recipient of the National Achievement Award in 2012.


“Every person with Down syndrome and their families in New Zealand will be extremely proud of Michael’s achievements and it is wonderful to see this recognised in the Queen’s Birthday honours.”
Michael represented New Zealand at the World Down Syndrome Conference in Dublin, Ireland, in 2009 to share his story of advocacy and inclusion.
He has been involved with Special Olympics for 32 years, as an athlete, advocate and as a Global Ambassador, and has been working for IHC in the library for almost 27 years, being the helpful voice at the end of line for people looking for resources.
The Special Olympics swimmer and skier says he is very honoured.
“With all the years of Special Olympics it has been the best thing of my sport,” he says.
The NZDSA President says that Michael is yet another example of the amazing things people with Down syndrome can achieve.
“More and more people and organisations are starting to realise what people with Down syndrome are capable off and what a great asset they are to their community.
“Michael has been one of the trailblazers and we are excited to see so many other young people following his footsteps.”

My name is Edward Borkin and I have always lived with Mum and Dad, but I was independent when they went away.

I have been working at Pak n Save Botany for the last 19 years as a trolley boy.

I am also a member of STRIVE which consists of members with Down syndrome who help to advocate for people with disabilities. I enjoy being part of it and helping others with disabilities.

Another thing that I am involved with is Special Olympics. I participate in ten-pin bowling, swimming and table tennis.

I have recently moved into a flat with David, he has a disability too. We get on like a house on fire!

We share the chores and help each other. We also share some of the same interests like Coronation Street and music.

I have a support worker and try to be as independent as possible. I do need some help with cooking as it’s not really my forte.

I’m learning to catch the bus to work which will help me to be even more independent.

I’m really enjoying flatting!