By Edward Borkin

I recently attended a meeting which will help form questions in a survey.

The survey will be about people’s attitudes towards people with disabilities in New Zealand. There were people with many different disabilities and we all shared our personal experiences.

I went to the meeting to speak on behalf of people with Down syndrome. The message I wanted to share was “include us”.

I talked about how I was included by my old high school to open a new school gymnasium. This is because I won a gold medal at the World Summer Games in Greece. There were other athletes who opened the gymnasium with me such as Olympic medallist Bruce Kendall.

Another hot topic was around the support which people with disabilities receive.

We all came to the conclusion that the more support people with disabilities receive, the more they will achieve and succeed in the community. This increases positive attitudes towards people with disabilities.

I talked about the support I received from my job coach. This support has allowed me to be an employee at Pak’n Save since 2001.

My final message is that people with disabilities are good people and have value in the community. We need to speak up to be heard, respected and reach our full potential.

 

The STRIVE team came together recently for a Strive Self Advocacy and Awareness Fun shop at Vaughn Park in Auckland.

The team learnt more about Self Advocacy and several members presented on the subject during the weekend.

One of the most exciting outcomes of the weekend was that the team created the FRED song, for Freedom, Respect, Equality and Dignity, in which all members contributed and they hope to share with the public soon.

Peter Rees said he looked at the different rights and articles under the United Nations Charter for the Rights of People with Disabilities.

“I also did some media training with a quest speaker Tanya Black and learnt about the rights of Disabled people with another quest speaker Rose Wall.”

Like Peter, Edward Borkin said he really enjoyed the ten-pin bowling and social aspects of the Funshop.

He said the group made posters about the rights of people with disabilities, and he really enjoyed the company of his fellow STRIVE members.

Alexandra Hewitt said that the weekend included a workshop around friendships. “We all talked about research around acquaintances, friends, close friends and friendships with Franco Vaccarino.”

“On Saturday Morning we learnt and discussed different types of media, then it was exploring advocacy and awareness in four groups. I have learnt to put my voice to use on media about our rights.”

Erin also enjoyed and contributed to the media training with positive feedback, “which was lots of fun”.

“One new thing I have learnt is more participation in this funshop that includes getting out of my comfort zone,” said Erin.

Andrew Oswin explained that members of Attitude TV came along to assist in the media training and how to prepare for interviews.

“ I also enjoyed the many self-advocates attending from all over New Zealand,” said Andrew.

“The Health and Disability Commission presented a powerpoint and video. They spoke around the issues that affect a lot of New Zealanders with disabilities and how to make a complaint,” said Andrew, who added that last day celebrated the 10-year anniversary of Caroline, Duncan and himself advocating for people with Down syndrome.

“I learned to use my self-determination, self-confidence, leadership and advocacy skills, and being a rolemodel to the other self-advocates who will be the future members of STRIVE.”

Jess Water attended as a Strive Buddy and said that this Funshop had been the best one yet.

“I enjoyed seeing some of the Self Advocates finally click as they come to understand what they’ve been taught.”

She said that on the Saturday night talent show Mohit wowed her with his dancing, Carlos with his poetry and Georgia Garrett with her singing.

“Every funshop I attend, there is never a dull moment. I love being able to see these guys prove the public perception wrong.

“There are no better advocates for people with Down Syndrome, than people with Down Syndrome. I hope to continue attending these funshops for as long as possible as I really do enjoy them. Cannot wait for the next one,” said Jess.

To celebrate its 51st anniversary last July, Special Olympics International organised a host of events and activities focused on Unified Sports.

In Unified Sports, Special Olympians compete alongside and against people with and without intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics New Zealand celebrated the Special Olympics Global Day of Inclusion with an exhibition football match in Christchurch on July 21,

The New Zealand World Summer Games Unified football team took on an invitational team made up of local athletes and Christchurch City councillors on the famous cricket pitch at Hagley Oval.

The match featured on TVNZ’s Seven Sharp programme and Frank Walmsley explained that as a unified partner in the team, he is part of the team, and not a coach.

“We’re there to play with the team, be part of the team. We make sure that everybody’s getting passed to, keeping their heads up when they go a goal behind. Just there to support the others,” said Walmsley.

Special Olympics NZ Chief Executive Carolyn Young said that unified sport creates great opportunities for people to connect. “And we really saw that at the Christchurch match.”

“The match provided an opportunity to showcase the benefits of making connections with a broader range of people in our community and demonstrates that we are better together.”

Both teams had great fun and put in an amazing performance. At the end of the day the World Summer Games team came out on top with a 1-0 win.

If you want to see the action on Seven Sharp, please follow this link.

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/sport/other/unified-football-team-mixed-special-needs-athletes-competing-alongside-those-without

By Joanne Holden

After four years as “camp mother” keeping the Roncalli College girls’ rugby team hydrated, a Timaru 16-year-old with Down syndrome has made her debut on the field.

Meghan Phillips burst into tears when her mother told her she would be donning yellow and blue stripes for the final five minutes of an hour-long match against visiting school Prebbleton on Friday.

“I’m a wee bit nervous,” Meghan said, ahead of the 3pm game.

While the Roncalli College Year 12 student was “rugby-mad”, she had only ever played the sport with her brother – so she enjoyed her first time practising and warming up with a team.

“I like playing rugby with all the girls.”

The Roncalli College and Prebbleton school girls 1st XV teams after their match. Photos: Bejon Haswell/Timaru Herald.

Although her team lost, Meghan scored the game’s final try – ploughing through half a field of opponents to ground the ball.

Meghan also got a shock when she learned her father and brother had travelled from Christchurch to watch her big moment, and sprinted over to them for a reunion after the game.

Roncalli girls coach Brad Sandri said Meghan had been getting water to the players and tees to the kickers since starting at the school four years ago, and was “a bit of a general camp mother”.

“She keeps everyone sorted. They’re never thirsty,” Sandri said.

Copyright: Stuff

Meghan Phillips, 16 has been a passionate supporter of the Roncalli College girls 1st XV for 3 years.

My parents and I went on the plane from Christchurch to Auckland to go to see Adam Lambert and Queen. We stayed in an apartment and I had a room all to myself with a TV in it as well. Before we went to the concert we went into the restaurant for dinner and I had a burger for my meal.

Rochelle at the Queen Concert

After that we walked to the Spark Arena to see the concert and it was amazing with all the special effects and I sang and danced all night. Adam Lambert was very good at the concert. He sang the Queen songs brilliant and Queen were really good as well. I had the best experience at the concert because it was fun and I really enjoyed it and I knew all the songs.

From
Rochelle Waters

Fifteen models with intellectual disabilities walked the catwalk at New Zealand Fashion Week recently as part of The Living Colour show, celebrating diversity.

They wore local designers from Zambesi to Kate Sylvester in New Zealand’s biggest showcase.

“I’m very excited,” one model told One News.

“I feel nervous I guess about catwalking but I am relaxing now,” another said.

After the show, there was a dance party for three hundred guests.

The show was organised by Dance For Abilities which is a not-for-profit organisation set up to give people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to have a night out.

Founders Jonathan and Daniel Hopkirk were inspired by their sister Rosa, who was born with Down syndrome.

“We’d often go out, where there was often that barrier for her where that didn’t happen. So effectively this kind of creates that opportunity for people like Rosa to experience what we experience on a day to day basis,” Daniel said.

“Missy Boo, as her nickname is, or Rosa… we basically think she’s the Queen of sass so she runs the cutter at home. She keeps us honest,” Jonathan says.

Designers have welcomed the show to the fashion world.

Brittany Cosgrove from Nope Sisters Clothing says the show is usually known as not being very inclusive.

“It’s sort of known for being very exclusive and high-end… so it’s really good to see some actual changes being made.”

“It just knocks down a lot of barriers and a lot of walls to people’s perspectives on what they think disability might be,” Daniel added.

Copyright: TVNZ

Our family headed off grid and went to the exotic island of Niue. What we found was a simple island with charm but also challenges.

Niue came with the expected sunshine, warm temperatures and locals with hearts of gold.

We enjoyed the music, culture, the glistening warm sea and striking beauty, along with the lack of wifi and limited shopping. What a treat for an autumn holiday getaway.

However, Niue is isolated. Just two flights travel to Niue each week and only one container ship berths in Niue each month, weather permitting. Everything from food to fuel comes in either by air or sea. When supplies run out, then you do without.

Niue is a coral atoll so you have to dress to protect yourself. Have you ever walked over sharp coral (in flippers), or snorkelled between gagged rocks and caves? Any coral cuts need to be treated seriously or infection sets in.

The coast is surrounded by steep cliffs so you have to be daring and dive or jump from great heights to reach the warm seas.

The sea is tidal so you can be sucked out to sea or thrown up on the sharp rocks.

The ocean is full of wonderful sea creatures including dolphins, turtles and whales but when you snorkel you also swim amongst sharks and sea snakes.

Luka took it all in his stride. He spent the majority of his holiday under water. He jumped off cliffs, clambered over sharp coral outcrops and swam through caves often surrounded by curious sea snakes. Despite his fear of these,  he snorkelled for hours and then took on the ultimate challenge – Scuba diving.

Luka, Kirah (Luka’s sister), and Eric did a morning of Scuba diving training. They learnt how to use the diving apparatus (tanks, mouthpiece), equalise their ears, practised diving sign language which was a breeze for Luka and then tested it all out in the pool. The instructors had a wonderful approach. Within their strict safety guidelines, they let Luka set his own limits.

By afternoon they put it all together and did a reef dive out at sea. Amazing.

I have to say I had to hold back my panic. So much could go wrong and that included drowning. However, both Luka and Kirah revelled in the beautiful underwater world. They dived deep and long and came up smiling.

This moment reminded me that many outdoor challenges can give children positive feelings of self-worth and pride that they can’t always find elsewhere.

Now I’ll let the photos do the talking.

Luka takes on the charms and challenges of Niue

Thanks,
Angelique van der Velden

By Dan Tucker

Hi my name is Dan. I am 25 years old.

On 18 January this year, I died for the first time. I gave my family a very big scare.

Dan Tucker

While I was still in hospital one of my sisters asked Mum if she would get the Lucky Few Tattoo. She also asked my other sister.

When they decided to go and get one done after I was out of hospital, I asked if I could have one too. So we all went together and got them done.

I was very brave and it didn’t hurt too much.

Getting the tattoo is my greatest thing ever because other people need to believe in themselves.

The three chevrons mean love heart and soul.

I have a loving mother and family who do care about me.

Here is a photo of our tattoos.

Dan Tucker has congenital heart condition and his heart stopped earlier this year.

 

 

By David Skipworth

Not many people would get away with interrupting Warriors coach Stephen Kearney while he’s delivering a team talk.

Fewer still would dare to continue to speak over the top of the notoriously stern former Kiwis back rower and World Cup winning coach.

But Mark Dekker – or ‘Mark Carter’ as he prefers to be known – is the exception to the rule, and the one person guaranteed to turn Kearney’s frown upside down.

The 31-year-old with down syndrome began working with the Warriors football staff earlier this season and has been welcomed into the club’s inner sanctum in his role as the team’s official water runner.

The longtime Warriors supporter enjoys exclusive access to the players and is regularly included in their team huddles, joining in their breathing exercises and sharing a few motivational words in the lead-up to game day.

He picks and chooses his moments to speak and feels comfortable enough to interject – even if Kearney is delivering a fierce verbal spray to his players.

“We might be getting a growling and Mark will just walk into the huddle and stand under Mooks’ arm or start talking over someone,” explained front-rower James Gavet.

“Everyone will be grinning and you glance over at Mooks and even he’ll give us a look that says, ‘I really want to be angry but I can’t right now’.

“It’s usually all business and there’s not a lot of time to joke around, but Mark brings out a different side and can lighten the mood.”

Mark Dekker in his role with the Warriors. Photo / Greg Bowker

Dekker’s connection with the Warriors began earlier this year when Kiwi Ferns playmaker and club community relations coordinator, Georgia Hale, offered him the opportunity to get involved.

Twice a week, rain, hail or shine, Carter and his caregiver, Leighton Swann, can be found at Mt Smart Stadium, helping Warriors team manager Laurie Hale prepare water bottles and equipment at training.

The club issued Dekker with his own timesheet that he fills out after each shift and his contribution to the club gives him enjoyment and adds some structure to his week.

“He comes into most sessions so he’s got a bit of a presence amongst the group and staff,” said Kearney.

“He helps fill the water bottles and the boys have embraced him. He does a pretty good job.”

Prior to the Warriors’ round three win over Canberra, Dekker was invited to share a few words in the team huddle, when he borrowed a line from Kiwi social media star William Waiirua: “Do the mahi, get the treats.”

“The boys were all buzzing and came and told us what he’d said,” explained Swann.

“Stephen came over afterwards and gave Mark a big hug and said ‘I think we’ll stick with that saying for the season’.

“Everyone at the club has taken to Mark and shown him a lot of love. I’ve got a lot of time for the Hale family, they’ve got big hearts and Lozza needs to be commended for what he does with Mark.

“It’s so awesome to see the genuine care and love they have for him and whanau environment they have created.”

While most Warriors fans would nominate club icons such as Stacey Jones, Manu Vatuvei, or star halfback Shaun Johnson as their favourite player, Dekker is taken by Mark Carter – the former All Black who switched codes to play just eight games for the club back in 1996.

“That’s the name that he associates with and Carter’s Warriors number was 31,” explained Swann.

“Every time he goes into the sheds he shows the boys number 31 and the name Mark Carter.

“It might not be the most popular choice but its Mark’s choice and he likes the name as well.”

Dekker is particularly close with Gavet, along with wing Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and ISP centre Junior Pauga, but has won the entire club over through his infectious sense of humour, positivity and work ethic.

Mark Dekker greets Warriors forward James Gavet. Photo / Greg Bowker

“They’re a good team,” said Dekker. “Rugby league is a great game and they are my good mates. It’s awesome.

“We work hard but when you do the mahi, you get the treats.”

Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck says Dekker’s presence helps keep the players grounded and serves as a reminder of how the club can help people out in the community.

“It just puts things in perspective having him here,” said Tuivasa-Sheck.

“He’s a big supporter of the club and no matter what happens or goes on he always turns up with a smile on his face which keeps the boys happy.”

 

Mark Dekker who was born with Down syndrome is regularly helping the NZ Warriors NRL rugby league team at training sessions at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland. 9 June 2018 New Zealand Herald Photograph by Greg Bowker.

Mark Dekker in his role with the Warriors. Photo / Greg Bowker

Copyright: New Zealand Herald.

Where do you work?
McDonalds Sydenham in Christchurch

How long have you been there?
2 years

How many days a week do you work?
Two days, Monday and Tuesday.

What hours do you work?
I start at 11am til 2pm, so three hours.

How do you get to work?
I bike or bus to work

How did you get the job?
Through Roger Walker and Tracy Jane from Skillwise.

What are your duties?
I clean the bathrooms and trays. I put the dishes away into the sink and I do the vacuuming in the playground and I also sweep the floors and I wipe the tables.