Telling it like it is
24 August 2018 – You know you’ve found a diamond when you come across a video blurb that reads, “Freedom Nathan tells it like it is with an infectious sense of humour.
She’s a farm girl who likes to go fishing and hunting with her cousins…the fact she completely lost her sight at age 5 hasn’t stopped her living life to the full”.
Life Unlimited’s award winning series of 21 short videos featuring people with disabilities talking candidly about their lives was a lucky find. Honest, insightful, and empowering (and always with a healthy dose of that classic kiwi humour) the videos take on an interactive question time concept.
It’s no surprise the series recently won the Diane Rangi Innovation Award from the New Zealand Federation of Disability Information Centres. One thing that is clear about this project is that the people behind it are passionate about creating opportunities for people to make their own life choices and to educate about the reality of living with disability.
We wanted to know more about this charitable trust and to hear the thoughts of the man behind the reins, so we had our own question time with Mark Brown (CEO).
QUESTION TIME – with Mark Brown
Q: Hi Mark, tell us a bit about Life Unlimited.
A: Life Unlimited has been around for 40 years and over the decades we’ve really grown and adapted as the needs and gaps in the community have changed. Everything we do helps to create opportunities for people to make and be in control of their own life choices.
It’s important to us that the voices and stories of disabled people are heard which is why we’re so very proud of our recent work with Attitude Live to produce the Question Time video series of disabled people telling their stories. These are videos made by disabled people for disabled people, their whanau and supporters.
Q: What’s been instrumental to Life Unlimited’s success?
A: Strong governance by the Board of Trustees has been instrumental to us always moving and developing new ideas and approaches. Their guidance and the management teams appointed have seen us expand into national roles from the beginnings as a purely Waikato organisation.
Q: Has there been any hurdles along the way?
A: We have a strong history of delivering on government contracts, however this means that a lot of our focus is on providing what we are contracted to do and we sometimes feel we have limited time and resource to meet the needs we see in the community that are not covered by the government.
Q: What are your hopes for the future of Life Unlimited or the disability sector in New Zealand?
A: To increase our social enterprise ventures to meet needs and gaps we see in the community in areas over and above the limitations of government funding.
Q: What’s something you wished that everyone knew about the work that you do?
A: Not everyone knows that we have a nationwide team of hearing therapists providing free hearing evaluations and support. We are also autism specialists and we offer personalised responses to a wide range of topics about disability and living independently. Our online information hub provides a wealth of information and stories relevant to living independently.
Q: What tips do you have for other charities?
A: Tip 1: Passion is for keeps! Find and keep a staff team who love what they do – there is great strength in a team who come to work believing and knowing the difference they are making in people’s lives.
Tip 2: Remember you are a business. Live within your means so that you can sustain the effort and be around for the long haul.
Read Life Unlimited Charitable Trust’s latest annual report.
This article appeared in the Charities Service Newsletter in August 2018.
Categories: Wellbeing, Supporting adults, Living options
Tags: Information hub, Freedom Nathan