Our Stories

Annie’s story

“I’m doing good now. I have so many things to look forward to every day”

Before connecting with LAC Victoria, Annie was new to the Bay of Plenty and felt isolated from her local community.

Victoria created a personalised plan with Annie, to connect her with like-minded people and find work opportunities based on her interests and skills.

Annie now volunteers at a Primary School, one day a week. Annie does most of her volunteering role in the school library, which is a perfect fit given her love of reading and admiration of children. She also enjoys morning tea with teaching staff, as it provides an opportunity to socialise with peers her own age.

Victoria supported Annie to achieve another of her goals – learning to crochet. She now attends a local craft group every Wednesday and enjoys learning the new skill alongside her tutor Amy.

In her spare time, Annie stays fit as an active member of her local Taekwondo club. She is set to achieve her yellow belt status by early November.

Next year, Annie hopes to volunteer at Mainly Music, a programme that nurtures the enjoyment of music and movement in young children and their parents/caregivers.

“I’m so pleased with all the connections I have made since I met Victoria. It’s provided me with so many opportunities – it really means a lot”, Annie says.


Heidi’s story

Heidi is on the fast track to becoming a leader in her community.

At just 15-years-old, teenager Heidi is on the fast track to becoming a leader in her community thanks to assistance from Local Area Coordination Eastern Bay of Plenty.

This year, she became a member of the Youth Council after completing the nomination process with the help of her LAC and whānau. Heidi is also part of the Future Leaders programme.

She says that being a part of the organisations has helped her to make new friends and develop her social skills, which has been one of her biggest goals.

One of the recent highlights for Heidi has been attending a youth conference in Wellington, and also being asked to speak at the InSpire: For Youth By Youth event that was held in October.

She put a lot of hard work into writing her speech with support from her friends, family, and LAC Jeanette.

“I wanted to make it funny but also send a clear message about people with disabilities and the importance of accessibility,” Heidi said.

Outside of school and her leadership work, Heidi loves being an older sister, and listening to music – especially her favourite New Zealand pop artist Stan Walker.


Kelvin’s story

For the first time in my life, I feel connected to my heritage and have found a sense of belonging.

Since suffering a stroke in 2006, Kelvin has worked with Local Area Coordination Lakes District to regain the physical and mental strength he felt he’d lost.

While the 61-year-old is now in the best shape of his life, even completing the Roturua Marathon in 2016, he still felt there was something missing in his life.

LAC Mary encouraged Kelvin to enrol in Te Reo classes. After starting weekly lessons at Rotorua CommUnity Kai, he moved to an NCEA Level 1 course at Te Wananga o Aotearoa.

Kelvin can now write his pepeha (the story of the people and places to which he is connected) and has created a story in Te Reo for his mokopunas called ‘Wa Takaro’. He is now working on completing NCEA Level 4 in Te Reo.

“For the first time in my life, I feel connected to my heritage and have found a sense of belonging. I’m immensely proud to be Māori.”


Jeremy and Justina’s story

With encouragement from their LACs, Jeremy and Justina have taken up new opportunities in business and volunteer work.

Busy lives for a married couple

Like any married couple, the jokes are part and parcel of their relationship. Jeremy and Justina have been married for 10 years which, Justina says jokingly, is “too long”.

Their lives are busy, thanks partly to the many opportunities they have taken up with support from their Local Area Coordinator (LAC).

Jeremy set up his own micro-business after talking about what he would like to do in the future with his LAC and Circle of Support. He is now a consumer watchdog for people with disabilities in his area and was delighted to win an initial contract with the local council.

As part of running his own business, Jeremy has a team of people who are there when he needs them for advice and assistance. A local entrepreneur, for example, worked with Jeremy on planning for the business and creating templates for invoices and statements.

Jeremy’s confidence and business skills have increased significantly since he first started and he is now taking on more of the tasks and roles himself. He’s opened his own bank account and runs meetings with his team.

Top of his list now is finding a new business mentor/coach for the next phase of his business development, as he is keen to offer a similar service in neighbouring towns and cities. The local council has also asked him to be involved in training new staff and to contribute to a short training video.

A highlight of 2015 and a proud moment, Jeremy says, was being a speaker at Imagine Better’s workshops where he spoke about creating his own business.

As Jeremy’s confidence has increased, and with his support networks in place, his LAC was able to phase out their involvement with the business side of things, leaving Jeremy well supported to grow his business.

Justina volunteers at the local Plunket rooms every Wednesday, filling bags with information, vouchers and books to be delivered to new mums in the area. Justina says she wanted to do something to help in the community and preferably something to do with babies. “I love babies – I was brought up around them”, she says. Staff from the Plunket Society say they love talking to Justina and are very grateful for the job she does for them.

Aside from helping local mothers and their babies through Plunket, Justina enjoys the opportunity to get out into the community and meet new people. “If you want to know what’s going on, just ask Justina”, says husband Jeremy.


Leanne’s story

“If it wasn’t for my LAC, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

A good life can take time!

Leanne has been linked with LAC since its inception. Her desire right from the beginning has been to get work in a reception or administration role.

Leanne’s personal plan goals were wider than her work aspirations however this desire remained strong and consistent in her personal plans. Leanne and LAC have attempted many strategies over the years, and although getting close on a few occasions the ultimate goal remained elusive.

In late 2018 a new social services community Hub, the Kollective, was opened in Tauranga. Through proactive networking the LAC connected with the Social Link

Coordinator to ask if they had any opportunities of office roles for Leanne.

Leanne’s CV was updated and passed on and she was also supported to do some interview preparation.

In Leanne’s own words: “This year it has turned out great for me have brought a house and got a office job”

Paid work realistic goal

Leanne’s goal of paid employment could finally be on the cards thanks to a computer course recommended by her Local Area Coordinator (LAC).

Leanne credits her LAC with introducing her to a computer course which she hopes will lead to her first paid job, doing office work.

“That was my main goal – having paid work. I’m not sure how many days but I don’t want to start too high. I’d rather achieve well and then move up.”

Life is busy for Leanne. She says she sometimes feels that she doesn’t have enough hours in the day! One of the reasons for this is that she has taken up many of the opportunities that her LAC has discussed with her.

Crafts are a huge focus for her, providing a much loved creative outlet. She has even had plans to start her own card-making business but they are on the back burner for the moment.

Her LAC recently told Leanne about three websites she could check to find out more about card-making groups in the area as a way of continuing to learn new skills. Leanne has also discovered a jewellery-making course she would like to try.

“I love crafts and I like using my hands. I enjoy making things myself.”

A lifelong reader, Leanne also wants to continue helping children to read at her local school. “I like to be busy and would love to pick up another class. I really enjoy seeing all the kids improve and flourish”, she says.

She’s also looking forward to going back to the gym where she enjoys meeting new people and trying different activities. “Some of the exercises help me with transferring (from bed to wheelchair). My main goal is to be independent.”

Leanne’s confidence is palpable and largely due, she says, to her relationship with her LAC: “Jenny has been a good friend and a good person to bounce ideas off. If it wasn’t for Jenny, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”


Steven’s story

With support from his Local Area Coordinator, Steven is continuing to pursue his passion for fitness.

Fitness key to confidence

Keeping fit is an important part of life for Steven. In his 50s, he has a visual impairment which has deteriorated and made it harder for him to keep fit.

He discussed what was happening with his Local Area Coordinator (LAC) and together they worked out a plan so Steven could still enjoy going for runs. The first objective was to find someone who could go with him, so they placed an advertisement for a running buddy. Two women from a local running club responded and volunteered to be his guide.

“It was great news as it meant I could run different routes and go further”, he says.

Next on the agenda was an initial trial run with each guide, meeting at a local running track where they could safely get used to running with a string linking them together.

Each woman now runs with Steven once a week – and a third person has put their hand up to be another running buddy.

“It’s wonderful to run with these guides. We do road running because the tracks are flat and there aren’t too many obstacles in the way.”

Steven says he lost a lot of his confidence three years ago when his sight deteriorated and he had to find his way around with a walking stick. Now he walks a few blocks and then takes the bus to the gym three times a week, where he enjoys body building and weight lifting. Both give him confidence and help when he’s feeling frustrated and struggling with the idea of losing more of his eyesight.

“I’m feeling a lot stronger. I believe in myself and I can do it. I want to live my own life.”

He’s recently been enjoying running in the early morning around the Mount Maunganui beach front.

At the time of writing, Steven and his LAC were looking at how Steven could use a tandem cycle available through the Blind Foundation. “It sounds like lots of fun. I love the thought of biking – freedom, fresh air and keeping fit at the same time,” Steven says.

Another idea is to try swimming. “It’s good to know that my LAC is there so we can discuss other ways of continuing on this path of keeping fit – it’s a huge part of my life”, says Steven.