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New adventure for disabled youth

DANIELLE STREET
Last updated 05:00 07/12/2012
Cam Calkoen
JASON OXENHAM/ Fairfax NZ
BREAKING BARRIERS: Cam Calkoen’s mission is to empower young people with disabilities to reach their pinnacle in life.

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An innovative collaboration between nine disability groups is helping young people living with impairments reach their full potential.

The Cube is the unification of networks that specialise in recreational activities for disabled youth.

Cam Calkoen has been at the heart of The Cube project through his work at YES Disability Resource Centre.

"I walked into my office one day at YES and I said to our CEO there are all these great organisations but people find out about them by mistake, there is no real marketing power.

"But when we looked at the organisations we saw that a lot of young people would go to each one, but only once they had heard about it and generally quite late in life."

Mr Calkoen, 28, was born with cerebral palsy and followed a path that saw him training as an elite athlete with the goal of going to the paralympics.

While he never made it to the paralympics his new mission is to empower young people with disabilities to reach their pinnacle in life.

"We are doing it so we can have more young people with disabilities proving that attitude determines altitude," Mr Calkoen says.

The Cube has been developed over two years and was launched on Monday for International Day of the Disabled Person.

It brings together the networks of Voyager, Achilles, Unique Families, ACE, Touch Compass, Carabiner, Star Jam, PHAB and Sensational Siblings.

Each organisation specialises in activities which range from singing and dance to sports and mentoring.

Mr Calkoen says The Cube is intended to make it easier for disabled people under the age of 25 to find the option that is the right fit for them.

All nine groups will pool resources for marketing, organised events and fundraising efforts.

Each network has a representative on the Youth Engagement Group, a body which helps steer the decisions of The Cube through the democratic process.

Youth Engagement Group member Joseph Fuimaono says he sees The Cube as "a one-stop shop for young disabled people who are trying to find ways to live a normal life".

Mr Fuimaono also lives with cerebral palsy and uses walking sticks to support himself while he walks.

The 19-year-old says before becoming involved with the Youth Engagement Group he didn't really get out much, but engaging with his peers gave him a new sense of community.

"One of the reasons I got involved with this project is to provide an opportunity for the younger kids with disabilities to experience something that I had to wait quite a while to experience," he says.

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The Cube exists online - a format which Mr Calkoen says best suits today's youth.

"All the young people are online," he says.

Visit thecube.org.nz for more information.

- Auckland City Harbour News

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