Helping disabled kids to have fun

MONICA TISCHLER
Last updated 05:00 09/11/2012
Recreate
MONICA TISCHLER
GOOD CAUSE: Recreate co-founder Joy Wells, right, with her daughter Emma.

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Joy Wells advocates for many families of disabled children when she says it's important for them to be surrounded by people and in an environment that encourages them to perform to the best of their ability.

Mrs Wells lives in Blockhouse Bay and her daughter, Emma, is profoundly deaf and autistic.

Ten years ago, Emma was thriving on the recreational activities run by disability organisation CCS.

So when Mrs Wells and other parents whose children were benefiting from the programmes learnt it was cutting its recreational side altogether, they were in disbelief.

"As a whole group of parents, we were so upset because all of a sudden, an opportunity for our children was lost," she says.

So she and fellow parent Carol Chouhfeh, whose son Joseph is intellectually disabled, set up an organisation of their own.

Ten years on, Recreate NZ is thriving and with a hands-on team of paid staff and volunteers, the organisation helps more than 500 families of children with disabilities in Auckland and Christchurch.

Recreate NZ is committed to enhance the intellectual, social, emotional and physical development and independence of individuals aged 9 to 24 years.

The charity provides a challenging, safe and supportive environment where self-esteem and independence are the core focus.

Emma, 26, flats in a supported living environment and still attends a few of Recreate NZ's programmes when she can.

"I love Recreate. I like having a good time and seeing my friends," she says.

"I've made lots of friends. I like to go shopping, to the movies, swimming and taking photos with them."

Mrs Wells says for many years CCS was offering recreational programmes like swimming and athletics and as a result of extensive meetings with upset parents like herself and Mrs Chouhfeh, CCS granted them $75,000 to start their own organisation.

"From the money, we were able to employ a programme co-ordinator and we named it Recreate NZ," Mrs Wells says.

Recreate NZ gets its funding from charitable trusts including ASB Community Trust and The Lion Foundation, as well as carer support day funding allocated to children with disabilities by the Ministry of Social Development.

However, receiving no government funding makes it hard for children who have left home and no longer receive carer support money to be able to afford the programmes.

Recreate NZ offers various activities including camps, holiday programmes, getaway weekends, and Urban Youth, a social club where members can do age-appropriate activities like watch a sports game, go to the movies or enjoy a meal at a restaurant.

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Mrs Wells says it's important children with disabilities are exposed to social experiences.

"It's really hard to find someone who isn't a family member to look after your child when they've got a disability. But children need to be exposed to all social experiences, not just within the family unit.

"That's why it's important they go on the camps and do things that are appropriate to their disability level," she says.

Mrs Chouhfeh says Recreate NZ prepares children for life opportunities.

"It's about having as much of a normalised life as possible, and a really good life," she says.

"We want to prepare our kids in every aspect of their life and empower and and encourage them as much as we can."

Go online to

recreate.org.nz for more information about the charity.

- Western Leader

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