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Jammers need local support

Wairarapa Jammer Amber enjoys StarJam’s end of year party. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
[email protected]

A national charity hopes to help more Wairarapa youngsters realise their potential through the magic of performance – with a hand from some kind-hearted and enthusiastic locals.

StarJam aims to help children and young people with disabilities grow in confidence and express themselves creatively – offering music and dance workshops and organising concerts for young performers to showcase their skills.

The not-for-profit organisation, which runs close to 50 workshops nationwide, provides a safe, inclusive space for disabled Kiwis to explore their passion for music and movement – including those who have been unable to do so in a mainstream environment.

Throughout the country, StarJam has become a community staple – with participants, known as Jammers, often invited to perform at public and private events.

StarJam, which has been operating in Wairarapa since 2018, holds workshops in Masterton, facilitated by a paid tutor – Carterton-based dance teacher and choreographer Justine Kingdon – and a group of volunteers.

The organisation hopes to expand its presence in the region – and, to help achieve this goal, is on the hunt for more volunteers to work alongside its young aspiring entertainers.

Zoe Christall, StarJam’s Wellington regional programmes co-ordinator, said the organisation’s volunteer pool had dwindled in Wairarapa – with people having moved out of the region, or resigning due to ill health.

She said the organisation is committed to “breaking barriers” and making the performing arts more accessible for disabled youth – and that requires strong community support.

“Telling stories through dance, music and theatre is a key part of being human,” Christall said.

“Everyone deserves to be able to access that – but it hasn’t always been easy for people with disabilities. So, it’s important they have their own space where they feel safe and empowered to follow their passions.

“StarJam is all about changing the way New Zealanders view disability – so we need people to use their time and energy to create that social change.”

StarJam was founded in 2002 by Roy and Julie Bartlett – inspired by Julie’s brother Ross, who made a moving speech at their wedding, leaving guests in tears.

Seeing how the power of performance could change people’s perceptions of disabled people, like Ross, the Bartletts created StarJam – so that youth with disabilities could receive respect and admiration.

In Wairarapa, StarJam offers two weekly workshops – Spectacular SingStars and Magical Movers – open to 12 Jammers, as well as social discos at the end of each term.

Workshops are open to people aged from six to 25, irrespective of their particular disability.

“We don’t need to know what kind of disability they have – unless it’s for health and safety reasons,” Christall said.

“We have several young people who are wheelchair users. Does that stop them from performing? Absolutely not.

“Having a disability does not mean a person can’t be a talented dancer or singer.”

Christall said she plans to reach out to schools and satellite services in Wairarapa to promote StarJam – but is focused on recruiting a new crew of volunteers.

First and foremost, the organisation is on the lookout for people who are “kind, compassionate and open-minded”.

“You don’t need any specific skills in song and dance,” she said.

“It is helpful if you’ve had experience working with youth – but, most of all, we’re looking for people who are enthusiastic about contributing to their community and making a difference.”

For more information, contact Zoe Christall by email at [email protected].

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