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New opportunities open for disabled youth

Students Lauchie and Cody at the Mahi Tahi Tatou Charitable Trust’s day programme on Bannister St. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

A Wairarapa disability organisation is helping young people gain work experience, pursue creative passions, and connect with their communities and one another.

The Mahi Tahi Tatou Charitable Trust was founded last year by chairwoman Rebecca Stevens – aiming to “enable good lives” for disabled people through employment, education and community participation.

In February, the trust started running a day programme from its new Masterton premises: where disabled school leavers can learn life skills, work on creative projects, engage in social activities, and work within social enterprises.

Stevens, a former school principal and mother of two children with disabilities, started the trust to support and create opportunities for disabled rangatahi once they leave school.

One of its main aims is to promote social inclusion – and reduce social isolation and loneliness for young people with disabilities.

“Disabled people are often isolated. For example, many can’t work, so they miss out on the social interaction that brings,” Stevens said.

“Transport can be inaccessible, which means they can’t get out and about.

“So, it’s important to us to give young people the opportunity to connect with others, form relationships and enjoy life in their community. That’s just as important as them learning to make a meal or use a bank card.”

At the day programme, school leavers and students transitioning into the community are supported by 10 volunteers and a paid support worker.

Attendees take part in cooking classes, receive mentorship while job hunting, do art and crafts, and woodwork projects at the on-site workshop.

The programme also includes regular trips to Come Sew With Me, King Street Artworks and Trust House Recreation Centre, as well as excursions to Pukaha, the Wool Shed, and the Fell Engine Museum.

To foster work opportunities for clients, the trust has also created several small businesses – focusing on furniture restoration and making tealight candles – and hopes to set up its own charity shop.

“Not everyone is going to fit within that 40-hour a week box. So, we’re creating work environments to fit them,” Stevens said.

“Employment and a regular income means independence and the ability to participate in society. Disabled people deserve that opportunity.”

Young people and their whanau also attend a weekly bowling league at Masterbowl – with the trust hoping to set up a Special Olympics bowling team.

Stevens said she is “blown away” by the support the trust has received from families, schools, community organisations, and the wider community, which has helped with fundraising and provided donations.

The trust will be holding its open day on Sunday, August 14, from 10am-2pm, at 36C Bannister St. For more information, email [email protected].

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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