Project Description

Hi Community Connections Whanau

My name is Sophie and I’m in 24/7 services in Palmerston North. Our coordinator here in Palmerston North, Heni Owen, asked me a few months ago if I would like to attend a I-Lead disability youth conference in Wellington for 2 days. I said yes, thinking “yay I’m going away on holiday with Heni”. At the back of my mind I was thinking this is going to be boring, but OMG I was so wrong! Wow! Firstly, I would like to thank Heni and Community Connections for supporting me to attend this conference. It was so inspirational and made me feel a part of something very special.

Sophie at the I-Lead conference

The I-Lead conference was about giving youth with a disability a voice in parliament and leading the future for the next generation. The conference was held in the grand hall in parliament and we had dinner there as well. Heni got me to try salmon for the first time. I looked at her with my face screwed up, but she said “don’t dis it until you try it”. So I tried it, and man it was good! I now like salmon – who ever would have thought?

Sophie tries salmon

We did some workshops around what the most important parts for youth is and got into groups. My group was around employment and opportunities. All the workshop information will be collated and will be given to our prime minister to be reviewed and hopefully make some changes for youth in New Zealand.

There were youth from all over New Zealand and I met some fantastic people during the two days I was there. My favourite parts were the keynote speakers, Cameron Calkoen,  Kramer Heflitch, Kim Clark and Sam Morgan. They were inspirational and reminded me that I can do anything: Dream Big. I can, I will, and I believe in myself. Listening to Cameron Calkoen’s story was so inspirational and gave me hope and reminded me that I’m a Kiwi and my disability does not define who I am as a person. Yes, it’s a part of my life, but this does not mean that I cannot Dream Big. I hope that they hold more conferences like this because I would love to be involved in giving youth in New Zealand a voice and be a part of the next youth leaders within New Zealand.

Sophie and Kramer Heflitch at the I-Lead conference

Message for John Taylor – you should so get Cameron Calkoen to come and share his story to all the support staff and people supported. Cam has cerebal palsy and he works for YES in Auckland. He is a keynote speaker and travels the world telling people his story.

Sophie and Cameron Calkoen

I had a fantastic time at this conference, and I hope to attend more in the future.