John lives and works in Alexandra, Central Otago. Funding from the Disability Workforce Development consumer leadership development grant, accessed through Central Otago Living Options, increased John’s skills and confidence to take further steps in his already busy life.

John completed a 14 week customised course on advocacy, leadership and development to grow his skills and support his zest for personal development, living well, and supporting others to make positive changes in their lives.

In conjunction with John, and using local resources, Central Otago Living Options tutor Maureen Connor developed a multi-faceted programme, to continue with changes that John had made in his life over the previous few years. The course comprised:

  • Communication and listening skills, including some speech therapy to improve articulation
  • Computing skills – email and PowerPoint
  • Meeting procedures, greeting visitors, telephone skills
  • Grooming and dressing for presentations
  • How to get help for self and others
  • Supervision and counselling – what they are and how they can help
  • Policies and service planning – how to contribute
  • Professional boundaries – how to be an effective buddy helper
  • Taking control of own life decisions
  • Maoritanga

During the course, John further developed his understanding of important leadership principles, such as leadership qualities, effective communication, taking care of ourselves to enhance our ability to lead others, stress and ways to minimise it, teamwork, and the importance of goal setting for ourselves and in working with others. John was an enthusiastic and attentive learner and went to each session fully prepared to engage in all discussions and share his ideas.

He was able to use the things he learned in his daily life, particularly in the day to day work he does with people supported at Living Options. John has a role in the Living Options Training café as the liaison person between Living Options training café and the community - a type of maitre d’ role.

I get coffees for people on Thursday afternoon (when café is open to the public).

I work in the café icing cup cakes.”

John became more confident in his abilities as the course progressed and also more willing to try new things. He learned to use a Word Pad programme, attach documents to emails, take and download photos onto his computer, and share photos electronically. He was quite proud of these new skills and happy to share his new found knowledge with peers and other staff at Living Options.

Additionally, John’s improved self-confidence led to him playing his guitar in front of a large audience. He kicked off proceedings with a performance of two songs and received a huge round of applause. John’s willingness to help and encourage his peers in a gentle, understanding way has also helped improve some of their confidence as well. John contributed to a workshop in Wanaka to parents of children with disabilities, sharing with them a young person’s perspective on living with an impairment. He talked about this leadership course and his commitment to working with others like him with disabilities. 

I learn everything with Powerpoint. I want to do talks and email.”

John treasures his Maori heritage. It is really important to him that others value his culture as he does. He has been able to explore and reflect on his cultural heritage, for example when his grandmother died he painted a mural depicting several Maori symbols representing him and her as strong warriors, marae, his whanau, their land, the family farm, and the importance of people and places in his life. His growing confidence led to him exhibiting this painting along with other works at the Canvas and Cake community art exhibition as part of Alexandra Blossom Festival community events. He has also completed a bone carving course.

John works at Living Options and part of his role is to comment on any new policies and procedures from a consumer perspective, and consult on proposed changes within the organisation. His duties include meeting and greeting people who visit for appointments with the chief executive, and he is the 'tour guide' for their centre.

John leads the haka to welcome official visitors and encourages Maori greetings, having learned te reo during his course.

I learned on course about kapa haka, and I say kia ora to everyone"

John’s role also involved contributing to staff recruitment:

I practice the questions and ask ‘how are you doing’ and ‘good luck for the job’.

I’ve interviewed a few people – I like getting them a job because it makes people happy”.

John has a speech impediment and was determined to learn to speak more clearly as he realised that to be a more effective leader, it was important that he was understood easily by others. He works carefully on speaking slower, enunciating clearly, and making sure he has good breath control. John is really proud of a speech he gave at his birthday party where he told people the story of his life. Improved speech has really helped his confidence and enhanced his mana.

John had a particularly difficult early life but turned it around after an experience at Outward Bound and has since surged ahead, keeping fit, continuing his learning and supporting others. His continued growth during and since the leadership development course is evidenced by his contributions to the Trust both in a employment and voluntary capacity, and his ongoing enthusiasm for sharing his knowledge and supporting others.