2016 Alumni

Amy Glassford

Amy Glassford At the end of 2014 I completed a Bachelor's degree in Social Work from the University of Canterbury and am now a Service Coordinator at CCS Disability Action in Christchurch. I’m an open and honest person who loves learning and meeting new people.

I grew up in a small town in Central Otago called Omakau. I was the only disabled person I knew and because of this, I didn't understand why I couldn't do what other kids were doing; so I just found new ways to do things.

My leadership style is to lead from the front. I wouldn’t ask anyone in my team to do something I am not prepared to do myself. I believe everyone in a team has different strengths so it’s important to delegate according to these.

I aspire to help people with disabilities and their families to get the most out of life by sharing my experiences, being someone for them to talk to and trying to create change.

Bruce Roberts

Bruce Roberts I am loving, caring, against injustice and very much want to see everyone included in society and culture. I love humor and laughing. You ain’t living or learning if it doesn’t include laughing.

I currently work at Te Papa and am the only person writing tours and educational programs for people with disabilities in museums in all of Australasia. I want Te Papa to become the most accessible museum in the southern hemisphere and I want New Zealand to become the most accessible tourist destination in the world.

I also am a founding member and trustee for WaiPESI, the Wainuiomata Pacifika Education Success Initiative. This is a group of volunteers that work with our Pasifika students and families (although kids and families of other cultures are never turned away) to help them achieve better in life and in school.

If I could change one thing in the world it would be that everyone would know true love and have someone that loved them. They would know who this person, or persons, were. I would make sure that everyone in the world knows they are loved.

Etta (Henrietta) Bollinger

Henrietta Bollinger I’m a twin, older sibling and daughter to my Wellington-based family, as well as a part-time student and tutor at Victoria University. I believe strongly in collaboration.

I believe lots of my leadership opportunities have come through the goodwill and support of others, whether through creative, academic or political activity. I use my voice as a writer in all these spaces too, as a playwright and poet.

I am currently studying Sociology. This discipline has helped to ground me and shape my thinking around the issues that are important to me as a member of the access community, the queer community and as a citizen of Aotearoa.

I believe requiring support in some way is more natural than we like to think. Embracing interdependence and moving away from individualism will be crucial in our changing world - particularly regarding climate crisis. Disabled people can and should be strong voices on this.

Hannah Young

Hannah YoungI am an enthusiastic, high-energy person who enjoys tackling new problems while having some fun in the process. I am creative and enjoy sewing and crafts. I am the owner of two lovely dogs and I met my husband in the most unusual way – at an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie marathon!

Currently, I teach Diversional Therapy and am a company director and Chairperson of The Therapy Box. I teach a person-centered approach and encourage my students to develop their own ideas. I believe people are individuals and should be cared for in a way that suits them and their preferences. I aim to encourage this. My charity provides activities and equipment to aged-care facilities to enable them to facilitate games and activities that their residents will enjoy.

My most recent challenge has been completing my Post Graduate Certificate in Health Science. I really enjoyed my time studying but it was very challenging. I am very proud that I was awarded with distinction on completion.

One day I would like to obtain my Master’s Degree. I would like to lead my charity to helping more people across different sectors (not just aged care) by providing fun activities and scholarships for students studying diversional therapy.

Jase (Jayshree) Ranchhod

Jayshree Ranchhod I am currently an Assistant Team Manager for an Investments team in Wellington. I love to learn and continually develop myself, as well as helping my team to develop. I believe I am a quiet leader, but I like to lead through action. I believe in being a good role model.

My biggest challenge was getting sick and not being able to control my body after being so physically active. I really had to work on my patience and learn to accept help from friends and family to overcome this. Luckily, I was able to become more open and express my feelings (both good and bad), which I was never able to do before.

I love the environment and believe in equality and diversity in the workplace. I aspire to a clean, green New Zealand and a nation that is diverse, where everyone respects each other. I also would love to travel the world and hope that we are able to save the special ecosystems we have on this planet.

Jono (Jonathan) Heaps

Jonathan Heaps I'm a 28-year-old musician living in Auckland - the greatest city in the world. I sing and play piano for a living. Many people tell me that they are uplifted when they hear my music on the streets. This often gives rise to conversations about themselves or their lives. I love to hear these stories and get to know these people who, before they heard me singing an old favourite song of theirs and stopped to talk to me, I would have considered total strangers.

Blind since birth, I was raised by a very loving family and had everything a person could want. This presented a huge challenge when it came to developing my independence as a teenager. The greatest challenge for me was realising that if I were to live successfully and independently, I would have to be courageous and step right out of my comfort zone, abandoning to a certain extent the safety to which I had become so accustomed

I decided to attend a two-year, live-in programme called 'Kickstart'. This is a programme designed to assist 17-21 year-old blind and vision impaired people transition from school into the community. It was the best decision I ever made.

I believe that great leadership is something we can all aspire to. Those who've had to overcome challenges like blindness, deafness, dyslexia etc. can offer a unique perspective on leadership that has historically been overlooked by society. Thanks to organisations like Be. Accessible, these challenges (which are so often viewed as disadvantages) are starting to be viewed in a positive way.

Kim Smith

Kim SmithI am a passionate person who is hardworking and I see each situation individually. I know that no person is the same, so no situation can be the same. I believe that all people have value, should be able to contribute to society and have full access to the community.

I am a generous leader that leads from the front with a guiding hand and would never ask anyone to do anything that I would not do. I always look for the solution that is right for the greater good of all people.

I was born with low vision and have faced many barriers, the greatest being society’s assumptions about what I am and am not capable of doing because of my disability. However, my approach to life is to give everything that I have and that there are always solutions to perceived barriers.

I am proud that I have never let anything stop me from living life and that I have developed the ability to treat people and situations individually. This has allowed me to become who I am today.

Maree Welgus

Maree Welgus I am an Australian who has lived in New Zealand for 16 years and consider Aotearoa home. I would describe myself as friendly, caring and considerate. I work closely to involve Sudima Hotel Lake Rotorua with Love Soup Rotorua - a non-profit organisation to feed Rotorua’s homeless - and I was very proud to receive the Excellence in Leadership Award 2016 with Sudima Hotels.

I lead by example and invest time mentoring and developing those around me. Most of all I am fair, a major attribute in my leadership style.

I organise an annual Pink Ribbon Breakfast; am an active blood donor; instigated and supported the "adopt a Rowi" campaign in Franz Josef, West Coast, raising thousands for dollars for DOC; I have recently been provisionally approved to undertake Justice of the Peace Ministerial Duties Induction Training; I’m in the process of becoming a volunteer counsellor with Lifelink Samaritans; and, finally, am an avid supporter of Keep New Zealand Beautiful Week, involving staff with roadside and lakeside clean ups. 

I am learning to be brave and have more courageous conversations. It is important to open my mind and be more aware of those around me.

Maria Fredatovich

Maria FredatovichI am a worldly, outdoorsy, creative person.  I am a determined, curious, vibrant, open-minded individual who thrives on life and all the challenges and opportunities it presents me - both good and bad. I look forward to exploring, experiencing and embracing more of the world and what it offers.

I am the Executive for Young Stroke Thrivers Foundation, living between Auckland, Nelson and Wanaka. I struggled being associated with the words 'disabled', 'survivor' and 'victim', and my long-term impairments have caused many hurdles to overcome throughout my life. But I embrace them and take the challenge on with an open mind and enthusiasm.

I aspire to empower children affected by stroke with a positive, confident outlook by providing opportunities for them to lead active and fulfilling lives through sports and recreation, education, support and community awareness.

Red (Redmond) Nicholson

Red Nicholson I'm a Dean and teacher at an Auckland high school, a husband to Helen and Dad to little Lachlan. I'm also a masochistic Warriors supporter, Apple geek, and a huge fan of Kanye West. I believe I’m incredibly fortunate to have been born with a point of difference. I was born into a cause and into a community.

I believe in the good of people. I believe that, given the right environment, everyone wants to be a good person. Everyone wants to contribute. Everyone wants to connect with others in a positive way. I think the fundamental belief in the good of people allows me to persevere within challenging contexts and continue to help create environments where everyone is able to be the best version of themselves.

My aspirations are that, in my lifetime, New Zealand will become a more caring, compassionate, thoughtful country to live in. We will cast aside the curse of NIMBYism and instead focus on the greater good for all people. We will hold our poets, our authors and our artists in the same esteem as we do our rugby captains. And we will fly the tino rangatiratanga flag atop the harbour bridge all day every day because, by god, we have two flagpoles.

Sarah Orr

Sarah Orr I am a short, emotional, creative, recovering perfectionist. I am Mum to two beautiful, strong-willed children, Ava and Jacob. We spend a lot of time together as a family. We also have a puggle (half pug, half beagle) called Jackson. I love my friends and my partner. I am people orientated. I believe in the power of people on whatever scale that may be. Kindness is an easy gift to give.

My work is very important to me. I work as a Child and Youth Support Coordinator in ACC's National Serious Injury Service. I work with children with acquired disabilities, coordinating their rehabilitation needs. It is an immensely rewarding job, which is not without its challenges. I feel incredibly privileged to work alongside children as they work towards realising their true potential.

I aspire to have a life full of love. I aspire to be in a role where I can influence social change and be of service to others. I aspire to be balanced and calm and excited and spontaneous. I aspire to a life full of moments of adventure and intimacy and happiness. I don’t feel that I will ever get to the point where I can say, "I'm here, I'm done now," because life is a journey and I want to keep going until the end.

Sean Parker

Sean Parker I'm a middle-aged family man with a strong ethical background in equality, human rights and disability issues in NZ. I am a huge sports nut, watching any game that involves a bat or ball. I am most proud of my family - that is my wife, daughter, my parents and brothers - and everything they have achieved.

I am an experienced hospital social worker based at Palmerton North Hospital. My main task is to ensure patients and their families have enough support to be and feel safe in their home environments. My wife and I have taken in foster children as CYF caregivers for several years and I have sat on governance boards for disability-related NGOs.

I like to utilise all my resources when I'm in a leadership position, which includes materials, time and individuals. I am honest about the fact that I do not know everything and draw on the experience and knowledge of those around me to formulate a plan to move forward.

My two immediate aspirations are to complete the Be. Leadership programme and to become clinical coordinator for the social work team. My long-term aspiration is to be known as someone who made a difference in the world.

Soana Hodgkinson

Soana Hodgkinson I am a creative, kind, caring, art-loving, abstract-thinking, assertive, beautiful, proactive, Tongan, all-heart, funny, loud, absolutely/proudly honest dreamer who is not a people-pleaser. I love to drive, swim, workout and try my best in all that I do.

I like to think of myself as an avid student. Learning wherever I go, from whoever I meet, whatever I’m doing. To me, learning isn’t prohibited to a four-wall room with a teacher at the front. I enjoy absorbing new information from the people I meet, the activities I do and the moments that occur in my life.

I am highly motivated by contributing time and effort into social change, especially raising awareness around health and well-being issues for young people. I love to read - books are my friends, furniture and often a shoulder to cry on.

I aspire to help make getting into tertiary education and employment more accessible. New Zealand is not a third-world country, so I do believe that this is possible. It can start today, with the way we choose to treat each other and the language we choose to use.

Thisanka Tittawella

Thisanka Tittawella I am currently in my third year completing my Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Auckland majoring in Accounting and Information Systems. I believe I am a professional, hardworking and reliable team member who, at the same time, is very social with a great sense of humour (some may say my humour is very dry, however!).

Having spent my childhood amidst the civil war in Sri Lanka, moving to New Zealand in 2001 was probably one of the biggest challenges I have had to face in my life. Not only was there a culture shock, but also the peaceful environment was very new to me. I have a strong sense of community spirit and empathy for people who struggle due to lack of opportunity. 

If I could change anything in the world, I would want to research the way in which technology could help people’s lives in developing countries, whether to improve education, wellbeing or community connection.