Event to help disability community a passion project for scholar

05 April 2023 | News

For Sophie Williams, organising an event to help people with disabilities as part of her Future Leader Scholarship was about more than just fulfilling the requirements of the programme.

It was a project close to her heart.

The Bachelor of Commerce (Global Business) student worked with the charity Selwyn Launch Group and the Selwyn District Council to put together the Connect and Accept event at the Rolleston Community Centre in March. It was designed to help the families of people with disabilities to connect with the services available to them and strengthen disability community relationships.

"I have always been involved with the disability community, as my 18-year-old brother Patrick has a disability - a global developmental delay," Sophie said.

When deciding on a project to work towards, she knew she wanted to do something to help the disability community, but wasn’t sure what.

"In 2019, I organised a small event for Selwyn Launch Group called Pooches in the Park and I thought that I could expand on the idea but make it something more worthwhile," she said.

In 2021, Sophie undertook her own research with parents, siblings and people with disabilities to find out the ways that they most needed support.

Opportunities and education came out as the most prominent, and a key issue I saw for the community was that there were few connections between families of people with disabilities and disability-focused organisations.

So in October last year, she reached out to the Selwyn Launch Group to run an event under their name, and applied for funding through the district council.

"From then, it was all go."

The event featured vehicles and machinery, barnyard animals, performances and presentations, and indoor and outdoor games. Sophie's brother, Patrick, was excited to be involved and became "Vehicle Manager".

Patrick as Vehicle Manager at the Connect and Accept event.

There were more than 25 stalls representing organisations such as Arts Integrated, the Canterbury Down Syndrome Association and the Halberg Foundation. Selwyn Mayor Sam Broughton also spoke at the event. 

Sophie said she was happy to see "a huge number of people show up".

"You never know how it is going to go until the day and it filled my heart to see a crowd of people watching the performances and enjoying the festivities and stallholders."

Sophie worked hard to develop the skills necessary to organise and run the event.

"In 2022, I completed the Clinton Global University Initiative, which helped me to understand the reason I was undertaking this project and also to utilise resources that would help me to bring the project to reality.

"I also chose two elective courses at Lincoln to support my learning too - Event Planning and Project Planning and Management."

She was pleased to find that people wanted to help.

"There were so many people around me who provided advice, completed a task or were there on the day. I didn't feel alone and that's what helped me to pull it all off."

Her fellow Future Leader Scholars, Cheyanne Candy, Millie Kennedy, Alex McCoringdale, Ashton Robinson, and Ploy Suphakit were allocated to the project "and were swept along with the chaos".

"They were the most amazing team who hit the ground running with me and supported the project in any way they could. Without them, the project would not have been able to go ahead."

The project team: Cheyanne Candy, Millie Kennedy, Sophie, Alex McCorkindale and Ashton Robinson (Ploy Suphakit is not pictured).

Main image: Sophie with Selwyn Mayor Sam Broughton.