Kim lives in New Zealand and is diagnosed with autosomal dominant centronuclear myopathy. She also writes the blog Joyful Always which shares positive stories focusing on the joys in life.
Kim recently travelled to the New Zealand Parliament building, known as the Beehive, in Wellington to be part of leading New Zealand’s first youth with disabilities conference called I.Lead. Below Kim writes more about the event.
The purpose of I.Lead was to provide a platform that allows young people with disabilities to have their voices heard with regards to issues they face as well as provide them with the means to talk with government and sector decision makers to find solutions to those issues. The conference was co-created by young people, YES Disability, various disability ministers and other disability organisations. I’m on one of YES Disability’s youth boards so this is how I had the privilege of being involved in the planning of this auspicious event.
When someone asks me how the conference was I say “amazing” because there aren’t any other words to describe it. Here are some highlights from the event.
During one of our planning committee meetings we were discussing how everyone would be involved in the conference. It was decided that each committee member would facilitate the group discussions with participants. At the conference, we’d be discussing different topics/issues and we were able to pick a topic that we liked. The topics were eEducation, employment, health, housing, media, sport and recreation and transport. I picked employment because it’s something close to my heart.
When I found out I’d have to facilitate I was feeling a bit freaked out. I was feeling ill prepared with not having done facilitation before. I also didn’t want to let my group down if they couldn’t hear me. In the meeting it was decided that I would co-facilitate with another committee member.
When we were facilitating it went so well. I was facilitating with my long-time friend and we were able to bounce ideas off each other and provide support. When the participants arrived at the table I knew already that I found it difficult to remember peoples’ names, so as they introduced themselves I wrote all their names down. This meant that when I asked them questions I could address them personally. There was also a point in the conversation when I was speaking and I could see that the participants couldn’t hear me and so my co-facilitator was able to relay what I was saying. We were such a good team.
When we were facilitating I was put at ease. I was reminded that actually I have done some form of facilitation. When I was studying, almost every group work I was involved in, I took charge and had to lead the groups. When I was Deputy Chair of the student reps I had to run some of the meetings. Being a Girls’ Brigade leader I teach young girls different skills. If someone puts me in charge, I’ll do that to the best or my ability. I wasn’t under-resourced I was feeling overwhelmed but I didn’t need to be.
Schmoozing with the Big Cheese’s
After the first day of conference we had a fancy dinner in the Banquet Hall in the Beehive (how many people can say that). At dinner I was sitting with my same friend and we were joined by Paula Tesoriero the Disability Rights Commissioner. We were making polite conversation and when dinner came out I casually asked Paula if she liked Master Chef. To my surprise she said yes and following that, for the rest of our evening we were critiquing the food as Master Chef judges would. It was so much fun just joking and laughing over food. “Hmmm was that smoked salmon on a bed of spinach with a broccoli purée? A deconstructed pie with miniature tomatoes? A walnut pudding with cinnamon infused pears and a caramel sauce?”
When Paula finished her meal and went to talk to other people my friend asked me “did you know who she was?”. I said, “yes but I don’t care”. She’s a person in power but also, she’s a human like me. We can be equally awesome and we don’t need a title to do it.
Over the two days I had to talk to various people most of whom I’ve never met or talked to before. As I was talking I felt no fear because I was again reminded that talking to unfamiliar people and some high up people wasn’t foreign. I’ve had so many medical appointments over the years so I’ve learnt to talk to fancy doctors and specialists. As a student rep whilst studying I advocated for students and at times that meant having some hard talks with managers and CEO’s to get them to listen to students’ needs. Also growing up in church, the young mixes with older people, so me talking to older folk is just normal to me.
Making a speech
Another role of the committee members was the option of making a speech. At one of our meetings one person asked, “Kim would you like to do a speech?” In that moment the thoughts going through my mind were “oh no I hoped they wouldn’t ask me, the people won’t be able to hear me, it’s okay Kim you did speeches last year for your job, you can make it work”. Heaps of thoughts going through my brain in an instant but in reply I said “yes okay”. I mentioned they might not be able to hear me but I didn’t let it be a reason for me not to speak as I would’ve done and have done in the past. They were determined to make it work and probably for once in my life I wasn’t reluctant for it to work.
A week or so before I.Lead I started to write my speech. It had to be between 2-4 minutes. The topics we were writing on was a bit about ourselves, what we hoped would change after I.Lead, as well as what brought us to where we were today. Because we didn’t know the microphone situation at Parliament it was decided that I make a video speech and that way I didn’t have to worry about whether the microphone there would be able to pick up my voice. This was such a relief.
When it came to filming I got my sister to make the video. I wrote out a script of what I was going to say and had it memorised so the video could look profesh. When my video played at the conference I was so pleased. It was reasonably clear and if it wasn’t clear it had subtitles. My sister even put a b-roll of photos and a video to play in the foreground to keep my speech interesting.
My speech went so well. Even though I hesitated at the thought of doing a speech, it all worked out. When I was filming my speech I was reminded of how I went to different schools and did presentations as part of my job last year. I wanted to be profesh then so I memorised the twenty minute presentation scripts. I knew that if I could memorise those scripts, I could memorise the shorter four minute script and that if I could present for thirty odd students I could write a speech that encourages seventy odd people.
I.Lead has taught me so many great things and I’ve grown so much over the whole experience. If I could sum up the experience as I mentioned before it was amazing. It was amazing because I saw where I was before and I see how the experience has pushed me to do greater things. I look back on my life and can see how every little experience I’ve had, had led me to that moment of leadership. I was confident in facilitating, confident with talking with random people and was able to do a speech because I’d done it before and because I believed in myself. I love how no experience is wasted and every skill learnt can be used.
I finally want to say thank you to my awesome committee of friends. It was a joy to work alongside you throughout the whole planning and running of the conference. Also a massive huge thank you to my two cheerleaders, ma and pa who came with me to Wellington looking awesome in the background.