‘Queen Street’ is a vocational IDEA services centre (under the umbrella of IHC) in Masterton, meeting the needs of twenty young adults (mostly in their 20s) with a learning disability. They offer programmes funded by the MSD, based on the interests of their service users. It’s a very active programme with classes such as zumba, swimming futsal, touch rugby, taekwondo, and cooking.

Over the last two years Queen Street has been working in partnership with REAP Wairarapa to provide more learning opportunities for their service users.

To begin with REAP organised basic literacy and numeracy programmes, living skills courses and classes in basic Te Reo Māori such as greetings. The staff came along to the Māori language course too. And for service users who were ready for more advanced literacy and numeracy, a second level programme was organised.

Melanie Deacon is a support worker at Queen Street. She says that REAP has been very supportive of their work. “They come to us with ideas and respond to our ideas and we sit down and they discuss how they can help us.”

Recently REAP has helped deliver two new programmes; music and kapa haka.

Music
Six people belong to the music group and they meet once a fortnight. Pernille Booth, another of the support workers, says that everyone has shown an interest in studying music and has set their own goals for what they want to achieve. Instruments in the group include a harmonica, guitar, drums and piano. Singing, dancing and writing lyrics are part of the programme. And there are some really great voices. “There is always a high spirit amongst them as the walk to and back from music [classes], says Pernille. “Lots of smiles.”

Music tutor Stephan Brown is a school music teacher who has also trained in music therapy so he understands how major or minor keys, different melodies or music that is based on a lot of chords can affect people, helping them to express emotions and move forward into resolution.

“Music is a universal language,” he says, “and for the people I am working with, music has an instant effect. It is phenomenal. I see them want to participate and be a part of things, expressing themselves – their inner self. At an emotional level. It is wonderful to see this happen.”

Stephan uses music in association with other activities. For example, he has provided them with paints and paper and played different kinds of music. “Colour has a frequency as well as sound,” he explains, “and it was amazing to see that they were using similar colours for certain musical patterns. We were quite blown away by that.

“We also do games like using different types of hats – cowboy, jester, Christmas, boater, baseball … We played different types of music and they had to choose a hat that had a correlation with the music. Eighty to ninety percent of the time they got it right. So we took it a bit further and asked them to listen to a bit of music and make a character of out of it.

“Music transcends language, and when people have difficulty in expressing themselves in other ways, the medium has an instant effect. They can be understood. They are also proud of what they achieve. You can see they are enjoying it. No one is ever le out.”

Pernille says that while the group hasn’t performed yet, they are all showing that, in time, they will be willing to give it a go.

Kapa haka
Tama Biddle is the kapa haka tutor and this group, Te Roopu Manaaki, has performed often, and they love it.

Te Roopu Manaaki started out as a Te Reo class where the service users were learning waiata. Then they decided they wanted to form their own kapa haka group. Once again REAP found the tutor, pays for his services and has funded special events like a noho at the local marae.

Unlike the music lessons, the kapa haka group’s service users come from several IDEA Services centres in the Wairarapa, so there are about twenty-five in the group, four of whom are from Queen Street.

“When we started, even being on stage was a challenge, now they love to perform,” says Melanie. “We perform at rest homes, schools and at day services for programmes for other people with a disability. We also performed at the annual REAP Aotearoa conference earlier this year and next year we plan to compete at the two day IDEAS Services kapa haka festival in Rotorua.”

Tama says that he has taught the group the most popular waiata for kapa haka. That means that they know most of the songs that other people know and they feel very much part of a community. With a bit of time, they learn all the words and all the movements, a challenge for any group. Their achievement, passion and obvious enjoyment is so evident that their audiences are always incredibly enthusiastic. So it is not surprising that being in the kapa haka group has increased the wellbeing and confidence of these young people.

“At the noho marae,” says Tama, “the parents and family who were there talked to me about how happy everyone was about being in the group and how they bring the confidence they feel on stage into their everyday lives.”

From ACE Aotearoa Quarterly Newsletter