Our stories

Plenty of Challenges but Abundant Opportunities


Manaaki Ability Trust work to encourage, support, and challenge their disabled clients, preparing them for vocational work and voluntary service in the community, and respecting the dignity and rights of people with disabilities to be contributing members of society.

In the last four years Louisa Kelly, the centre’s programme coordinator, has successfully run the Award, enabling these young people to have exciting opportunities and gain valuable life-skills. Louisa, an Award holder herself, knew “these guys could really benefit from this – a programme that acknowledges and understands their thirst for life.”

At Manaaki Ability Trust the Award mindset extends beyond the programme. Louisa advocates for the learning beyond the classroom the Award encourages; “Success isn’t always about academics. Schools are realising that there’s much more to life, that sometimes focusing on academics really limits their students.”

Limits are something many of Manaaki participants are used to. Most face restrictions and challenges that have limited their autonomy, independence, and the opportunities available to them. But with the Award Louisa has found that these differences are inconsequential to their achievements. “My participants aren’t any different. It might take them a bit longer, or they may need extra support but they’re not incapable of doing the Award”.

This is her approach for many of the Award sections.  Adventurous Journeys require her to ensure “the safety is there, with extra precautions around the conditions, activities, destinations, and health needs. It’s a slightly extra level”. But that extra effort is extra rewarding. One participant, Chelsea, completed her Adventurous Journey last year with a major heart condition. “Some of our participants are very fragile. But… it was incredible. You don’t want them to feel limited by these things. And with the Award they don’t”. This Journey was a huge achievement for Chelsea. She passed away a couple of months later. Chelsea’s mum said that the journey was the highlight of her young life.

There have been big changes for all Louisa’s Award participants. The Award enabled the life-changing transformation from a bed-ridden student to become active, motivated, and to reduce his medications. “I always see growth and responsibility; they have ownership over what they’re achieving. [The Award] brings out their independence, confidence, and ability to advocate for themselves.”

Manaaki Ability Trust supports their clients to develop their talent, express their passion and learn new skills. Their logo depicts a bird that is rising, symbolic for everyone’s ability to soar and to aspire towards reaching their full potential. That is something the Award wholeheartedly endorses.