People Who Inspire Us

Our Organisation

Community Living has celebrated over 25 years of success in supporting people with intellectual disabilities to live their dreams through community connections.  Since its inception in 1989, Community Living has persistently sought innovative and diverse ways...

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Our Purpose

Our Inspirational Dream - People with Intellectual Disabilities living their dreams through community connections.

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Story and photographs by Samantha Smith, Journalism student at Wintec

Sarah Balle walks into the room holding her favourite hot drink, a milky mocha, with a big smile and begins with “I’m 100% happy”.  She has shoulder length brown hair, great big blue eyes and is always smiling.

She likes to be busy, sitting at home is not for her.  She loves chatting to anyone that will listen and doesn’t like being told what to do but at the same time she does most things when asked.

When meeting with Sarah for the first time, she will tell you things she thinks you want to hear.  She will agree with you to make you happy.  When you get to know Sarah more she will begin to explain things more and has her own opinions.

At the age of 35, Sarah who has Downs Syndrome, does not let her disability get in her way.  She lives a very independent life.

Sarah is originally from Paeroa and is no stranger around the community.  She did volunteering and was always helping people.  She worked at the kindergarten and Paeroa Skate and Leisure with friend Melanie Budge.

Sarah is a keen artist and has hundreds of pictures in her art books.  She painted a colourful artwork on a concrete wall welcoming people into Paeroa.

But in February 2011, she decided she was going to pack up her things and move to Hamilton to live with her younger sister Simone and that is exactly what she did.  She packed everything and moved by herself.

Sarah sorting the mail
Now her days involve spending time at the Hamilton Library, doing art and using the computers.

“I will draw all day if I’m allowed, but I have other things that I have to do,” says Sarah.

She may live with her sister but she does everything for herself.

“Sarah amazes me all the time with things that she does, from taking the bus and finding her way around the city, to making new friends and booking herself in for appointments,” says Simone.

After living in Hamilton for a while Sarah has decided she would like to move again to live with a friend.

“I want to move to Waiuku in Auckland to live with my friend, but it won’t be until December at the end of the year.”

Even though Sarah is impressively independent, her sister does worry sometimes.

“Sarah’s determination to be independent can be a little worrying as she is very trusting of people and I worry that sometimes she might end up in unsafe situations.”

As Sarah has a lot of positives in her life she also has a few negatives, which she tries to not let get to her.

Downs Syndrome is a life-long condition that causes delays in learning and development.  Sarah gets help from Community Living in Hamilton and also help and understanding from her friends and family.

One of those friends is Shine.  Sarah met her through Susan at IHC in Hamilton East.  They meet together when they can and go out for lunch or a coffee and can talk for hours.

Sarah is involved in Employment Options at Community Living. This service uses personally designed programmes that are developed around each person’s interests and goals.  They may include life skills training, leisure pursuits, work experience and community group involvement.

Sarah became a volunteer at Perrin Park Lifestyle Village in July 2011 through Sarah Nash who is the Service Lead at Community Living’s Employment Options.

Perrin Park manager Rob Owens says Sarah is incredibly helpful.

“Sarah is a polite person and always fun to be around. The thing I admire about her is her willingness to try any task.  Sarah helps deliver the mail with Elaine, one of the residents, and sweeps up the hair in the salon at Perrin Park.”

Sarah says she loves her time at Perrin Park and she can’t decide which job she likes best, so she decides she likes them equally.

When Sarah is at the lifestyle village she enjoys feeding the ducks, smelling and picking the flowers and walking around the pond.  She also loves having her photo taken and always asks whether she is smiling and if so whether it’s a good one.

Perrin Park resident Elaine Shaw says Sarah is eager to learn, friendly and trusting.

“The elderly people converse with her easily and thank her for her work.  The things I like best about Sarah is her sense of humour, her determination and her trying to do her job well.  She has a great personality, good manners and knows what she wants.”

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