Bella Lammers, aged 18 Attended Champion Centre: November 2001-2007 Bella has a full dance card, so much so, I ask her if she has much time for sleep? Bella works at Coffee Culture in Rolleston twice a week. Every Monday for the last two years, Bella walks to her afternoon shift where she helps with dishes, clears tables and delivers food to customers. Bella’s school, Rolleston College, are trying to incorporate her work experience into the Transition Programme. ‘I like cleaning the tables and talking with the customers. The staff are mostly young, and they are all nice to me. It’s a fun place to be,’ says Bella.
Straight after her work experience at Coffee Culture, Bella attends Jolt Dance. Jolt Dance is based on the belief that everyone has the right to dance and find their own creative voice. Jolt also believes that their communities are strengthened by the beauty of diversity. Bella is passionate about dance and has been coming to Jolt for over 10 years.
Bella has Down syndrome and had a stroke just after birth, affecting a large part of the right side of her brain. A lot of focus at the Champion Centre was on getting Bella to use both hands and use her fine motor skills. The therapy worked so well that now you can’t even tell that she has a brain injury on top of her Down syndrome.
Another Transition activity Bella and six other students are involved in is at Orana Park, where they make treats for animals. ‘Treats for tigers and cheetahs’, Bella proudly informs me. Wednesday, she heads off to swimming training, where she has won a gold medal in a freestyle relay team at the last National Special Olympics in Wellington in 2017. She has also won medals in breaststroke and freestyle. Thursday is shopping day for the next day’s school lunch club. ‘We make chicken wraps and mini pizzas,’ says Bella, who then does a second shift at Coffee Culture after school on Thursdays.
Socialising with other young adults is important and on Friday evenings Bella meets up with other young adults with Down syndrome at UPP Club. Held at Middleton Grange School, they are involved in a myriad of fun social activities such as dinners out, Laser Strike visits, discos or cooking.
It’s not all fun and leisure activities for Bella however, as she helps with her fair share of chores at home, namely vacuuming the house and folding the washing. She also takes Mr Brown, the spoodle dog out walking around the block. However, when relaxing, Bella is a fan of watching reality TV shows such as Britain’s Got Talent or Masterchef Australia.
When I ask Bella what’s in store for the next five years, she rattles off the names of her potential new flatmates she will be sharing a house with, in Rolleston. With work experience lined up at a local pre-school, Bella lights up at the thought of helping the children; like with directions around the centre, doing laundry and making playdough.
Bella loved going to the Champion Centre and is still great friends, both with her peers and their parents and they meet up many times every year. Bella enjoys travel and is off with her two younger brothers and parents to Europe at the end of the month, for her Dutch Oma’s (grandma’s) 85th birthday. ‘We will go to London first and visit Harry Potter World,’ says Bella with a big smile.