Name: Ryan Gourdie, aged 32 Attended Centre: from aged 6 weeks to 5 years Ryan lives at home in a rural setting in West Eyrton, North Canterbury with his two ‘flatmates’, as he affectionately calls them (Mum and Dad). He has three sisters, of which two live in London, they are in their late 20’s. Ryan is fiercely proud of his Irish heritage and made a visit to Ireland last year with his family, part of six week overseas trip.
Ryan works part time at The Bog, a well known Irish pub in Christchurch. Every Monday and Friday morning, Ryan makes sure things are ready for opening time. There are chairs to put down, menus and wine lists to clean and ensuring the street front is clean and well presented. I ask Ryan if he likes to drink Guiness, and with a glint in his eye he proudly pulls out his loyalty card.
Two to three times a week Ryan and two other buddies are busy working with a gym trainer at Franks’ Brothers Gym in Papanui, where they are weightlifting. Hard work has resulted in Ryan competing at several regional and national competitions, and winning a gold medal at the National Games for Special Olympics in 2017.
Ryan weightlifting at the Special Olympics
As well as the sporting prowess, Ryan enjoys the fun and banter he has with his fellow athletes while training. Ryan has also competed in mainstream competition which has been pivotal in bringing greater empathy to those involved in the sport, by integrating athletes with special needs into the mainstream. Ryan has also won gold medals for swimming at New Zealand and Australian Special Olympic Games in 2006 but power lifting is his sport of choice these days.
Once a week Ryan visits a local rest home in North Canterbury where he spends time with two elderly gentlemen. They often will read books together or just chat. Here Ryan is the one giving support, rather than receiving. Another day, Ryan belongs to a youth development group where he meets up with other young people and they engage in a wide range of activities. They have had the NZ Police and Fire Brigade in as guest speakers. Sometimes they will play football outside, do quizzes or listen to music or watch movies. ‘One of my favourite singers is Lady Gaga’, says Ryan.
Ryan has an appreciation of culture, whether it be Irish, Māori or Samoan. He was an active member of several Kapa Haka groups in his school days. Ryan can speak his mihi whakatau with passion and relay his Irish ancestry with conviction.
Ryan attended the Centre from aged 6 weeks to just before he turned 5 years old. Ryan’s Dad, Mike, attributes Ryan’s language skills down to the hard work of speech language therapist Jan Murphy and Marie, Ryan’s Mum, who put in many hours of work to help Ryan with his speech at the Champion Centre, those 30 years ago. The lifetime skill of being able to be understood and therefore able to engage with others was instrumental.
Mike says the Centre staff were outstanding, very hardworking and incredibly supportive. ‘They made you feel like you’d get there, that everything was achievable.’ A major highlight for the family, says Mike is that ‘by Ryan being accepted and embraced into employment, this truly integrates him as a valuable member of society’.
Ryan and his Dad, Mike outside Ryan’s work, the Bog in Christchurch