A group of young West Auckland teenagers in the Auckland Climbing Youth Development Club have made indoor rock climbing easier for children with disabilities in Auckland.
Set up to improve opportunities for children to have a meaningful engagement with indoor rock climbing, ACYDC offers development, community, and school programmes within the Auckland region with a specific focus on those with financial, social or academic challenges.
With youth as the driving force, the club is unique in that five of their eight committee members are between the ages of eleven and sixteen, and they are working hard to facilitate a total inclusion programme and culture.
Earlier this year, funding was sought from Foundation North for the first time to purchase auto-belay equipment needed to create a safe disabilities environment within their Glen Eden gym. This equipment enables people to climb without the need for a physical belayer, freeing up that person to operate as a support person and aide for the climber. It also means ropes and bolts that traverse the floor can be removed, creating a safer environment and pathway specific for disability needs.
One of the club’s new disability initiatives - ‘Kids helping kids’ - was dreamt up by sixteen-year-old Tyra Ibbot, driven by the desire to create an indoor rock-climbing community inclusive to all. The programme, run in conjuction with Parafed, was delivered last month and saw seventeen children with disabilities turn up and climb with the auto-belays.
“The whole idea is that the youth of the club work with kids with various disabilities, while linking in with Parafed,” says Michael O’Keefe. “Parents and adults have little to no involvement in the program and the results have been amazing.”
The mental, physical and emotional benefits for the young people are invaluable.
“My son has been working with two (physical) therapists every week for years, and they haven’t been able to get him to do what these kids were able to in just an hour,” says one child’s parent.
“They never get to just be boys. It’s always about the disabilities, they never usually get to do things like this.”
For some parents, the programme helped their children achieve things that they did not think were possible.
“The youth climbers never gave up on my child, they continued to encourage him and celebrate the small achievements and because of this he eventually had the confidence to climb up half way – he said to me ‘I am so proud of myself.’”