July 23, 2021

Carla Hill-Hayer travelled to Palmerston to walk a couple of laps with Jeremy and the baton in the Cancer Society Relay for Life Manawatū

The small Rangitīkei town of Hunterville doesn’t have a lot on offer for a young man at weekends.

So it’s understandable if Jeremy Hill-Hayer decides to stay on in Palmerston North to go to a disco rather than travel home to see his parents.

Life has changed a lot for Jeremy since he moved into an IDEA Services residence in Palmerston North a year ago and signed up with a Choices NZ life coach.

Jeremy, age 31, has a disability that makes it hard for him to make friends and stay safe in his community. But despite that his calendar is now full of activities and people thanks to targeted help that has given him new skills and confidence.

Fitness is a big part of Jeremy’s week. He works with Choices NZ Life Coach Ruben Anderson twice a week and they swim, go running and work out at the gym – setting goals for physical fitness and life. “Yes, I like it. I like the weights best,” Jeremy says. “I do feel better.”

The fitness programme paid off when Jeremy joined the IDEA Services ‘Pirates’ team to compete in the Cancer Society’s Relay for Life Manawatū in March.

“Jeremy camped out with the team overnight, crashing for a few hours’ sleep in the team’s house bus that we parked up at the side of the track,” says IDEA Services Manawatū Area Manager Karen Wilton. “His Mum travelled to town and even walked a couple of laps with him and the baton.” Jeremy’s Relay for Life T-shirt is a very proud addition to his wardrobe.

Ruben’s support complements other activities with IDEA Services during the week – art classes, a walking group, the Manaaki Tangata kapa haka group and monthly Friday night discos in Feilding.

A huge leap forward for Jeremy has been getting the knack of catching the bus around Palmerston North by himself. “I go on a bus and look around shops. I normally just go to the mall. If I get stuff out of the library, I take stuff back to the library.”

Jeremy says he also looks for CDs and DVDs at the Salvation Army shop. Music is a key interest he shares with his older brothers, who are musicians, and guitar lessons are on his list of goals.

Jeremy will soon move out of a group home into a supported flat. “He’s learning to be a lot more independent,” says Service Manager Marie Pascoe. “We’re working together to make sure he’s interacting with a lot of different people. The long-term goal is to get a part-time job.”

Jeremy’s mother, Carla Hill-Hayer, was struck by how Ruben had been able to encourage Jeremy with reading after Jeremy read to her one day. “It was some kind of notice he had about something. He was able to read it to me and it was really very moving,” she says. “We are so proud of the progress he has made.”

Carla lives 12 kilometres north of Hunterville. “It’s quite remote. It’s beautiful but it’s not very good for Jeremy. Of course, coming here from Auckland was quite difficult for him,” she says. “If Jeremy had a disability that people could see, people would be more understanding.”

Caption: Carla Hill-Hayer travelled to Palmerston to walk a couple of laps with Jeremy and the baton in the Cancer Society Relay for Life Manawatū.

This story was published in Strong Voices. The magazine is posted free to all IHC members.

Read more Strong Voices articles on the IHC website