25 years of AJs
The following is a bit of a story AJs. There are no names mentioned in this story as due to there being so many people and all of them have had some influence on what AJs is.
Over 25 years ago 30 of us who were involved with Templeton Centre decided we would like to accept the challenge of being more involved in our local Christchurch community.
I had the opportunity to set up AJ’s Day Options as a Charitable trust with the support of my wife.
The 25 people who lived at Templeton allowed me to be involved in discussing with their families to get their support for what we wanted to do. After some interesting discussions the 30 of us (25 who lived at Templeton and 5 of us you came in during the day) had the support of the people we needed to start up AJs.
Although 25 May 1997 is our official anniversary the first day, we opened at 426 Taum St was 1 April 1997.
The initial goal for all 30 of us was to help each other to enjoy the opportunities that being in the community would offer us.
Some of the group were not aware of exactly what opportunities were on offer as they had not had a chance to spend a lot of time in the community. So as a group we decided it would be a good idea if the people who were aware of what was on offer made a list of the activities and over a period of time small groups would go and try them out so that everyone could then be able to make a choice on the type of activities they may like to be involved in over a longer time period.
While getting out and about was important the group also needed something to do while they were at the base at 426 Taum St. Most of the group from Templeton Centre were involved in the industries unit during the day, where they were doing jobs such as assembling small components. AJs was lucky that some of the same businesses were able to also give us some of the same type of work to do.
Over the next year, as Templeton Centre slowly closed and people started to move into homes within the community the number of people coming to AJs increased. AJs was one of several different places that people could choose to go to. One of the great things in those early years was how all-day services talked with each other and we all offered slightly different things so that the people had a good variety of options to choose from to met their hopes and wishes.
Over the next few years, AJs was funded to support people who had left Templeton. We all worked hard at supporting each other to make the most of the opportunities we had. Small groups (3 to 4) of us joined a variety of activities such as gentle exercise groups run by the CCC community centres, going to the local driving range, playing pool at the local working men’s club, attending the CCC sensory room, joining the local community walking group, etc.
At the same time as were expanding our community activities, we were also getting a name for ourselves with some of the local businesses. We started to get a variety of new jobs to do. This was great as it gave us a chance to develop our work skills and also brought in more money to help cover the costs of the community activities, we were all doing.
For a while we also supported a few of the guys who were keen to work part time in mainstream employment. The people involved all received the appropriate wage while working. Over time, there became a few services that specialized in supported employment so we decided that we would suggest people that wanted a job to contact one of these services.
As the years moved on, so did some of our original group due to things such as retirement or just deciding to give something else a go. At the same time we were also starting to get some interest from some young school leavers who wanted to visit AJs, to see if it was somewhere they might want to go once they leave school.
The whole group at AJs had a talk about the students and we all decided it might be good to have some young people around and we were keen to help support them during their transition.
The first few students seemed to enjoy the relaxed environment at AJs, and we all felt the enthusiasm from the students had a positive effect on all of us.
Having the students at AJs also go some of us talking about other ways we may be able to help the students during the Transition.
One of the ideas that came up was the RISK (Recreation Inspires Strength and Knowledge) programme that has now been running for over 8 years (apart from effects due to covid). This programme works with 6-8 students and people from AJs who use outdoor recreational activities to help the students develop their confidence and teamwork which are all important things they will need in the future.
In the last couple of years, the AJs group has evolved with a good mix of young people and some of the originals. We have been lucky that with the younger school leavers coming, we have also been able to have some other young ones who have started and have the label of “support staff’.
The arrival of the young ones has ensured that AJs continues to move with the times. There has been a shift in the types of activities we now have groups involved in activities such as, timezone, polybat and table tennis and T ball. The younger group has also encouraged the importance of being active and healthy with a large number of AJs both young and old all doing some sort of exercise while at AJs.
As an original it is really interesting listening during lunchtime to all the young ones talking about what they saw on Facebook or the latest device they have. Its also interesting to see some of our so-called older group showing a real interest in what the young ones are doing and wanting to have a go.
Over the 25 years we have seen lots of changes in the activities we do, and the jobs we do at AJs and in the people who are now part of AJs.
However, even with all the changes I am proud that AJs still remains having as its main goal, “That we all support each other to make the most of opportunities that we have”, or I guess the new term is “live a good life”
I feel it is important that I thank 2 of the groups of people that have helped AJs be the supportive environment it is.
The first group is the people that have chosen to come to AJs and put the effort into helping their mates and themselves to make the most of their time at AJs
The second group are the people who come to AJs with the label “support staff” as they put so much effort into making sure that everyone at AJs is given the chance to be themselves and encouraged to make the most of their time at AJs
Jim (An AJs original)
There is a video on our Facebook page celebrating 25 years: https://www.facebook.com/ajs2020/videos/695480121680234/