The story of Henk Dijkstra’s enforced bedtimes over most of his adult life should horrify us all. Especially since he is just one of thousands of disabled adults in New Zealand whose lives are
simply not their own.
Do you have a say over who comes into your home and what time you go to bed? Do you
manage your own budget and decide how much you want to spend on groceries, entertainment, utilities and home help? Of course you do – if you are an adult, these are things most New Zealanders take for granted. But just imagine for a moment that was not the case and you had never in your entire life been able to exercise control over something as basic and personal as what time you wanted to go to bed at night.
Imagine instead that you were under the control of people employed to look after you that you had no say in choosing. How devastating would that feel? Well you could ask triple Paralympics champion Henk Dijkstra how that feels because despite the fact that he is 58 years of age, he has lived most of his adult life with no choice and no control over the most intimate and the most basic aspects of his life.
Until he teamed up with CCS Disability Action. Henk is described as a "warm, direct and intelligent person" who is now enjoying his new-found freedom and flexibility.
Henk has travelled to three Paralympic Games to represent his country, but has spent the majority of his 58 years being treated like a child – simply because he has a disability and the system therefore dictates when, how and through whom he receives support.
Henk recently switched to CCS Disability Action’s ‘Choice in Community Living’ as soon as it became available in his city. The service gives him the flexibility and control that he’s been wanting for much of his adult life. It’s the ability he now has to make important choices which were previously off limits, that has made the biggest difference to how Henk feels about his life. Things like; being involved in interviewing and choosing his own Support Workers, what time he goes to bed, who comes into his home and when they do so. “I have greater independence and empowerment now,” he explains.
Paul Arnott, CCS Disability Action Coordinator, describes Henk as “warm, direct and intelligent.” The pair make an excellent team working together to ensure Henk’s support works the way he wants it to. “It's really important for people with disabilities to be able to take control of their lives. There’s an expectation that disabled people want others to do things ‘for’ them, but I don’t think this is true,” says Henk. “I didn't have any contact with the coordinators of the previous agency I was with. I don’t think they knew anything about what was important to me. I felt really annoyed and frustrated by their lack of empathy and total lack of interest in me as a person. Paul has had a completely different approach. He’s taken a lot of time to get to know me, find out what I really want in life and has put things in place to suit me.
“Paul and the team at CCS Disability Action also ensure that my Support Workers have enough training prior to starting work for me ensuring they can provide a high standard of support. It’s surprising how many times in the past that was not the case.”
Like most people, Henk enjoys his independence and the right to choose how he wants to live. In the past, Henk was required to be home whenever a support worker came by. So if it was a lovely day and he wanted to go out– he was forced to sit and listen to the sound of the vacuum cleaner instead. That’s all changed now and he can come and go as he pleases. “Without CCS Disability Action, I would probably be living in a group home by now, which is something I’d really hate. I have had to fight for my rights but once I teamed up with CCS Disability Action, it got so much easier. I strongly encourage disabled people to enquire about Individualized Funding or Choice in Community Living – whatever is available in your area. Don't sit around waiting for things to happen, ask for the assistance you need and don’t stop until you’re happy with your life.”
Paul says, “Like all of us, Henk just wants a good life. His choices deserve to be respected, so it’s important for me that he’s always consulted on what works best for him,” he explains. Henk has control of an individualised budget and he uses this for support in his home and to get out and about regularly. He’s a familiar face at Moana Pool and is a regular gym goer. To balance things out Henk has some other, less active, pursuits too. “My hobbies also include watching sports and movies, camping, eating out and enjoying a home cooked meal,” says Henk.
But it’s the sport of Boccia where Henk really shines. “I started playing Boccia in 1995 and I have represented New Zealand in three Paralympics; Atlanta in 1996, Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008,” he says. Henk appreciates the opportunity Boccia has given him to see the world and now, with his day-to-day life firmly in hand, he’s looking forward to combining travel with some family time. “For my next trip, I would like to visit my younger brother who lives in Australia on the Gold Coast.”
Go to our Donation page to donate now to help fund the right to choice and control. It really is time for meaningful change. Please donate, if you can. Every little bit helps our work to create a truly inclusive world.
Henk is described as a "warm, direct and intelligent person" who is now enjoying his new-found freedom and flexibility.
“It's really important for people with disabilities to be able to take control of their lives. There’s an expectation that disabled people want others to do things ‘for’ them, but I don’t think this is true,” says Henk.
“Like all of us, Henk just wants a good life. His choices deserve to be respected, so it’s important for me that he’s always consulted on what works best for him,”