At Casita’s shop in Greerton, four young workers in their twenties are taking their lunch break.
They’re all volunteers at the shop, one or two days a week, and they all have an intellectual disability, either global developmental delay or Down Syndrome. And they love their work.
The shop was set up in a former pharmacy, conveniently just down from the supermarket by Charrissa Taylor of the Casita Community, which provides somewhere for young people with special needs who have left school to find a purpose.
Maja Scott, 24, loves her work one day a week in the shop. Her favourite is working the till to improve her maths, and she also puts clothes on the racks and helps greet customers. It’s a lot better than being stuck at home, she says, and she enjoys feeling like she’s part of the community.
She also volunteers at a horse farm up the Kaimais on weekends, doing odd jobs and looking after the guinea pigs, which she loves.
Tara O’Neill, 21, has been volunteering with Casita for “ages”. She too likes working the till two days a week, enjoys cooking and baking and is also involved with Starjam learning stage skills and going to the gym.
Shy Cullen Pears, 25, and Sarah, 23, particularly enjoy meeting up with their friends during the week and “just being here”. Working at the shop is particularly good for shy people, they say, as they’re not forced to do things out of their comfort zone.
Charrissa enjoys managing her young charges because she is keen on engaging them holistically, maintaining their physical fitness as well as stimulating social interactions.
“We need more volunteers too, to help supervise these young people. Sometimes they want to try new activities and there’s no one to help them. One wants to try some tie dying and needs supervision.”