While a pandemic, travel restrictions and grounded planes kept us all at home last year, it didn’t stop a group of high school kids with disability from exploring the world.
When the Kickstart Skilled n Social Saturday program were told they could no longer go out into the community due to COVID-19, program coordinator Leonie Way, came up with a wonderful plan to keep her group of high school kids learning life skills and having fun with each other while also keeping safe.
Each participant was given a passport and every week, Leonie and her team would go above and beyond transforming the Greenacres Kickstart Centre in North Wollongong into a different country starting from A (Australia) and going right through to Z (Zimbabwe).
When the kids arrived they would have their passport stamped and the fun would begin. They cooked traditional food from the country they were visiting and ate together, learnt songs, dances and customs, played games and had a go at making traditional crafts.
What was truly magical about the experience was how Leonie’s passion and enthusiasm never wavered. She put just as much effort in for Uzbekistan, Yemen and Zimbabwe as she did for Australia, Belgium and Canada.
She practised cooking dishes before the day, trawled through op shops for outfits and props, bought materials and ingredients and did hours of research to learn the songs, dances, games and crafts.
The A-Z World Tour ended on Saturday 27 February 2021 but sadly one of the passports was never filled. A participant passed away in November 2020 which was a huge loss to her friends in the program and to Leonie personally.
Despite her own sorrow Leonie carried on with the Saturday program using it as an opportunity to help the participant’s friends through their own grief.
In the last year of the participant’s life, Leonie’s A-Z World Tour was a time of great enjoyment, a chance to be with her closest friends, have fun and be silly. Her mother said it was the highlight of her week and nothing would stop her from wanting to come.
Thanks to Leonie, many special memories were created in the time the participant was with Greenacres. Leonie is a truly special person and the kindness, enthusiasm and passion she puts into every program is inspiring.