Published 01 November 2022
Jemma Drake is Blind Sport New Zealand’s (BSNZ) new Community and Programme Lead.
She has been working within the disability sector for over 14 years. Jemma’s love for sports and inclusion began when she was young, her cousin was born with Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS).
After completing tertiary studies in sports with special needs education in the UK, Jemma travelled overseas to continue her volunteer work with the community. She eventually found herself in Aotearoa working in events and found her calling in 2019 with Special Olympics New Zealand.
“I was the Regional Sports Coordinator for the Lower North Island, looking after 6 clubs, many special schools and I was responsible for the launch of the Young Athlete’s Programme for Special Olympics,” says Jemma. But after 3 years with Special Olympics, she decided to look for something different to keep her on her toes.
This new role with Blind Sport New Zealand allows Jemma to learn more about people who are blind or deaf-blind or who have low vision. Her position aims to promote, develop, and support key programmes within the organisation.
“The focus is to raise awareness about Blind Sport New Zealand and the services and funding we offer,” Jemma says. “Our hope is to create a database of who is doing what everywhere, working with all sorts of organisations for educational purposes and connecting with communities to make the sports sustainable.”
Blind Sport New Zealand supports individuals with vision impairment to get active. They run youth programmes, and events, connect people with local sports opportunities and support sports clubs that want to upskill themselves with inclusion.
A popular and important service is the Blind Sport New Zealand Accessible Sport Kit.
“We have 18 kits around the country, whether you have low vision or are in mainstream schools wanting to use it for inclusion, anybody can hire them out for free,” Jemma said.
The kits allow users to play eight different sports, both as a team or individually, along with a range of fun activities and games to get people active. It comes with an instruction manual as well as teaching resources and lesson plans to encourage extended learning.
Connecting with people is important for Jemma. Building relationships allows her to link with people in different spaces and bring them together to create opportunities.
You’ll find her working with anyone from the Paralympics to Canoe Racing New Zealand, connecting with Swimming New Zealand, BLENNZ schools, and then at the Velodrome in Cambridge, teaching cycle trainers to be more inclusive with their Bike Ready programmes.
“It’s great to be able to share my passion, and hopefully inspire people and organisations to be more inclusive,” says Jemma.
“It’s giving people the confidence to provide a safe and inclusive space.”