The eldest of four children, Margaret, now 60, enjoyed school and early family life with her sister and brothers, but as a disabled person, she found it difficult to get work when she left school. Eventually, she got a job at Academy Lighting in Christchurch through her uncle who also worked there. Margaret worked from home for seven years assembling lights. As her father was an electrician he was able to oversee her work. When the job ended she wasn’t able to find another one.
“All my time was spent around home or socialising with family. We were a close family. We went camping and caravanning when we were young. I was always included in family outings and holidays and in whatever the family was doing.”
As her siblings grew up, got married and left home, Margaret remained at home with her parents. When her father passed away in 1991 Margaret continued to live with her mother.
“This was a time when my sister was living nearby with her young children and would visit daily. I was like a second mother to them. They now have their own children. I love watching them grow up and babysitting them.”
In 2014 Margaret became part of a CCS Disability Action project called My Way. Supported by Sue Bruce, Service Coordinators, CCS Disability Action Christchurch, Margaret found this opportunity to access and plan what to do with her own funding enabled her to slowly start getting out into the community.
“It was frightening to think of going to new places with people I didn’t know as I had never done it before. I started going to the library with a support person and gradually built up my confidence. I ended up doing the My Way project a second year and by the end of that year I had joined a jewellery class, a craft group and went to the Palms Mall from home on my own for the first time. During this time, with Sue’s support, I successfully applied to Lotteries for a power chair. This was the beginning of my new life.”
When her mother passed away in 2016 Margaret was living in a three bedroom Housing New Zealand house on the other side of town to her sister and she knew she had to make a big move. “Honestly, the bottom of my world had dropped out. I had never been on my own before,” she says. “Finding the motivation and confidence to move was hard. But my family have all been absolutely great.”
Margaret’s new home, much closer to her sister, is one of four accessible ground floor units. She loves the open plan lounge and kitchen and is assisted by two support workers for aspects of housework she can’t tackle. Margaret’s very friendly with one neighbour in particular who joins her on outings to the shops and a nearby park. She enjoys listening to local radio station We’ve Got The Magic which plays 60’s, 70’s and 80’s songs. Margaret has also added cooking classes to her repetoire.
“I go along to a couple of local community classes and have made friends with my neighbours. I see my sister every week, went camping with her at Christmas and I continue to be an important aunt to my nieces and nephew, who I see regularly. People tell me I have changed since I have been living on my own. I am now more confident, assertive and not afraid to speak up. I have done some real living in the last 18 months. I feel involved in things and no longer just an observer to what’s happening around me.”
Margaret feels the changes started when she first began the My Way project and her confidence and courage slowly increased to take her to where she is now.
“I never imagined I could be this independent and happy.”
Sue agrees, “It hasn’t always been easy for Margaret but she knew she had to step up and do it for herself. It was like she was just waiting for her turn. It’s been amazing to watch her calm attitude and decision making. It’s all come together for her.”
“I knew I had to do this for me if I wanted to live on my own and have a life,” Margaret says. “My philosophy has been that if I am to be liked for who I am, not what I am, then I needed to get on with it and pick myself up and be the person I want to be. Now I am proud of what I have done and I plan to continue on in the same way.”