Summer Camp 2019 – Napier

After much anticipation, Wednesday 30th January rolled around and we had a lot of very excited people arriving at Thumbs Up with all their gear and enthusiasm. It was a long trip up to Napier with everyone excited for the first big activity on Thursday – Splash Planet! There had been much excitement over the past few months with many discussions around camp involving Splash Planet and what we would do there. The day didn’t disappoint. Splash Planet did us a great deal on entry prices which was a huge bonus. There was plenty of fun in the sun and swimming to be had. The highlight definitely had to be the slides, the lazy river ride and the bumper boats from the discussions around Thumbs Up after camp.

Friday saw us visiting the National Aquarium of New Zealand which was also heavily discounted for us. We had a fantastic time seeing all the different animals and everyone had a good chance to wander around and look at what they wanted to see.

We stayed at Kennedy Park Resort which was a great location for us and had some awesome facilities that our team was able to enjoy – the air pillow was a huge hit! We were able to utilize the down time that we had and enjoy each others’ company in a relaxed environment.

All too soon Saturday 2nd Feb rolled around and it was time to pack everybody and all the gear back into the vehicles and head back to Petone. We had a fantastic time and couldn’t wait to tell our friends that hadn’t been able to make it when we got back to Thumbs Up on Monday!

Here are a few words from our Inclusive Communication Specialist Shannon Hennig:

  • Seeing the adults interact with the community: 1) Merryn Stevens introduced herself to a young man in the aquarium and asked him if he was “a backstreet boys”. 2) There was a women at the Honey place who probably was on the spectrum;  she approached our group and Melissa responded by introducing herself and Mel (including typing both names on her iPad). 3)There were several lovely interactions on the slides between our people and the community (including a few people who also had disabilities). This is true community participation* Getting to experience being away with a group – some interactions are only possible when you get out of your normal routine. I loved seeing everyone on the bounce pillow jumping and laughing with other people. Having the clients join staff for post dinner drinks was super nice.* Splash Planet was a real highlight – the slides were a hit, but so was floating in the lazy river, getting to drive in the bumper boats, and I hear the jeeps were fun. It is hard to find challenging fun (and safe activities) and there were heaps on offer. Brian really stepped up and took others under his wing. I loved seeing this.

Coconuts – a Thumbs Up Production.

Five years of work from the staff, contractors and friends of Thumbs Up has all culminated in the film “Coconuts”.

  • “Every element of how we all worked together came together to create this masterpiece of work. From communication lessons, to drama sessions in house, to drama sessions out filming on location” -Claire Hewitt

We are excited to enable anyone who wants to see the film to have the opportunity to do so. Please click on the link and have full access to this amazing creation.

We hope that you enjoy it as much as we do.

A magical part of the film premiere was doing “donate a can for a seat” which we were then able to take in to the Lower Hutt Foodbank to help them with their Christmas appeal.

Drama at Thumbs Up

In our drama sessions, we like to challenge ourselves. Last year I asked the crew what they would like to create. We had been making storyboards to tell theatrical stories as performances for the last two years and presented different scripts to an audience as our Western Play and Pirate play.

We worked a process to ensure every group member had a say. We still wanted to do pirate play, write a new one, we wanted to not do a performance for an audience. I had recently done some training in how to make films on your smartphone. So I asked the group, What about making a film? This was wildly received and the rest was history.

After vast scripting and testing film locations, we finally settled on Pirate Cove in Porirua, after testing on site we have started filming and look forward to presenting at an upcoming fundraiser, we hope you will come to see our film “Coconuts” on the big screen and help us fundraise for our summer road trip. More details to come soon about that.

For now, check out the trailer for Coconuts!


Drama Facilitator

Do you have spare time on your hands?

Thumbs Up are looking for volunteers to come and join our team to help out with various activities. We have 25 adults from within the Hutt Valley with intellectual disabilities who are able to take part in numerous activities that they would otherwise struggle to do. Things like sailing with Sailability (, swimming in the Hydrotherapy pool at Huia Pool( ), going to the gym (, going to Menz Shed (, and in-house Drama group, a walking group and music sessions to name a few.

Thumbs Up is all about building relationships and community involvement. Do you think that you would like to help out with any of these activities? Are you wanting to join a group of fun adults and have fun while making a real difference in people’s lives? Or do you have any other skills/activities that you are passionate about that you would like to share ? If so, we would love to hear from you! Please get in touch with with the Thumbs Up Volunteer Coordinator Jill Westenra


Hutt Winter Festival

Here at Thumbs Up we have been busy distributing fliers for the upcoming Hutt Winter Festival. This festival is run by Hutt City Council, in conjunction with Goodtime Music Academy and Mix and is a variety of fun, free or low-cost activities for everyone to enjoy.  The Hutt Winter Festival runs between 16-18 August, so check out the website, see what they have on offer, and then come along and support the Festival along with us.

Mid Winter Christmas Disco, 6th July 2018

After a suggestion of a disco was raised by Melissa, it was decided that the Literacy and Communication in Action groups could organise a Mid-Winter Christmas disco. With a little help, they were able to come up with a theme for the disco, a menu and a guest list, although with the confident use of the various communication tools within Thumbs Up  very little assistance was required -iPads, communication books and writing things down. There were numerous lists written, with many of the people at Thumbs Up being asked to “vote” on the date of the disco and what food they wanted, right down to choosing their favourite song to add to the playlist. Melissa and Abi led the way, and were able to organise a fantastic night of fun and laughter for friends and family. We even had some of our friends from Argo Trust come and have a dance with us too.

Here are Abi, Melissa and Miriam all dressed up and having fun.

Thumbs Up’s Amazing Art Exhibition 6th – 16th December


The latest adventure we are embarking on is ‘The Amazing Thumbs Up Art Exhibition’ . This is the first step towards establishing a self-sustainable art gallery for the artists of Thumbs Up to generate income from their art and share it with the community.  Greeting cards have been produced and work will also be available for sale here in the next week or two.

On display is a wonderfully expressive and energetic selection of works on paper and mixed media creations.  Curator Jo Williams says “these artists are quick to act on their creative impulses and the resulting works reflect an immediacy that is visually very alluring”.

The majority of the people who attend Thumbs Up are non-verbal or have very limited speech.  Visual art is a valuable way of expressing their emotions and view of the world.  Framed/unframed artwork, greeting cards and Christmas crafts can be viewed and purchased at the Arts on High gallery at 191 High St, Lower Hutt from 6th-16th December.  Opening celebration 2pm-3pm Wed 6th Dec, all welcome.

Love people? Enjoy having a work day full of laughter and fun? We want you!!


Thumbs Up are looking for casual staff and volunteers to come and join our team!  We run a day programme with 25 adults from the Hutt Valley who live with a significant intellectual disability.

Our programme is activities based which means you get to go do fun stuff like swimming, going to the gym and sailing. Your day would also involve in house groups like jamming out with our Music Therapist or creating a fun pirate adventure in our drama programme.

Volunteers are encouraged to think about the things they are passionate about and get in touch with the Thumbs Up Volunteer Coordinator Jill Westenra. We try our best to match volunteers with their strengths and passions. So if you are a master artist, a drama king or queen or you just enjoy being around interesting and fun people, give us a call today!

If you are interested in casual employment as a Support Worker please contact the Service Manager Laura Vonk for more information.

Call out for performers, actors and anyone who enjoys creative fun!

Thumbs Up are looking for people to come and join our weekly drama group.

Our drama group wants you to come and join them to play, connect and be pirates for an hour on their mini pirate adventures.

We meet every Monday from 11am-12pm.

Come along if you are interested in creative play, performance and meeting new and interesting people! Booking and additional details can be made through the Thumbs Up Service Manager Laura Vonk.

Outward Bound – The Ultimate Adventure

How it all began…

Mongrel Monkeys

“I have a dream” said Jill two years ago and sometimes dreams come true. Her dream was to take the people of Thumbs Up on an Outward Bound course, to extend, explore and push new boundaries. This involved not only for Thumbs Up to go outside their comfort zone, but also for Outward Bound to push their boundaries. A special course was designed to meet our needs….

After months of preparation and fundraising, 41 of us embarked on the Interislander Ferry heading to Picton on Monday very early in the morning. The Ferry was packed with people and we were very glad we had so much support from the staff and volunteers who came from all over the world. Abi and Merryn S, went back on the returning Ferry and the rest of us walked to the Beachcomber (the little ferry) that took us to Anakiwa. After some heavy lifting of the wheelchairs onto the ferry and a 25 minute sail we arrived at Outward Bound.
We were greeted by the staff who sang a song and in return we did a very impromptu song and dance. Seth, Andrija, Bradley and Matthew P, stayed with us for the night and returned to Wellington the next day. For the rest of us we had the whole week ahead full of activities, adventures and explorations including high & low ropes courses, the flying fox and kayaking on the open sea.

The entire Thumbs Up crew cannot say thank you enough to all the organisations and individuals who have made it possible for us to fulfil the dream of taking our young people to complete the Outward Bound course. Thank you to the Infinity Foundation, Wellington Community Trust, Hutt Mana Trust, the Rotary Club Petone and IHC Parents Association Lower Hutt. In addition, thank you to those of you who purchased compost, movie tickets and raffle tickets. Thank you to all those people who made private donations through our Give a Little page or through our website. To our special volunteers Bee, Anneke & Shannon, the parents who volunteered their time, the Thumbs Up staff and the Outward Bound Instructors & team we say a huge THANK YOU! Your support during the week away was invaluable. We are so grateful for every donation and grant we received and all the hands on help that was available over the week. We absolutely could not have done it without you all! Until the next adventure……..

Thumbs Up Charitable Trust