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Canterbury DHB first in New Zealand to start Project SEARCH


25 January 2019

For immediate release

Canterbury DHB first in New Zealand to start Project SEARCH

Ricky Reeves was nine-years-old when brain cancer affected his optic nerve, leaving him severely visually impaired. Now 21, an internship programme at Canterbury DHB is giving him a chance he never thought he’d have - to join the workforce.

Ricky is one of eight local students taking part in Project SEARCH, a free internship programme running from Burwood Hospital. The programme is designed to give high school leavers with learning or other disabilities the skills and experience necessary to enter the workforce.

The year-long programme also helps organisations become more inclusive employers, and was officially launched at an event at Burwood Hospital last night.

The eight students, aged from 18- to 22-years-old will be supported in a range of roles across the Burwood campus to learn skills as greeters, helping out with hospitality and catering or deliveries, and alongside the orderly team.

At the launch event last night, they each walked on stage to sign their contracts and receive their Canterbury DHB ID badges.

Ricky, who is blind in his left eye and can see just 2m ahead from his right eye, says Project SEARCH is more than just a post-high school opportunity for him.

“I want to make something of my life,” he says. “It is quite hard for blind and visually impaired people to get a job, because a lot of places say it's a safety issue.

“I want to prove that a blind person can do a normal person's job, it might just take a little bit longer.”

Ricky’s mum, Celia Reeves, says Project SEARCH is “life changing” for her son.

“We are looking at it as a life changing opportunity for him. For businesses out there saying we can't employ people because they have a disability, actually this pilot programme is going to prove that these kids are able to work in full employment.”

Started in the Cincinnati, USA in 1996, Project SEARCH now has over 600 programmes running worldwide. Its launch in Canterbury is a first for New Zealand and for Australasia. This first intake for Project SEARCH at Canterbury DHB will run from February until December 2019.

At the launch celebration Canterbury DHB Chief Executive, David Meates thanked the many people who have worked so hard towards this day and the programme that starts in just two weeks, from the interns and their families, to the Project SEARCH team, to our own DHB staff.

“I’m thrilled, on behalf of the largest employer in the South Island and as the first in New Zealand to embrace Project SEARCH, to welcome our eight interns to the Canterbury DHB family. And I am proud to be able to witness this very significant step for these young people, and to be walking alongside them,” he said.

Mr Meates says Project SEARCH fulfils a core goal of the DHB’s Health Disability Action Plan - to employ more people who experience disability.

“Looking at the quality of our interns and the passionate supports we have set up, we fully expect this to be a positive learning experience for us all. It’s so exciting to be here at the start of this important journey, but most exciting of all is to see our interns so pumped and ready for action,” says Mr Meates.


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