Everyone deserves to be loved. This single truth is what led AMP Tomorrow Maker Kristie Findlater to drive change in her local community.
In the eight years she has worked in the disability support sector, Kristie says she has lost count of the number of times she has been asked to help find someone a significant other.
“I’ve met hundreds of people with disabilities and 90% have the same goal: to find someone special,” she says, adding for people with intellectual disabilities, the dating game can be particularly tough.
“There are many online dating sites, but they’re not safe for vulnerable people.
“Meeting in a social setting comes with its own set of difficulties for people with intellectual disabilities. Often they don’t have an understanding of what is a healthy relationship or their right to have one, so they risk being taken advantage of.”
Understanding these challenges, Kristie set up a program that aims to help people in western Sydney to make friends and form relationships through social events.
The Life Links program has been going strong for two years, with attendance more than tripling in the last 12 months.
Participants regularly meet at restaurants and clubs in Penrith to enjoy good food and great company.
“Going out to dinner with friends is something many Australians take for granted but people with intellectual disabilities don’t always have the ability to maintain friendships or plan nights out,” she says.
“Life Links helps people break out of their social isolation and it’s wonderful to see the joy that these gatherings bring.”
Today, Kristie is using a grant she received from AMP’s Tomorrow Fund to establish a new dating agency that offers supported introductions as well as healthy relationship advice and sex education.
Members start their search for love by meeting Kristie, who will learn more about their likes, dislikes, expectations and experiences.
This personalised support continues as the person accesses social engagements via the agency.
“The Life Links dating agency will make people with disabilities feel valued and accepted, and know they have the right to form relationships, experience life and take risks just like everyone else,” Kristie says, adding love is a human need that no one should be denied.
Last year Kristie was one of 42 exceptional Australians who shared in $1 million worth of grants through the AMP Tomorrow Fund – an annual AMP Foundation initiative.
Applications for 2016 open in April, but anyone who is working towards a goal with a positive community impact can register their interest now.
But who’s joining the ranks of AMP Tomorrow Makers in 2015?