Matthew takes the lead
|SCOUT'S HONOUR: Matthew Bellette is a keen Cub leader and an inspiration to the children he helps.|
Matthew Bellette knows better than most the hard work and commitment it takes to become a Cub leader.
The 22-year-old has Down syndrome and is believed to be the first Scout leader in New Zealand with an intellectual disability.
He travels 40 minutes from Orewa to West Auckland each week to lead the Cubs group of the Oratia Air Scouts which meets at Oratia Settlers Hall.
Scouts is a worldwide network renowned for teaching children skills like first aid, boating, camping and interacting with others.
Matthew joined Scouts as a Kea, the youngest rank, at age 4.
He then progressed into Cubs and then Scouts before deciding he wanted to become a Cub leader, just like his dad Des.
Matthew achieved that goal this year and this was celebrated with a special ceremony at the hall.
Scout leaders need to be at least 18, be police vetted and complete a series of training modules including health and safety.
Some of these tasks have been adjusted to suit Matthew's ability but that doesn't mean he's been given a free ride.
"He had to work hard over the years because of his disability but he never gave up," Des says.
"It was quite moving to see that achievement and for him to have come that far."
Des and wife Robyn have always encouraged Matthew and his younger sister Grace, 20, who also has Down syndrome, to live as independently as possible.
Both work fulltime and Grace lives independently with her husband.
The Bellettes lived in West Auckland for most of Matthew's childhood but moved to Orewa five years ago.
Des didn't consider joining a Scout group that was closer because of the special bond Matthew had developed with members, in particular the group's main leader Warren Jackson.
"I didn't think that would happen again.
"They all know him and have grown up with him," he says.
So Des, a builder, made the commitment to make the 40-minute trip from Orewa to Oratia every Monday so Matthew could continue to be part of the group.
"That's his passion and that's what he wanted to do so we support him in that," he says.
Matthew's Cub leader role is going well and he enjoys working with the children.
Warren has watched him inspire countless youth members to give everything a go and is proud he's become a leader.
"This is not about a special needs person. This is about a special person who has already taught a lot of us that we are only limited by ourselves and that we should not judge others as they should not judge us.
"Matthew will continue to inspire us all with his ability to care for others and his `give it a go' attitude."