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Meet the Team




Sonia Thursby


CEO of the YES Disability Resource Centre Sonia has worked in the disability and youth sectors in New Zealand for 25 years and prior to that in the UK.  Sonia has participated on many boards including PHO, Health Boards and Council advisory groups.

She has a passion to support people with disabilities and their families to be the designers and deliverers of services and projects that meet their needs.



Meena Patel


Meena has been with YES since the very beginning and couples her wealth of knowledge and experience with a warm, caring nature in her role as Receptionist - your first point of contact when you call or visit us.

Previously, Meena operated a retirement home and is passionate about helping the aged community.



Maxwell Cowden

Marketing Coordinator

Hi!  I'm Maxwell and I'm the Marketing Coordinator here at YES.  My role involves producing and publishing the bimonthly in-house newlsetter.  I have been a part of the team here for the past three years. 

I have a BA (Japanese) from Unitec and a Graduate Diploma in Journalism Studies from Massey University.



Jamie Masters

Youth Community Connector

Jamie is the Youth Community Connector here at YES.  As a qualified youth worker and youth work assessor working in the sector for over 8 years, Jamie has been involved in many successful projects including breaking a world record, Icebreaker (an anti-bullying workshop), and YES I CAN (a leadership programme).

Jamie is a strong advocate for youth lead co creation, co-development and co delivery, believing that through collaboration a more inclusive community is possible.



Shona Ballinger

Director -National Youth Development    

Shona Ballinger has been engaged in and impacting the Youth Development Sector for 16 years following a successful career in Recreation, where she managed two Leisure Centres for the YMCA. Shona went from Recreation Management to developing and rolling out the successful YMCA Youth Development Program 'Raise up n Represent’. Shona went on to be the YMCA Auckland Youth Development Manager and then YMCA National Youth Development Manager, advocating externally with the Youth Sector, Ministry of Youth Development and Funders while also advocating internally for best practice youth service.

Shona moved on to set up a consultancy business in which she supported organisation’s that wanted to support or provide more for young people in a positive development space. Shona has been a tutor, trainer and assessor of youth work qualifications. Shona has provided facilitation and training to staff in a range of organisations on engaging with and empowering young people. She has worked with a wide variety of young people in New Zealand and Australia including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, disability, health and migrant and refugees. Shona has specialist skills in outcome measurement and service model design. She has a focus on quality service, which includes risk management, youth worker engagement, best practice delivery and measuring impact. Shona holds a Diploma and Masters in Youth Development, and a Level 4 cert in Adult Education and Training.



Rachel Peterson

Community Relationship Manager

Rachel has over 20 years experience working within the New Zealand disability industry, from grass roots to senior management with both NGO & corporate organisations. She is herself a wheelchair user and mum of two.

Rachel's passion is education, training for change, offering peer support, mentoring and creating workshops on self advocacy. In July last year Rachel was nominated and appointed to the Auckland Council Disability Panel providing strategic advice and building relationships for community engagement.  Rachel will continue with the council for her three year term alongside her new position at YES.



Kerri Bonner

Christchurch Carabiner Coordinator

I am a proud Canterbrian and disabled person.  I have a background in both the your and disability sectors.  Most recently, alongside my role as Christchurch Carabiner Coordinator, I have been working for Enabling Good Lives and SAMS. 

I staunchly believe that disabled people can and do live great lives, and am privileged to be in roles where I can support people along their journey.



Cam Calkoen


Cam Calkoen – Ambassador for YES – has cerebral palsy.  An inspirational public speaker, he has been a key driving force in the creation of YES and its services. 

Cam is also a noted athlete and narrowly missed representing New Zealand at the2008 Paralympics.   


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