“I have always wanted to give back and think that if you can help bring some relief or joy to people you should. It gives me pleasure in my heart to be able to do that,” says Debbie.

One of the ways Debbie gives back is by running a food bank, C3 Cares, through her church. In fact, if you visit Debbie on a weekday, you might find her in her lounge busy working on individually parcelled grocery essentials.

“When I heard they needed someone to help I thought ‘I can do that’ and was happy to put my hand up to help,” says Debbie.

For the past four years, the Kāinga Ora customer has spent hours each week coordinating food parcels and carefully recording donations and deliveries.

“We don’t want to make people wait, so we aim to get parcels out as quickly as possible – usually the same day, if we can. It’s busy, but hugely rewarding.”

Debbie has always had a strong desire to serve, even as she faced significant challenges of her own. Debbie was just 20 when doctors told her the neuro-muscular condition she was born with would kill her by 27.

“So getting to 64 – woohoo ,” she grins.

Debbie – who gets around in a motorised wheelchair with the support of her husband, Guy, and a friendly service dog called Jackson – is  grateful for the help she has received over the years and cherishes how accessible her Kāinga Ora home is.

“This house makes it a lot easier for me to get around. The doors have been modified and two bedrooms have been made into one because, with my chair and large hospital bed, I need quite a lot of space.

“To have a house that is accessible to me is brilliant.”

Ramps and modified paths around the house are also helpful to Debbie, who is an avid gardener – in fact, she once won a Kāinga Ora competition for her garden.

“I just love to grow. It’s just great to be able to get out there on my little box with wheels and roll around my garden beds. I even mow the lawns.

“I do a lot of things in my life because it’s rewarding to get out there. I might be in a wheelchair but that doesn’t stop me,” Debbie says.  

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Page updated: 29 May 2023