It was 1970 when Mere, who had only recently lost her husband, agreed to foster two Dunedin children.

Fast-forward 53-years and Mere, now aged 80, is still providing a loving refuge to foster children in her Kāinga Ora home.

Mere, who has six children of her own and many grandchildren, downplays her efforts – “it’s just what you do”, she says – but the impact of her care and kindness has been far-reaching.

For Mere, life is about whānau. The walls of her home and piles of photo albums are stacked with photos of generations past and present, and fun times with lots of laughs.

“So many people have called this place home. Even if they’re not blood, they are still family. A book in Mere’s home shows pages and pages of names of children she has supported over the years. Most of the children Mere has fostered stayed with her until they were young adults and gained their own independence, with several coming to her as babies.

A person looking at photos in an album.

Mere with her photo album.

A sign on Mere’s fridge says: The happiest moments in life are when you find the courage to let go of what you can’t change. It’s something that resonates with Mere, and the guidance she gives to young people.

“You have to be honest, you can’t fix everything, and I seek support where we need it. I work closely with Oranga Tamariki and support agencies, and I get along with the children’s parents. I’m really lucky – I’ve had a really supportive family.”

In a home that’s bustled with young people for more than 50 years, alongside stability and support, Mere makes sure everyone does their bit.

“I tell the kids, you’re not sitting around here doing nothing – get cracking!”

Taking care of others is in Mere’s genes. Her mother supported young people in their home through Barnados, and now Mere’s daughter fosters children too.

Mere’s impact in the Brockville community extends well beyond her front door – she’s a Kaumātua at the local marae, a staunch supporter of the Brockville Community Trust, she’s worked as a Maori warden,  and supported the local kapa haka group over more than three decades.

“Nobody knows when you are going to die, so you may as well have a good time while you can. I’m quite happy with what I’ve done in my life, and the house I live in.” she says.

And countless young lives have undoubtedly been changed by what Mere has done with hers.

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Page updated: 3 July 2023