Doreen was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at birth. The doctors had told the family at the time that they would be lucky if Doreen “made it to one year”.

On Sunday the 7th of April 2019, Doreen Mataora celebrated her 21st birthday. On this special day, the family gathered and serendipitously sang “Happy Birthday” to Doreen. The moment was filled with mixed emotions and happy tears for this close-knit family who thanks God for Doreen’s life each day.

Described as a blessing, the family have loved and cared for Doreen for twenty-one years and counting. Born on the 7th of April in the year 1998, Doreen was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at birth. The doctors had told the family at the time that they would be lucky if Doreen “made it to one year”. Doreen remains in the care of her mother Koru and primary carer Rongo who is the younger sister to Koru, and second mother to Doreen. Born to a big family, Doreen is loved by all, especially her siblings and cousins who maintain a very close relationship with her.

Forty-year-old mum, Koru Smith was born and raised in the Cook Islands on the island of Pukapuka. Koru was brought to New Zealand in 1989 with her parents and siblings. As is the story for many Pacific island families, Koru’s mum and dad moved to New Zealand in search of a better future for their children. The family quickly settled and before long were calling New Zealand home.  Koru is a proud mother of five children, of which Doreen is the oldest. In 2012, she married her long-time partner and together they have three children.  Today, the family live in their family home in South Auckland. Though very rare, Koru spends her free time mingling with the Pukapuka community and listening to music. One of her favourite artists is Celine Dion. The song ‘I’m your Angel’ especially springs to mind for Koru who dedicates this song to her angel, Doreen. Koru’s favourite meal would include fish and taro.  In her spare time, she likes to keep her feet up and chill. Koru ends with her favourite Bible verse from Psalms 27:14

“tiaki ia iehova; e akamaroiroi; e nana e akamaroiroi mai ito ngakau ra, e tenana e tiaki rai koe ia Iehova”.

Koru’s sister Rongo Puretu has always played an active role in Dorrens life from when she was born. Mother to five children herself Rongo was gifted with the natural ability of caregiving. At the time of Doreen’s birth, Rongo, who had more availability at the time, naturally gravitated to the role of primary caregiver. This created a bond between the two that can only be described as ‘a mothers love’. Each day Rongo gets up, gets her children prepared and drops them off to school then heads over to Otahuhu to care for Doreen. Some of her common tasks included shower, massage, and feeding.  Quite often they would bring Doreen out to sit amongst the family and enjoy the environment around her. Up until recently, Rongo was also caring for her mum who had a stroke not too long after her dad passed in 2003. Rongo describes Doreen as “a blessing to have in our lives” because she gives us a different perspective on life and a better appreciation of life and loved ones. Rongo rarely has time to herself but she when does, she enjoys reading and listening to music.  Her favourite meal includes Kentucky Fried Chicken. Rongo believes “I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13

Both Koru and Rongo are extremely grateful for all the support they have received while caring for Doreen from family and friends, Pasifika Integrated, Pacific Homecare, and the community nurses.

“Our tasks would have been much more difficult had it not been for the support and advise from all three”.

Leave a Reply