Mum to thousands retires

Last updated 05:01 07/05/2014
Julie Manahi
Diana Worthy

DEDICATED CARE: Mum to more than a thousand children, Julie Manahi, centre, is loved and respected by friends such as Lyn Miller-Hanton, left, and her son Lewis, as well as family. Julie has looked after adopted daughter Sylvia Schollum, right, since she was a baby.

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Supermum Julie Manahi will be celebrating Mother's Day for the last time as a foster parent after more than 30 years of caring for other people's children.

The Waiheke Island resident is planning to retire in July after fostering more than a thousand youngsters with her late husband Wally who died last September.

The pair started fostering in Dunedin in the 1980's.

"Fostering keeps me young, keeps me sane, and I love all the kids," Mrs Manahi says.

But the 73-year-old is finally keeping the promise she made to her husband, her backbone as she calls him, about taking things easier.

The Manahis, married for more than 50 years, had five children of their own, brought up two grandchildren from near birth and helped to bring up two great-grandchildren.

Mrs Manahai, QSM, can cite instances of three generations of foster children they've looked after too, all treated with equal love and care.

She says many who arrive have never eaten vegetables, used a knife or fork, had their own toiletries, worn pyjamas or been able to read or write. They get three home-cooked meals a day seated with family at the table, are taught to read, write and say bedtime prayers as well as learning other skills from Julie Manahi like cooking and sewing.

She says around 80 per cent of the children come from Child Youth and Family Services for up to three weeks but many stay longer so she has to watch getting too attached.

"It was very hard saying goodbye to babies.

"I always had them for over a year so got very, very attached. I used to stand on the deck and cry."

But not all leave.

Mrs Manahi is guardian to 23-year-old Sylvia Schollum, who arrived with her three siblings when she was a day old.

She is still living with ‘nan', as she calls her, while brother Christian, 26, sister Erica, 31, and eldest Rose, 32, have now all moved out but keep in touch.

Others living in the two Manahi houses include daughter, Bonnie, granddaughter Teresa and great-grandchildren Tama and Dillon.

"It's wonderful living here," Schollum says. "We're all family. Nan's such an amazing person. I may not call her ‘mum' but she's my mum and it's been so wonderful her bringing me up."

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