After 36 years giving a home to 300 children, including a future All Black and Chiefs star, Liam Messam's parents are moving to the Waikato.
Last week 69-year-old Wanda Messam and her 74-year-old husband, Lewis, were honoured and farewelled by the Rotorua Open Home Foundation.
The Messams are moving to Hamilton but have left a huge legacy in Rotorua.
Mr and Mrs Messam have fostered about 300 children in Rotorua over more than three decades along with raising three of their own children and five adopted children.
Among them was Liam Messam, who was full of praise for the start in life the couple had given him and so many others.
"I come from a big family, being adopted, and there were always kids coming in and out of the house.
"It was something we all got used to," he said.
"They gave us another chance at life and they open their hearts to everyone. They should be New Zealanders of the Year."
His father would probably dispute that. Lewis Messam said fate dictated the role a person played in life.
"I just feel content that we have helped a little bit," he said.
Lewis Messam said there was a big difference between simply having children and being able to provide the right home environment.
"The biggest thing that has struck me is that these mothers know how to have children, but the biggest question is: how do I nurture a child to grow into a person with good ways?
"It is certainly not about material things for children."
Mrs Messam said their years of foster care were the couple's calling.
"Some of these kids don't have a good life. I see what we do as just giving them a bit of normality back," she said.
"If I know the child I am fostering is going to a good home when they leave us, then I am happy."
Open Home Foundation practice manager Rod Russell said the couple did not seek kudos or applause for themselves, but for their children.
"The contribution they have made to this community is beyond very important and I would like to honour them and acknowledge this," he said.
"They have touched the lives of multiple hundreds of people, from the children they have fostered to the extended families of these children."
Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick was also full of praise for the couple.
"The sacrifice they have made of their space, time and resources is amazing."
Ms Chadwick said it took a couple with a very special relationship and amazing values to open their home to little ones who were vulnerable.
"I couldn't imagine a greater gift for our community," she said. "We want to have a resilient community.
"That means building it up and that starts with our children."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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