Crusader for the less fortunate in line for award

By Kiri Gillespie

A Te Puke businessman has been named as a semifinalist in this year's New Zealander of the Year awards.

Tauranga Habitat for Humanity director Jim Dowman helped establish the Vincent House Trust in Te Puke, which supports people with mental health issues or disabilities.

He also led the first New Zealand Habitat for Humanity missions outside of the country to nations like Fiji. In total, Mr Dowman has helped build more than 100 homes, including about 50 locally, for families in need.

The 67-year-old said he was surprised to be named a "local hero".

In typical Kiwi fashion, Mr Dowman was reluctant to discuss his own work when he and his wife Ann Dowman spoke to the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday.

"We are just really part of a team. It's an acknowledgement of others being involved over the years. Maybe I'm a bit of an instigator," he said.

Mr Dowman teamed up with a pastor from Te Puke Church to create and fundraise for the facility which opened in 1987. Mr Dowman was chairman of the board for 20 years and now operates as a trustee. "I believe the whole spiritual side of life is so important. I find in Vincent House if one guy's got faith, it's a big help in their recovery. You can only do so much with drugs, love and care. The spiritual side really adds to that."

Mr Dowman, who owns Jalco timber processing, explained his motivation to help others by referring to an anecdote.

It involved a girl saving beached starfish by throwing them back into the sea. When questioned by a man saying there were too many starfish for the girl's efforts to make any difference, the girl replied as she threw one back that she had made a difference to that starfish.

"We can look at the enormity of our problems and say 'what can you do?' but you can do it one by one - that's how you can."



Mr Dowman was nominated in the Kiwibank Local Heroes section of the awards that recognised everyday people doing extraordinary things in their local communities.

After the 2009 Samoan tsunami, which devastated villages along the island's coastline, Mr Dowman was involved in a three-month mission resulting in 97 new homes for homeless survivors. "I've been blessed with good health and fitness but I guess I've kept doing things - tramping, hunting, fishing and working too."

Mrs Dowman said her husband did not know what it was to "slow down".

"I don't even think that's in his vocabulary," she said.

Robbie Colhoun, New Zealander of the Year Awards co-ordinator, said Mr Dowman was nominated because he worked tirelessly to make Vincent House a success and the facility benefited so many families in the community.

"Jim is a leader, and a doer. He gets more done in a day than most would in a week. This has resulted in him spearheading some outstanding fundraising activities through many years of working tirelessly and selflessly."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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