Para-athlete Amy Jane MacDonald sits on the shore as her 6-year-old son trains for waka ama for the very first time.

"He's been waiting for years," says the 33-year-old mother of three, "He was so excited and it's the first time he's been on a team."

MacDonald is no ordinary mum. She ended an incredible week, where she took home a $10,000 National AMP Scholarship, by winning Blind Sportsperson of the Year.

But she had a more important engagement.


Her coach, George Thomas accepted the award on her behalf, so she could spend quality time with her son.

MacDonald started to lose her sight at a young age due to a rare autoimmune disorder.

As the years went by, her vision continued to deteriorate. It led her to a dark place in life when at one point, she wouldn't even leave her house.

Her friends came to her rescue, pulling her out of the house and through the doors of the gym, where she learnt Jiu Jitsu and self-defence.

Her passion for this led her to teaching young girls and women self-defence classes, boosting confidence and self-esteem.

She's using the AMP scholarship to achieve her dream - to travel back to the Pacific Islands, to compete in the prestigious Te Aito with her waka ama (Va'a).

She wants to be the first Paralympic woman to paddle the gruelling long distance ocean race and hopefully inspire other Paralympic athletes especially women to compete in some of the toughest races around the world.

MacDonald will also teach self-defence courses to young women and girls.


"I particularly want to focus on those with disabilities. We're a vulnerable group, so these safety courses I teach are of a real benefit to the young girls in boosting their confidence."

"This scholarship just allows me to really live my dream and meet some incredible people along the way."

By going through tough times herself, MacDonald developed a huge sense of understanding and empathy for those with disabilities coping in difficult situations.

"These girls coming through my courses are often quiet and shy, they're all very different, but I see quick changes in their self-belief in themselves, their confidence levels. It's just instant and the comments I get about their personal changes are just amazing."

"Life can be really hard, and for me it still is hard. But it's so important to hang in there and try to hold onto the little things and know that you can come through it."