Joyce Wenmoth flicks through photos and videos of her grandson Coby on her phone.
There are holiday memories from Rotorua, Coby having fun at Takaro Park, horse riding in Whanganui.
But this isn’t a typical grandparent-grandchild relationship. Wenmoth is raising Coby and the 10-year-old is permanently in her care.
Coby doesn’t talk, needs help to walk, and he can’t feed himself.
He has Angelman syndrome, a genetic condition that causes delayed development, problems with speech and balance, intellectual disability, and, sometimes, seizures.
Coby has lived with Wenmoth since he was 3.
She is sharing her story to launch the Manawatū Guardian’s Christmas appeal for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Palmerston North.
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust New Zealand provides support services to grandparents and whānau caregivers who are raising their grandchildren and whanāu/kin on a full-time basis. The charitable trust’s services include clothing and care packages, advocacy, support groups, and education.
Coby goes to West End School and loves all sorts of music.
“Anything that is loud, noisy, got a good beat to it,” Wenmoth says.
He loves water play, smiles and chuckles often, and will lean in to get affection.
Artwork by the front door tells us his favourite colour is red and his favourite food is pasta.
Wenmoth says she is fortunate Coby’s other grandparents live in Palmerston North and help out. He is also in contact with his parents.
She also has obligations to her other grandchildren, particularly the three who often stay with her. At 67, she works part-time. One of the reasons she took Coby on is she is a registered nurse.
She tries to get to Grandparents Raising Grandchildren monthly meetings and appreciates she does not have to explain to anyone there what the issues are. Everyone there is in the same situation and knows what it is like to make a commitment to raise someone else’s child.
Palmerston North Support Group coordinator Jacqui Phillips says it has been operating in Palmerston North for more than four years. There are 190 member families.
Wenmoth says caring for Coby is physically wearing. He is getting bigger and bigger, while she is getting frailer and frailer. She has raised five children, who are now aged 30 to 40.
Her ability to pursue outside interests is limited - she used to be an avid handicrafter.
Wenmoth’s husband died 10 years ago and Coby was the last grandchild he met. She’s determined to give the boy who loves bubble baths as many opportunities as she can.
“He is a happy little man.”
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren would like donations of activities for grandchildren, books, clothing, and toiletries. Gifts are sought for newborns to 17-year-olds. Treats for grandparents such as beauty therapy vouchers would also be appreciated.
Gifts can be left at the Manawatū Guardian at 619 Main St between 10am and 1pm or ring 027 218 1583 for collection.