A Whangārei woman with cerebral palsy has been given a new sense of freedom thanks to the kindness of a stranger and a helpful community.
Natasha Western is unable to walk "overly well" and a spinal fusion seven years ago created more issues that saw her become reliant on a wheelchair for mobility.
For more than three years, she had used a Ministry of Health-provided wheelchair that didn't meet her requirements.
Western said the chair was extremely heavy even though it was the lightest one the ministry was able to provide.
"There was a grey area and [the Ministry of Health] provided the lightest under my funding bracket, but it's too heavy for me."
She said rather than the ministry providing the wheelchair, it should have come under ACC.
"It is not their fault the system is broken. I am in the medical grey area that I should be covered by ACC because of the injury to my back but I am not because of the pre-existing condition.
"I knew this was the best they could do," she said.
The pain of lifting the heavy wheelchair into her car 10 to 15 times a day became so unbearable Western resigned from her work.
However, crowdfunding via a Givealittle page was soon about to change her life as the volume of donations allowed her to raise money for a new chair.
And then there was the kindness of fabricator Steve May, who agreed to make a customised wheelchair with free labour costs.
"Steve made it for $2500, a frame alone could cost at least 10 grand in the market," Western said.
May's chair had given the mother a newly minted independence.
"I can go back to work now, I can take care of my daughter, I can do everything myself. He has literally changed my life and will change the life of a lot of other people," Western said.
"Having a chair that's light, easy to move, enables me to be fully independent."
May said he wanted to give building the chair a go but it took some time to get his head around the design.
"I was trying to find the bits and pieces to make it with, materials are a bit hard to find this time around."
He started constructing the chair, specifically to suit Western's needs, before Christmas and delivered it to her just over a month later.
"If you can make somebody's day and make them smile, all the efforts and time are worth it," May said.