She rubs her fingers over a photo on the wall and murmurs "beautiful boys … I love them."
Children's photos pepper the walls inside this brick home.
It is one of three houses on a large, suburban Tauranga section that's a refuge for abused and neglected children, run by charitable trust
The charity's founder, Hilary Price, stops to admire more than one photo as she walks in and out of a maze of colourful bedrooms.
Small, sacred spaces decorated with Spider-Man curtains, pink fluffy rugs, dress-ups, and soft toys.
The nine little people who live here - all but one are at school and preschool when we visit - are united by their shared experiences.
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They belong to an invisible tribe of 254 children cared for by the organisation since 2003, and some of the 6000 children nationwide in foster care.
Price is a teacher, mother, social worker, play therapist and a fearless fighter for children's rights.
Being softhearted, she thinks she has the least CEO-like persona of anyone she knows, but sources say she would be unmatched in her role.
What she sees and hears causes her to lose sleep at night, but she remains positive.
Fastened around her neck and hanging from the charm bracelet on her right wrist are crosses. Her Christian faith has held her through the storms.
"I'm so grateful that we've got this opportunity. That's why you keep going," she says.
"I try not to dwell on the realities that I know they've come from, but then, on the other hand, I don't want to protect myself from that because they had to live through it.
"We must never anaesthetise ourselves to that reality.
"Knowing and understanding their history enables us to respond appropriately with compassion but also with consistency and with what they need for their little brains to recover."
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"I try not to dwell on the realities that I know they've come from, but then, on the other hand, I don't want to protect myself from that because they had to live through it. We must never anaesthetise ourselves to that reality."
One group of siblings brought to Homes of Hope had 27 notifications against them before something was done. She shakes her head at that.
"If the family isn't putting the family first, we need to start saying it like it is.
"Nobody is saying: 'You don't love your kids', but you need to be accountable for caring for them as best you can and reaching out for help when you can't. I mean how hard is that really?
Pam French, communications and funding manager for Homes of Hope, says Price can be a real "mama bear" when required and will fiercely defend what is right.
Broken children transform under her leadership and that of their house parents, in homes full of niceties and comfort.
"It is wonderful to see them change and start to grow and before too long take their rightful place in the world as children who are able to play and laugh and enjoy their childhood."
Broken homes and hearts
He looked like a "jellyfish" when he arrived.
He was 7-months-old, floppy and skinny.
He'd never had tummy time and as a result, had no muscle tone.
Parental substance abuse was to blame and inattention also led to his siblings developing skin lesions, head lice, and one of them, aged 8, had unaddressed orthodontic problems. The clothing they wore barely fit.
The before-and-after photos are "unbelievable", Price says.
"They're just glowing. Healthy skin and strong."
Dysfunctional homes are no place for children.
She hears stories of kids locked in garden sheds for long periods of time as punishment, food being withheld, and children subjected to physical and sexual violence, and unshielded from drug use.
She tells the story of a Western Bay boy who had been so hungry he found some cockroaches and tried eating them.
Social workers Amanda Gabb and Rosalyn Howard say Price is the most positive woman they've ever met.
"To turn up every day for 16 years, to pull yourself up no matter the situation and to not have lost the faith, hope or passion, is amazing," Howard says.
"I can't even imagine Homes of Hope and Hilary being separated. She is the heartbeat."
A different life
Hardship is a long way from Price's own privileged childhood and her family was surprised at her choice to start up a children's shelter.
Of English origin, her mother was mayoress of Clitheroe, and a teacher who enjoyed amateur theatrics.
Her father had a timber milling business in the UK, and later Zimbabwe/Rhodesia, where he was chairman of the national import and export council.
One of her childhood memories is accompanying her dad to Government House in Africa and meeting the prime minister and deputy prime minister.
"We definitely had a privileged life. Private schools, racehorses, fabulous holidays.
"My parents certainly instilled the values of hard work and a good work ethic. My family has probably been quite perplexed and puzzled at times as to why I've gone down this road.
"We came from a professional family and I think they felt that I could be putting my hand to something that was more professionally and financially beneficial to myself and my family, and they saw the cost."
In the early days of setting up the organisation, she and her husband Jon had neglected children to stay at their house.
Jon, who is "amazingly strong and steady", has supported her unconditionally, as have their three adult children and two grandchildren.
She has always been passionate about children.
"I remember when I was 12, my music teacher telling me: 'Hilary, you'll have to work with children whatever you do'."
She had planned to study law but instead decided to become a teacher so she didn't have to leave Rhodesia.
She later moved to South Africa and then New Zealand, sailing here with Jon and their three young children on their 40foot cutter from Cape Town leaving early in 1993 and arriving here in March 1995.
Several years later, she was approached by a colleague to consider opening a home for foster care in Tauranga and prayed for a sign to help guide her.
The sign came when she arrived home one day to a handwritten letter from a former resident of a children's shelter she'd set up in South Africa.
The letter was written was to say "thank you" for giving them hope when they had none.
Through her church, Price had been involved with after-school care for children from the squatter and farm community in Hout Bay, Cape Town.
It opened her eyes to their plight and the squalid conditions they lived in.
"One thing led to another and soon the children were visiting our home throughout the week, with some living with us on and off," she explains.
She became close to a sibling group of five and knew it was time to do something more.
"With the help of my home group and some close friends, I initiated the start of what is now James House, named after one of the children who I was close to."
James House was opened in 1989 and is a haven for up to 20 children at any one time who need refuge. The centre also offers a therapeutic service and skills-based programmes for young adults.
Since then, Homes of Hope has been her focus and front and centre of publicity around neglected children locally.
Price welcomes the publicity but finds being in the spotlight uncomfortable.
"It's so untypical of who I am."
Asked if she feels proud, she says she prefers the word grateful.
"I've had this amazing opportunity to do something that really makes a difference and is eternal in people's lives and how they are lived."
For all of Price's pluck, however, the burdens are great.
Fifty per cent of overheads need to be covered by outside funders and she's had to accept that not everyone is as committed as she is.
"I think having unrealistic expectations of others has caused a lot of hurt for me.
"Some people come in for a season and that's fine. It's when there are broken relationships that's really hard. The purpose here is that we be consistent.
"I say to the team: 'You need at least two years here to really get a handle on the complexity of what we're doing.'"
"I think having unrealistic expectations of others has caused a lot of hurt for me. Some people come in for a season and that's fine. It's when there are broken relationships that's really hard. The purpose here is that we be consistent."
Nowadays she has a board of trustees and staff who model her philosophy and have allowed her to step back confidently.
"Whilst the challenges have been huge and nearly broken me several times, the other side of it is that I feel I've really grown."
Homes of Hope focuses on reaching out to young children with an intake criteria of children aged 0 to 8.
They don't separate siblings, however, so the age range is usually about 0 to 12.
Some children have stayed nearly seven years before going to their forever homes and there are children who are waiting to come in.
At 62, succession planning within the organisation is underway, but Price has more she wants to achieve.
In October, she and social workers Gabb and Howard will travel to the United States to train in Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) - a therapeutic programme that trains and supports caregivers to provide effective support and treatment for children from hard places.
Future plans also include adding a fourth home on site (they have matching funding from Tauranga City Council to start the project) and Price wants to offer her child-centred play therapy to wider Tauranga, saying that Homes of Hope is a gift to the community to "fly the flag for the importance of caring for all children superbly".
Emil Verster, a Homes of Hope trustee, says there are a lot of Tauranga organisations which support them in their daily function, but it is Price who leads from the front and she's wise when it comes to managing resources on the smell of an oily rag.
"Because she's always been a constant, she's created a lot of goodwill for the organisation.
"She is not only the founder but the glue, and it comes from a beautiful place which is her heart."
Daughter Lindsay Faris says her mum believes anybody can change their future regardless of their past.
"I'm sure it's those beliefs and commitment to human flourishing that has seen her be able to serve the community for so long.
"Dad calls her a 'heart on legs', and I think that's a pretty good description."