This Christmas, the Herald is profiling 12 charities chosen to get a $12,000 grant from Auckland Airport as part of its 12 Days of Christmas giving programme – now in its twelfth year. The $144,000 comes from generous travellers who donate money in globes throughout the airport.

Round the back of the community centre in Manurewa's Randwick Park is an arresting sight. Forty adults ranging from overweight to obese circle a booming stereo doing star jumps and press-ups. In between each activity there's a round of high fives. It's the huge smiles that are most noticeable. Despite the pain, this unlikely bunch are enjoying themselves.

They're taking part in a free boot camp run by BBM Motivation to help primarily Maori and Pacific people in low decile communities adopt healthy eating and exercise habits. The Brain, Body, Movement programme is based on founder Dave Letele's philosophy of getting your brain right, understanding what you are putting into your body and just getting moving.

BBM, through its fundraising arm Just Move Trust, is one of twelve charities to receive a $12,000 grant from Auckland Airport's 12 Days of Christmas initiative.

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Loncey Kepa and Leila King. Photo / Ollie Dale
Loncey Kepa and Leila King. Photo / Ollie Dale

One of the locals taking part in the six-week pilot at Randwick Park is Leila King. The 36-year-old had lost weight before with BBM and decided to return from Australia a year ago to get back on the programme. "Unfortunately we just fell on hard times. I rang Dave (Letele) and said, "I don't know what to do. I'm really struggling. I'm putting all the weight back on again" and he said, "Just come home, sis" - so we did."

"At first we were going round all the BBM boot camps in school halls and parks. Then they opened a headquarters in Manukau. When they started this one, it was perfect because we can walk here. Randwick has a lot of people that are overweight like me, and their children as well," she says.

"Through BBM you build a community. You need that to push you through these workouts because they're hard for someone my size. I turn up more for my BBM friends and family but I get exercise along the way. They also do kapa haka afterwards, which makes you feel good about yourself. It would be great if it kept going here because we could come more often," she says.

Since Leila and her partner Loncey Kepa came home a year ago, she has lost just under 40kg. Loncey has lost 30kg and was recently told by his doctor that he is no longer diabetic. He's also competed in his first triathlon.

BBM is one of twelve charities to receive a $12,000 grant. Photo / Ollie Dale
BBM is one of twelve charities to receive a $12,000 grant. Photo / Ollie Dale

Sky City chair Rob Campbell lost 35kg thanks to Dave Letele. He founded the Just Move Trust to help extend the BBM programme to more people who need it.

"We're forever reading about big research grants being given to study diabetes in South Auckland. We know what causes diabetes in South Auckland. There's no need to study it. You've just got to get people moving," he says.

"The unique thing about Dave and all the BBM team leaders is that they're part of this community. They all started severely overweight and turned their lives around. They know the struggles these people have been through, so unlike a medical professional or a pakeha social worker, they can relate to people in a language they understand. BBM is capable of activating people in a way that no-one else is doing,"

"Once you get a community working out together like this, they start doing other things like going for walks together on the weekend or meeting for a healthy morning tea. They bring their kids along to class. How marvellous that kids can see their parents doing something about their health. That's how it all starts."

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Auckland Airport's general manager of corporate services Mary-Liz Tuck says the $12,000 will be used to extend the BBM programme to Glen Taylor school in Glen Innes from next year, both in school and a weekly evening session with families.

"We're an organisation that values the power of education. Supporting the work of Just Move Charitable Trust to facilitate children and whanau learning together will help break down barriers to their educational development," she says.

Yesterday: Dementia Auckland