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.

Mangere brothers Timothy and Josiah Latulipe come from a sports-mad family but spent most of their lives on the sidelines watching their cousins play basketball, touch and rugby league. Born with cerebral palsy, they didn't have the stability to compete with their able-bodied aiga.

But that all changed last year when they found out about Parafed Auckland's junior programme which gives young people with disabilities the chance to try new sports and activities. Parafed Auckland is one of twelve charities to receive a $12,000 grant from Auckland Airport's 12 Days of Christmas initiative.

Mum Anna Fariu says her sons, aged 20 and 17, were thrilled to discover they fitted in at Parafed. "The way the community sees disability has been really hard. There's a lot of stigma. Timothy was bullied at school. Parents would say, "Why don't they put him in a special school?" but he's too intelligent for that. The ignorance makes you angry. We love it here at Parafed because they're not treated like a minority. The coaches are so passionate about empowering the boys to realise their potential," she says.

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Timothy and Josiah Latulipe were once only able to watch but now play. Photo / Ollie Dale
Timothy and Josiah Latulipe were once only able to watch but now play. Photo / Ollie Dale

Since joining the monthly programme, the pair haven't missed a session, trying everything from skiing to surfing. In October they competed in the Halberg Games in athletics, shot put, discuss, wheelchair basketball and badminton. They are also dedicated members of Parafed's strength and conditioning programme.

Anna says the biggest surprise was seeing Timothy develop his passion for running. Although he doesn't need a wheelchair like his younger brother, he didn't think he had the stability to run a race.

"Tim has very high expectations of himself so there was that fear of not achieving," she says. Seeing her sons compete at the Halberg Games was a proud moment for Anna. "It was emotional, especially when Timothy ran in the 50m race. He goes, "Mum! Mum! I came second!" and I was nearly crying, going "Oh my gosh! I knew you could do it!"

Parafed Auckland CEO Yann Roux says the programme aims to create opportunities for young people with disabilities to try things for the first time. "It's important to involve the whole family because sometimes when a family member is disabled, it can affect the whole family" he says. A recent trip to Snow Planet revealed that one family had stopped going on their annual ski holiday when their daughter suffered a spinal injury. "After that session, they realised they can go skiing again. It's just opening people's eyes to what's possible," he says.

Brothers Timothy (top left) and Josiah Latulipe (centre) with their mum Anna Fariu. Photo / Supplied
Brothers Timothy (top left) and Josiah Latulipe (centre) with their mum Anna Fariu. Photo / Supplied

The small organisation of three people isn't able to provide all the sports themselves, but they have the equipment and contacts to make it happen. They reached out to the Disabled Surfers Association for help organising a session in Piha where a dozen young people with disabilities learnt to surf with help from a team of local volunteers.

Parafed is based in the Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit, a small indoor stadium in Otara with basketball courts and fitness equipment. Yann says they have a close relationship with the rehab unit's physios and occupational therapists so they can gauge when people rehabilitating from spinal injury may be ready to get active.

Auckland Airport's general manager of corporate services Mary-Liz Tuck says the $12,000 grant will be used by Parafed Auckland to continue delivering its junior programme for over 180 young people with disabilities.

"Being physically active makes people happier, healthier and part of better-connected communities. We are excited to provide opportunities for uniquely abled children to participate in regular sport and recreation activities," she says.

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