WANDA MESSAM
Foster Mother
1944

Foster mother who helped change the lives of more than 300 children

They say a mother's love is infinite - but Wanda Messam has tested the theory more than most, fostering a staggering 300 Kiwi kids during the past four decades.

Together with her husband Lewis, the couple went on to adopt five children, including All Black star Liam Messam.

From babies to teenagers, the family opened their Rotorua home - and hearts - to anyone in need. While some only stayed for a weekend, others lived with the family for up to three years.

"We could so we did," says Wanda modestly. "We had a big house. We added onto the house a few times. We had plenty of room to take others so we did."

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Wanda also credits her other children with helping to raise their foster siblings.

"Our kids learned a lot by having all these children. The older ones were great with them, told them what they were not allowed to do and what they could do ... Now, all my kids are excellent parents."

The couple were first turned on to fostering in the 70s, when they looked to adopt a child. The Department of Social Welfare suggested they try fostering first.

"It never really entered our head at all to foster kids," says Wanda. "We had three of our own and decided 'that's probably enough'. But then we thought it might be nice to adopt a kid. We ourselves had two boys and a girl and so we asked for another girl."

From there, they adopted another four children, including their youngest son Liam, who went on to become a rugby star.

"I'm very blessed, I don't think I'd be in the position I am today without the family, so I am very grateful I am a Messam," he told Newshub last year.

"They gave us another chance at life and they open their hearts to everyone."

Wanda is reluctant to accept the status of trailblazer - but admits she's pleased with her life's achievements.

"It makes me feel like I've done my bit. I'm pleased I've done it. I learned a lot from it - for myself as well. I'm pretty sure we've given quite a few kids a different outlook on life."