The story of Whanganui's Ana Batelaan-Esra and mother Anneke Batelaan who adopted the 11-year-old from a Samoan orphanage two years ago will air on TVNZ 1's Sunday at 7.30pm this week.

A film crew spent several days with the pair in Whanganui and Samoa last month capturing the story.

Anneke said she was looking forward to seeing the piece having only seen the promo.

"So I haven't seen anything more than anyone else at this stage," she said.

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"I'm really looking forward to Ana seeing it. It will be cool for her to see herself on the big screen."

Anneke said she had a lot of people say they were looking forward to seeing it.

"The majority of people haven't had any insight into what Ana's life was like before so it will be good for people to see it."

*Revisit our story on Anneke and Ana from September below.
Ana Batelaan-Esera finds love and laughter after a tough start in Samoan orphanage

Classroom three at St Anne's school is alive with activity as students build Lego forts and paint pretty pictures while chatting animatedly.

Among her classmates on a comfy-looking blue and black chair sits Anastasia Batelaan-Esera, or Ana, as she is known to her friends and family.

She looks left and right at her friends parked up beside her, both of them reading to her from different books as she laughs intermittently.

Ana, 11, is a non-verbal quadriplegic. She has no use of her legs and is confined to a wheelchair.

About two years ago, she was adopted from an orphanage in Samoa by Anneke Batelaan.

"I worked for the Samoa Victim Support Group, we cared for kids, most of my work was with children with disabilities and that was how I developed a bond with Ana," Batelaan said.

"When I went over, it certainly wasn't the plan to bring back a child with really high needs, but I gave it plenty of thought and when I got back, I made the decision to adopt her."


Batelaan is the workforce lead at Oranga Tamariki - the Ministry for Children in Whanganui and has been working with children for a long time.

She met Ana during her first trip to Samoa with a group of woman from Faith City Church, but had little to do with her as she was working in a different area at the time.

Ana had been through dramatic changes since leaving Samoa, Batelaan said.

"We've seen a huge weight gain, she was wearing size two clothes and now she's wearing eight or nine.

"She's put on nearly 20kg in a two year period, which is huge."

However, the increase in weight has had its challenges as well.

The weight gain revealed Ana's hamstrings have permanently contracted after lying in one position too long when she was younger and they need to be operated on.

Batelaan said the state Ana was in when she came to New Zealand wasn't about a lack of care, rather a lack of resources and knowledge.

"Support is something they could use a lot more of in Samoa, that's why we've done a couple of trips over there to help out," she said.

"They do incredible things with a really little amount that would put New Zealand to shame in terms of how much resource we have here that we misuse or abuse."

St Anne's School has played a huge part in Ana's progression and development.

Teachers Nicci Forlong and Hayley McKnight are part of a 10 strong team at the school that looks after students with special learning needs, led by deputy principal Sue Familton.

"When I was looking for a school, it was really about the kind of community Ana would be a part of, having never been in a school before," Batelaan said.

"St Anne's have been amazing, I can't rate them highly enough, they've been really supportive and accommodating and the kids just love her and fuss over her.

"It's lovely to see her included so well there, they're a very inclusive community and they're a huge part of a successful transition to New Zealand life for Ana."

Recently a TVNZ crew arrived in Whanganui to chronicle Batelaan and Ana's journey together which will feature on the television show Sunday.

In mid October, they will be accompanied by the crew who are helping to get them back to where it all began, in Samoa.

"It's something that I wanted to do with Ana before she turns 12 because then she's on the adult ticket and she's getting quite big which makes these trips not so easy," Batelaan said.

"I want to take her back there as much as I can.

"Our relationship is unique, it's growing over time, we're starting to understand each other a bit more and she definitely recognises me as the primary caregiver now.

"It's really nice to see that attachment."

The two communicate with each other through facial expressions, head nodding or turning and vocally as best they can.

Batelaan said Ana was very alert and, judging by the smile her friends have put on her face through their reading, it's not hard to believe.