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Lalotalie River Retreat
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Lalotalie River Retreat
Lalotalie River Retreat
Lalotalie River Retreat
Lalotalie River Retreat
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Lalotalie River Retreat

Operation Zion: Triumph of the human spirit

By Aigaletaule’ale’a F. Tauafiafi

Operation Zion: Triumph of the human spirit Eighteen months ago, six-year old Zion Mann endured Drs Roberson and Rienisch drilling through his skull so they could make him an ear.

He had a condition called Microtia Atresia (no outer ear canal or ear) but after10-hours of surgery and a two-week post healing period, the bandages finally came off and he had a brand new ear.

The first sounds Zion heard in his new ‘left ear’, “was mum and dad talking,” he told the NZ Pacific last week.
For parents John and Fiona Mann, their son’s unbridled joy at hearing sounds and having a normal ear where only a stub was before, was more than a miracle.

They knew, his operation was only made possible as half of Zion’s $91,000 surgical bill was achieved through the kindness of the Auckland community, and a whole lot of people who volunteered their time to help.

“There are no words, nothing we can say that can convey to everyone how thankful we are for what they did for Zion and our family. We are just humbled by what happened in 2010,” John and Fiona said in unison.

The story of Zion’s operation is one that celebrates the power of the human spirit to overcome impossible odds. One of those all too rare events that ripples out a wave of kindness, that for a time bonds a community and brings out the goodness resident in all of us.

Fiona recalls when they first thought about asking for help that they didn’t hold much hope for raising much.
“We had just relocated back to Auckland after eight years living in Brisbane so no-one knew Zion,” she says.

“Even our own family here in Auckland didn’t know Zion apart from those once a year visit. So we didn’t really feel that our community here would help us, I mean why would they, we were new so they don’t know us.” But how wrong they were.

From an evening BBQ at home to tentatively seek help from family and friends, was born a movement that would have a profound impact on the Mann family.
“We had that BBQ to just voice that we wanted to take Zion for an operation in the US,” says John.

“But then one of the family that we grew up with came up with the idea of a concert and another with an umu plate fundraiser. And from there another friend came-up with the name Simon Matafa’i . And when Simon came on board with sister Te’eva from Niu FM he just took the concert idea up to another level.”

Operation Zion took a life of its own. In a short space of time the media got involved, came forward and many others who heard about the cause called wanting to be involved.
The concert that took place on 5 June 2010 escalated to such a level that the list of entertainers started to look like the ‘who’s who’ of the New Zealand music industry.

Featured were 4DG, ADEAZE, Feelstyle, Dei Hamo, Anonymous, Grace Ikensaio, Li’l Saints, and many more.
The concert says John was bigger than he envisioned. It was professionally run and put together and they had no part in terms of preparation.

The Operation Zion committee and volunteers took over all the arrangements. Simon Matafa’i was quoted as saying, “If we as a communit

y get together we can really make things happen and I’m glad that whole project is done by the generosity of volunteers.”

Thinking back, John and Fiona recall, “The radio station, Niu FM and other media created an amazing awareness out there that people just came forward and gave up their time, put their hands up to help without asking questions.” And through the whole array of activities and goodwill, what epitomized the spirit of operation Zion was a father from Otahuhu.

Says John, “There was an Indian father from Otahuhu who heard about our appeal. He had a young a child and so he really felt what we were going through so he didn’t stop to think. He told us he just got into his car and drove all the way to our place to personally give us his donation.

“It just makes you humble to be human.”
The three fundraisers which included a dinner at the Manhattans raised half the amount needed by Zion.

A blessing that allowed all six-members of the Mann family to travel to the United States keeping that core family support during Zion’s operation and crucial to his recovery.
The family spent a total of six weeks in the United States.

Today, the impact of the operation in Zion’s life is both tactile and tangible. “So far the results are really positive especially with his learning levels,” says Fiona. “The teachers say he’s fine, they’re not noticing any difference between him and the other kids.

His confidence has gone up and his reading level has gone from below national standard before his operation, to above the national standard now.”
Adds John: “Certainly his confidence is noticeable. He used to wear his hood when we go to a new environment. Now, it’s no longer an issue.”

But he’s not completely out of the woods just yet.
There is still a healing process Zion is going through.

“He’s had a number of infections, and also fluid in his ear. So there’s regular tests to monitor how its going. The post-recovery is ongoing where he sees a specialist and we send the results over to the doctors in the United States, who maintain regular contact with us.

“It’s over a year now so it’s really up to his body.”
At this stage it also means he can’t play contact sports or swimming.

But Zion doesn’t mind the reduced sporting options, “Yea I can’t play those sports but dad says I can play golf,” he grins.
As the Mann’s reflect on their good fortune the revisited the main reason for seeking the community’s help.

“For us it’s something we wanted to do for him,” says Fiona. “Because what is better than giving a child a chance to improve his quality of life?”
And through the unparalleled support they received, they are ensuring their children will never forget the power of the human spirit to do good.

“We aim to give back by making sure that our kids know and understand how and why Zion was helped. So when there’s something to fundraise for, especially when children are involved, that they grow up and be part of that help, to give selflessly so other people can overcome their challenges.”

His parents obligation is not lost on Zion. Who would you like to thank he was asked.
“I want to thank my family and friends.”

Thank you to God, Our families and friends, Halafihi family, Simon Matafai, Te’eva Matafai , Niu FM, Volunteers, LIFE Church,4DG, Chase, Birthday boys, Adeaze, Lil Saints, Pele (Cydel), Hypnotics, Lapi Mariner, Brian Sagala,The All Blacks, Air NZ, Manu Vatuvei, Fisher & Paykel, Su’a William Sio, Grace Ikenasio, Dei Hamo, The Feelstyle, Manhatten Restaurant

 

 

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