Meet the Team

Willa Hand

In 2019, Willa’s youngest son Emerson lost his hearing as a result of illness and is now profoundly deaf aided by Cochlear. It was finding her way to her first APODC event, Camp 2020, that provided Willa and her whānau the connection into the deaf community she was looking for. Coming from a hearing family, Willa has spoken of the benefits of meeting and engaging with other parents, learning about the community, and making connections that support Emerson as he grows.

Willa joined the committee in 2020, and she was elected as President in 2021. She is excited to progress the great work done by the committee in recent years, connecting families through fantastic events and ensuring APODC continues to meet the needs of Parents and Children in the Auckland deaf community now and into the future.

Willa has extensive business experience including expertise in membership experience and culture, strategy, governance, process improvement and facilitation and brings these skills to the table in her role as President for APODC.

Lydia Cook

Lydia joined the APODC community in 2022, looking for community after her youngest daughter Thea was diagnosed with profound bilateral hearing loss. Thea’s diagnosis came not long after her birth and during the 2021 Auckland lock down. APODC has provided a way to connect with other families and has been a source of real encouragement for us.

Thea, now approaching two years old, wears cochlear implants. Thea is developing her NZSL skills with some excellent First Signs support and she signs enthusiastically at home and at daycare. Attending APODC events has been a fantastic opportunity for the whole whānau to build on their NZSL skills, meet members of the Deaf community and share experiences with other parents and siblings of deaf and hard of hearing kids.

When Lydia isn’t practicing her own NZSL skills, she is working as a senior legal counsel and company secretary. She brings her governance experience and enthusiasm to the Committee and is passionate about helping the Committee bring meaningful connections and events to the Auckland community.

Rhian Thompson

Rhian is married to Michael and has two children Audrey and Gethin. Her son Gethin was born profoundly deaf and received bilateral cochlear implants in 2016 aged 6 months. Rhian joined APODC in 2022 as she wanted to re-build connections with other families of deaf and hard of hearing children, which she felt had fallen away since her son had started school.

Rhian believes that having a support network connecting families of deaf children is vital for the wellbeing of our parents and their children. She feels APODC provides a valuable service providing pathways to access useful information and allowing families to share personal knowledge, experiences and build relationships and wishes to give back some of her time to help improve and grow the organisation.

Rhian has a background in banking and commercial law and has worked at law firms, financial institutions and publicly listed companies. She works part-time as a legal consultant and is chair of the school board at her children’s primary school. Rhian has experience in project management, governance, finance and compliance. She is learning NZSL and enjoys conversing with other NZSL users at APODC events.

Jo Weaver
Committee Member

Jo and her partner moved from the UK, in 2007, to Aotearoa where they live with their three children. Her partner and two youngest children all wear hearing aids for different degrees of sensorineural deafness. Jo believes APODC events are a great place for families to enjoy quality time together, network with others and share experiences.

Jo has been a committee member since May 2018 and is passionate about supporting connections between families, and offering friendship and support. Knowing about deafness and understanding ‘the system’, has made her family’s journey somewhat easier than it may have been and she uses her experience to support others in a similar situation.

Jo is an experienced Speech-Language Therapist who works privately. She has experience working for MOE, Special Schools and spent many years working at Kelston Deaf Education Centre (now known as Ko Taku Reo). Jo helps APODC to build and nurture their networks with many professionals working in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community.

Anna Park
Committee Member

Anna, her husband James, and their son Theo have been members of APODC since 2017. Theo, who is now 9 years old, has bilateral severe to profound hearing loss. He wears hearing aids on both ears.

Joining APODC introduced Anna and her family to others who knew the complex and rich experience and shared the struggles of raising a Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing child in a hearing world.  Anna volunteered for the committee in 2021 because she wanted to give back to APODC and help to keep it thriving. In the last couple of years, Anna has helped with hosting events and planning. She has also been a point of initial contact for members and non-members who had questions or concerns or just needed information.

Theo, James and Anna use spoken English as their primary means of communication, but they are all learning NZSL via a mix of classes, online resources, and attending Deaf events. They use NZSL every day at home and out and about. The benefits of being able to communicate with each other in NZSL have been enormous for their family.

Anna works as a Librarian. She and her family live in West Auckland. Anna also volunteers at Theo’s school Breakfast Club during term time.

Duncan Henderson
Committee Member

Duncan is a father of two boys one of whom has moderate hearing loss and wears hearing aids. He is kept busy with two active boys that enjoy the outdoors and sports.  

 Duncan joined the APODC in 2021 to as a way to help connect with other families in the deaf community. Duncan decided to join the APODC committee in 2023 to help the organisation to continue to be an ongoing success.   

Duncan works in marketing and has a background in event management, advertising and corporate communications and is glad to bring these skills to the APODC as a committee member. He looks forward to been an advocate for the families of deaf and hard of hearing children.  

Alison Verona
Operations Manager

Alison is a mother of an inquisitive little boy who has a sibling due in 2024! She left her corporate job to work with us full time as she’s passionate about supporting Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and their whanau.

As our Operations Manager you will likely meet her at one of our many events or liaise with her about membership, support and any other general queries.

Alison has been learning NZSL through online and in-person courses with Auckland Deaf Society and has used NZSL to communicate with her son from birth. He now uses his signs at daycare and has helped to encourage his carers to learn signs and incorporate them in their everyday play with the other children. With help from the Deaf community she has been able to practice and improve her signing and hopes to one day be fluent. 

Sarah Burgess
Bookkeeper - Little Black Books

Sarah is a Virtual CFO offering advisory and bookkeeping services to small to medium sized businesses in New Zealand. Sarah has been running Little Black Books for 5 years with a growing team. Her goals are simple: to empower you, hold you accountable and make a difference to not only your charity or business but to your lifestyle.

Sarah enjoys life by the beach in Devonport with her three children and has a Bachelor of Accountancy and over 15 years’ experience in financial services as a Management Accountant, she is Xero Certified Advisor and a member of the Institute of Certified bookkeepers. Having worked for various hedge funds overseas as well as in analysis roles for PR and telecommunication companies, Sarah moved back to New Zealand and started her own company Little Black Books so she could spend more time with her growing family.

Little Black Books NZ LTD

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