Meet the Team

Willa Hand
President

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 whanau 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.

Kirsten Davis
Secretary

Kirsten joined the Committee in 2014, was elected as President not long after, and in 2021 stepped down and into the Secretary role.  She has continued in this role to date. She enjoys life in the country with her husband and two children, Xavier and Milan. Xavier was born with Charge Syndrome and has severe bilateral conductive hearing loss, aided with hearing aids. Kirsten is also a Clinical Psychologist at The Psychology Group and has extensive experience working with young people and their whānau in mental health and disabilities. She is passionate about enabling families to have increased access to their wider community.

Kirsten is proud of the Committee and the changes that have been made in the last few years that have created a dynamic, accountable and visible organisation that prides itself on organizing a wide range of fun events to allow connection and support.

Leanne Zhu
Treasurer

Kia Ora,

My name is Leanne Zhu, and I became involved with APODC when my son was diagnosed with unilateral hearing loss.  My partner and I feel that we need to have peer support at the earliest possible stage, and build connections with the hearing impaired community.  APODC made us feel included and welcome from the start, and we have enjoyed meeting other families, sharing experiences, and learning from each other.  It also made me realize the importance of networking, to find out what resources are available to make the journey a little easier. 

I’d like to stand for the Committee again this year to promote APODC among deaf/hearing impaired community, connecting families, and building relationships through shared experience in fun ways. I look forward to helping to plan and coordinate activities as part of the APODC Committee.

Jo Weaver

Jo has been an APODC committee member since May 2018.  She moved to Aotearoa with her partner in 2007 (from UK), where they live with their three young children.  Her partner and two youngest children all wear hearing aids for different degrees of sensorineural deafness.

Jo is an experienced Speech-Language Therapist who currently contracts to a private practice.  In the past, she has worked for MOE, Special Schools, and spent many years working at KDEC (mainly in the pre-school).  Knowing about deafness, understanding ‘the system’, and already knowing many professionals working in the field has made her family’s journey somewhat easier than it may have been.

Jo believes that APODC events are a great place for families to enjoy quality time together, network with others and share experiences.  She is passionate about supporting connection between families and offering friendship and support.  In her spare time, Jo enjoys playing football.

Tim Huang

My name is Tim.  I have a son, Adam (6), and a daughter, Emma (4).  Adam was diagnosed with microtia on one of his ears when he was born, which is a condition that means the external ear is small and usually has a closed ear canal.  Due to this condition, Adam has one sided hearing loss.  Even though the other ear is fine, this condition, to the surprise of many people (myself included), actually impacts his ability to hear in a noisy environment because he cannot locate the source of a sound.

There are many challenges in bringing up a kid nowadays, let alone him needing extra help on hearing.  I was certainly not prepared for it (maybe am still not).  A bit more than three years ago, a teacher told me about a coffee group held by APODC advertising in The Western Leader newspaper.  I went there, had a nice chat with the lovely members, and decided to join APODC. I become a Committee member one month later.

I’d like to stand for the Committee again this year (and in fact I urge more from the group to join the Committee).  I think parents with hearing loss kids need APODC to help them, and APODC need Committee members to sacrifice their time to help APODC help its members.  During my time with the Committee, I have helped host several coffee groups, and provide input for event planning.  What I wish to do more is help promote awareness of difficulties single sided hearing kids face as I continue to learn more.

Caroline Sutcliffe

Caroline joined the Committee in 2018 as she wanted to give back to a committee that provides so many opportunities and support to children and families like hers.  She is married to her best friend (Morgan), and together they tackle life and their two beautiful girls (Ava and Aubrey) at full speed.

Ava is profoundly deaf (with a few additional needs) and uses NZSL as her main mode of communication, and as a family, they have been on an amazing journey learning NZSL.  As a Speech Language Therapist, and 10+ years experience working in the paediatric field, Caroline now owns two private practices; The Speech Room (SLT) and partner clinic and The Move Room (OT). During her spare time, she loves to discover new restaurants or tune out and play Wood Puzzle!

Jess Fonoti

Talofa Lava 

My name is Jessica Fonoti (Jess).  I am of Samoan descent and my husband John and I have five children.  We currently reside in the heart of South Auckland (Otara) and have lived here all our lives.  We have been a part of the APDOC community ever since our two youngest children were diagnosed with unilateral hearing loss.  As a family, we’ve enjoyed many APDOC events over the years, and are grateful for the opportunities they provide for us as a family to be able to reflect on, and celebrate the hearing journey our younger children are on. 

I am a senior social worker currently working in Family Harm under Counties Manukau Health, and I have worked in various social service agencies for the past 12 years, both Pacific and mainstream.  I am passionate about people and hope to serve this community by supporting APDOC to further expand its reach to Pacific families. 

Soifua ma ia manuia 

Anna Park

Hello APODC members, 

I’m Anna Park, mother of Theo, who has bilateral severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss, identified as a mild loss at birth and since deteriorated.  Theo (age 6) is our only child, and my husband is James Gates. Theo is the first Deaf person in our extended family, and we are excited to be learning NZSL, as well as supporting Theo to speak and hear with the help of hearing aids. My hope is that Theo will eventually be bilingual in NZSL and English (and any other languages he wants to learn). 

I’m a 7th generation Pākehā New Zealander. I speak some Reo Māori, and would love to one day be fluent in that language as well as NZSL.  Although I was born in Dunedin, I grew up in central Auckland, and now we live in West Auckland.  I have an Honours degree in English with a minor in Māori Studies, and a PGDip in Information Studies.  I work as a Librarian in a public library, part time. 

APODC has given our family a huge amount of informal support, and I’ve made some good friends among the parents of other Deaf kids.  Though my signing is still at an elementary level, I love how NZSL is such a natural way to communicate and I hope to continue formal study of NZSL this year.  I am seeking a place as a general member of the committee to give back to an organisation that has helped me immensely.  If I am appointed to the committee, I will bring my enthusiasm, my problem solving skills, my research skills, and my attention to detail.

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