Rhee is severely autistic. Dad had to leave job due to hearing loss & health. Family can't pay huge leaky home bill & cost to care for Rhee.
"Hi my name is Rhee-Rhee. They say that I am severely autistic, but I only know I’m me. Mum says I’m the cleverest two year-old in a 10 year old’s body she knows. Sometimes people get uncomfortable when I want to play at the playground. Lucky for me, I have a trampoline, a cool swing, plus my special holes in the lawn where I make bubble-puddles with the garden hose. I love my home." (This is what her father, Richard, thinks Rheegan would tell us, if she had the words)
Our friends Devora and Richard are teachers who live in Auckland with their three beautiful children, including 10 year-old Rheegan. They cannot meet the expense their leaky home is burdening them with in addition to the high costs of raising and caring for Rhee, who is in the top few percent of New Zealand’s high-needs children.
They must shift the family out of their house for at least four months when it is being reclad to the tune of $260,000. While they may recover up to half that money through a government subsidy they will also have rental, moving and storage costs to pile on top of their already high mortgage. – not to mention what it will cost them to modify the rental to keep Rhee safe. All up, they expect to be out of pocket at least $160,000.
Finding a rental property will be a challenge because of Rheegan’s needs. In their own home they have high gates, safety-glass barricading and safety locks on all the windows. (As Rhee can now open these gates, in the future Devora and Richard will need to install keypads and elevate the gates.) Making modifications to a rental property will be both time-consuming and expensive – if they can find anyone to rent to them in the first place.
And just when they didn’t think things could get worse, Richard has had to leave his teaching job because of severe hearing impairment and health difficulties. “We’re at our wits end,” Devora says. “With neither of us working, we don’t know how we’re going to pay our bills.”
After Rhee was born, Devora intended to go back to teaching fulltime to help support the family. But because of Rhee’s needs, Devora must be available to give her care 24/7, including sleeping on the floor by Rhee’s safety bed. Rhee doesn’t sleep very much and, if she gets free, can roam the house, wanderings that have ended in near-death experiences for her.
Sadly, Rhee has no sense of danger. She also has severe Pica, which means she eats anything —stuffing from nappies or pillows, blankets or coins and buttons. Recently, she kicked a hole in the wall and ate Pink Batts. She constantly wads napkins or toilet paper in her mouth and can be seconds from choking to death or poisoning at any time. Devora and Richard spend $1000 a month replacing items Rhee has damaged due to her Pica and on consummables, such as her nappies.
They are very grateful for the carer assistance and specialist care provided by the government and Devora and Richard would never dream of putting Rhee in residential care (“You would have to pry her from our dying fingers,” Devora says). Yet they have had to give up nearly all aspects of their lives to cover the round-the-clock care needed to keep Rhee alive and flourishing.
As you can see, Devora and Richard need our help to make it through this incredibly tough time. If Rheegan were in residential care, it would cost New Zealand taxpayers around $250,000 a year. That’s a million dollars just in the next four years. Devora and Richard are committed to keeping her at home, as they have for the past 10 years. “I just want Rheegan to be happy and live the best life she can,” Devora says.
I am Rhee's grandmother. I have watched her bloom in these last 10 years despite her severe autism due to Devora and Richard's devotion and care for her. They have made their house a safe haven where she can play and live a happy life. Their ability to keep the house is now under threat. Please help!
Who is our favourite performer of all time? 12 October 2016
Lorde! (Ella Yelich O'Connor) Out of the blue we were gobsmacked by her donation.
We say thanks to her and to every one of you who have given so generously with your $ and your encouragement. You will never know what a huge difference you are making in our lives and for Rhee's happiness and security.