Shining light

In April 2023, Good On Ya Mate6 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMay 9, 2023

Feeding Rotorua is a charity created nine years ago by Roadmaster Trailers employee Percy Poharama. It has grown into something greater than even he could’ve imagined.

Run by Percy Poharama and his wife Louisa, with the help of about 32 volunteers, Feeding Rotorua provides approximately 36,000 meals a year to the city’s needy, as well as hundreds of food parcels for homes all around the Bay of Plenty each week.

“It was about helping hungry people in need to get their lives back in order,” Percy explains. “I just went to Pizza Hut one day, bought $5 pizzas and started feeding our homeless.”

Since the very beginning, Feeding Rotorua has had the support of Roadmaster. The company refurbished and supplied container freezers and other equipment and continues helping when needed. “We work with 45 other local charities and get support from local entities, but if Roadmaster weren’t behind us, this would have likely come apart by now,” Percy says. “The team helps hugely. Sometimes it becomes more important than the work – which isn’t a good plan,” he laughs.

Percy and volunteers from the Living Well Church prep meals. From left: Percy, Ian Barker, Pat Bloomfield, Andy Morton and Justine Winslade.

Not that it bothers Colin Patchell, CEO of Roadmaster Trailers. “We fully and wholeheartedly support Percy and what he does for the community. What he does is next level, very selfless. They’re so busy helping the rest of the community, they have no time for themselves. That’s a big thing. Especially considering he likes to fly under the radar,” Patchell says.

“He gets in and does it himself. Most of what we do is offered, not asked for.”

It’s easy to underestimate the amount of work going on behind the scenes at an entity like Feeding Rotorua. At the end of his working day, Percy heads over to Guidough’s Bakery in Rotorua to collect the day’s leftover pastries. He then heads to the premises the charity shares with Papatuanuku Support Services, from where meals are served at 5.30pm. From there, it’s back to the Feeding Rotorua office and dry store, where Louisa works, to prep for the next day. This often sees the pair head home after midnight – they do this five days a week.

During the pandemic, they packaged and supplied daily meals for 760 people in isolation. Currently, on behalf of the Ministry of Social Development, the charity also compiles general education packs for kids from transient families who cannot yet register with a school.

1) Percy is grateful to everyone who’s offered time, equipment and supplies to make Feeding Rotorua a success.
2) A friendly smile and a warm meal go a long way to uplifting the community.

Feeding Rotorua is about more than simply supplying daily meals and basic supplies. As Louisa says, it’s about making people feel whole again. “Some of the people we help have phenomenal stories. It’s about getting to the root of things. We’ve found people respond well with love and acknowledgement that they’re human beings. It enables them to change their mindset bit by bit.”

Over the years, Feeding Rotorua has helped some rediscover their purpose. “From the food, you develop a trust factor and a relationship, and they start sharing their stories, and from there, you help them feel they’re human and they matter. Through the years, some have reconnected with their families. Many have found work locally or elsewhere and even drop in every so often,” Louisa adds.

“If nobody encourages them to get up off their chuff, they just stay there, and their day becomes their next stone or bottle,” Percy says.

3 & 4) From the early days in a section of the Roadmaster workshop, Feeding Rotorua today has dedicated facilities.

“On the other hand, many people are just struggling to make ends meet and feed their children, or some might find themselves living in their cars because of a relationship breakdown.

“People have had their opinions about it, but when they come here and see the children and the mum who just needs help feeding her child, it changes their whole perspective.”

Almost a decade in and now an invaluable part of Rotorua society, Percy and Louisa would like to thank all those who support the charity. “There has been a great number of people involved – the list would be too long to thank everyone. But I must give a special thanks to every volunteer. Guidough’s has been incredible, and of course, to Colin, Paris Jensen and the late Ross Bell, who allowed me to do this and have supported us greatly.”