Sharyn Smart talks with Clown Doctors New Zealand

Founder, CEO and Creative Director Professor Thomas Petschner’s ultimate utopia is for clown doctors to be in every hospital as part of the hospital’s daily routine.

“We have helped 70,000 patients in the last five years.

“Like people wash their hands as part of hygiene at the hospital, I would like to have clown doctors become part of the mental hygiene.  It is something that should be in every hospital and be absolutely normal and necessary.

“Knowing you have helped that many people motivates you and in many situations, as a clown doctor, the patients have changed my life and those of the people that I work with.  It is extra special when you work with someone who knows they are going to die and you are able to get a smile out of them.”

Arriving in New Zealand nine years ago Petschner was dismayed to find there were no clown doctors practicing here.  He immediately spoke to his colleague Rita Noetzel now Programme Director and Team Leader and they formed the charitable trust Clown Doctors New Zealand.

“The purpose of clown doctors is to help people overcome their challenges in regards to their hospital stay.  Clown doctors work hard to get people out of that depressive mind set of being in a hospital by distracting them and therefore reducing their pain levels.” Continue reading


Sharyn Smart talks with Fireman Graeme Hill

Engulfed by 800 degree flames and having his naked body wrapped in glad wrap are vivid memories Graeme Hill will never forget.  Nearly four years after receiving his life changing injuries he talks about what happened and what he still endures.

IMG_1679Wednesday, October 13, 2010 ended up being unlucky for two New Plymouth Senior Firefighters.  Graeme Hill, 34, and his shift partner Sam Julian, 31, entered a Lepperton chicken shed to put out a fire when a flashover fire exploded engulfing them in flames.

Graeme was thrown to the ground by the blast gaining his first serious ‘on the job’ injuries from 19 years service.  He received second and third degree burns to 20-30% of his body, requiring skin grafts on his bottom, back, legs, arms and hands.  He spent three weeks in the burns unit at Waikato Hospital before spending a further 26 months recuperating.  He was finally able to return to work on December 23, 2012.

“Sam is a very talented firefighter.  His ability to work well under pressure proved to be a very handy asset that day,” says Graeme.

“He led the way to exit the building in nasty and extremely hot conditions.”

“It went from pitch black to daylight as we managed to pop out the other side of the wall.  One second we were inside, the next we were out.”

As he removed his level 2 structure kit – jacket, helmet, breathing apparatus, etc, the seriousness of his injuries became apparent.

“I got a good view of my skin hanging off my fingers on both hands and down my arm.  I sort of looked at all that and thought ‘oh this is a bit more serious than I thought.’

Graeme’s ever present humour kicks in and says ‘Everyone picks on a ginga – even fires do,’ as he bursts into laughter.

The men were rushed to New Plymouth Base Hospital.  Sam Julian suffered burns to his bottom, back, shoulders and hands and spent 11 weeks recuperating at home before returning to work Christmas Eve 2010. Continue reading

Sharyn Smart talks with Nigel Latta

Nigel Latta Photo by: Jonathan Suckling

Nigel Latta
Photo by: Jonathan Suckling

Nigel Latta’s new TV series is focusing on the big issues currently facing our country and aims to get everyone talking.

The first episode titled “The new haves and have nots” aired on Tuesday 29th July with immense positive feedback from the public.

Sharyn Smart talks to him about the show and life in general.

“I had a sort of interesting university career.  I’ve got a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and a Master of Science in Marine Science.  I went back and got a Master of Philosophy with First Class Honours in Psychology and then did a post graduate Diploma in Clinical Psychology,” says Nigel.

“It was back in the days when education was better than free, I got paid to go so I could afford things that were interesting, that weren’t necessarily tied to a career, and come out of that without a massive debt.  I could never have afforded to do that now.  That’s where it’s difficult for kids today because the generation who go their education for free is now telling them you know what … we can’t afford it, you guys have to pay for it yourselves.”

Nigel says it would be easy to solve this problem by getting some of the multi-national companies to pay their fair share of taxes and then most people could have a free education. Continue reading

Inglewood art gallery changes with the times

Margaret and Derek

Art skills: An exhibition aptly named From Pixels to Paint at Inglewood’s Fritz Reuter Gallery has photography by Derek Hughes, paintings by Margaret Bake and images from the Inglewood Photography Group. Photo by: Sharyn Smart


Ironically two of the artists who were part of the first exhibition held at the Fritz Reuter Gallery could also well be the last.

Taranaki photographers Margaret Bake and Derek Hughes were joined by Adam Buckle and Helen Wilkin ten years ago at the official opening of the gallery named after a ship which brought the Polish settlers to Inglewood in 1876.

“If my eyesight hadn’t failed through that shingles attack 25 years ago leading to the demise of my business, we would have never come to Inglewood and possibly the Inglewood photographic group may never have been formed.  So you just never know circumstances change,” said Margaret. Continue reading

Sharyn Smart talks with Dean Probyn

“I don’t let my chair dictate my life.”

Dean close up 1Dean Probyn lives his ‘One Life, One Decision’ motto every day since a car accident in 1990 left him a tetraplegic.

In 1993 the New Plymouth local took an opportunity to “pay-it-forward” and share his story by speaking to school children, clubs and groups around the country.

He took his “pay it forward” a step further in 2013 and contacted the American Military to offer his skills as a motivational and inspirational speaker sharing his daily life experiences with the wounded soldiers.

After seeing such successful results from his one talk the military now want him back for a longer period of time to reach more soldiers.

“I wanted to do something to just say ‘hey thank-you’ to the soldiers and see if I could help in anyway.  I suppose it’s about paying it forward.  I’ve been blessed with friends, family, good mates and a good life.  So I got in touch with the American Military and got clearance to go in and give a talk.”

“I don’t pretend to understand what they’ve been through.  I talk to them about what I went through and what helped me get through things.  Your family, your friends, your mates, they are all important to you.  You have to be willing to talk about things because that helps.” Continue reading

Sharyn Smart talks with Steve Bowkett

Missions of Mercy – Steve Bowkett has made it his mission in life to help others.

Mercy Mission:  Steve Bowkett is busy in his workshop at Artesano in Fitzroy, New Plymouth as he saves for his next mission back to Tacloban City. Photo: By Sharyn Smart

Mercy Mission: Steve Bowkett is busy in his workshop at Artesano in Fitzroy, New Plymouth as he saves for his next mission back to Tacloban City.
Photo: By Sharyn Smart

Steve Bowkett enjoyed working alongside locals helping them to rebuild their homes devastated by Typhoon Yolanda.

A furniture builder by trade and owner of Artesano in Fitzroy, New Plymouth, he enjoys travelling to disaster areas around the world on missions of mercy offering his skills.

“I saw the devastation on the news and straight away my heart goes out to them.  I started to think about what I could do and when.   It’s all about the right timing.  I think rocking up there the day after would have just been quite frustrating as you just wouldn’t know what to do.  I was more about helping the people rebuild their lives.  So going in a few months later was good for me.”

“I’m New Plymouth born and bred I have been a traveller for a long time.  I have an affinity with other languages and other cultures.  I get on well with foreigners and enjoy overseas travel.

“I would like to do full-time missions one day but in the meantime I’m supporting myself through my work and doing missions when I can.” Continue reading

Sharyn Smart talks with Guy Vickers

Cold wait: Guy Vickers waits for the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter to rescue him off Mt Taranaki

Cold wait: Guy Vickers waits for the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter to rescue him off Mt Taranaki

My unexpected ‘flight’ while exploring Mt Taranaki

A year after a serious accident on Mt Taranaki Guy Vickers reflects on the accident that he feels could have easily cost him his life.

“This local hill (Mt Taranaki) got me back in the end.  I got caught out,” says the Stratford resident.

A very experienced mountain guide from the age of 20 Guy never thought he would receive such excruciating injuries while out tramping resulting in being winched off the mountain by the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter.

“I can’t thank the rescue crew enough, they got me out of a tough situation and they did it with such professionalism and efficiency.  I was beyond helping myself in the end and it was great knowing they are there when you need them, they were amazing.”

“The season was a bit later than normal.  They quite often say when you have an accident it is a combination of different things all coming together that just don’t quite fit together … and then something happens.  That’s pretty much what happened on that day.” Continue reading