Rising to challenges at home and abroad

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Published in: Seasons Magazine, June 2015

Last month while attending a local fundraiser for victims of Nepal’s tragic earthquakes, I was privileged to hear a remarkable young man speak about his own battles against significant challenges.

At age 16, when Aaron Fleming was on the verge of a promising future in gymnastics, his right lung suffered a series of collapses. After numerous operations he was told that he would never again be capable of challenging physical exercise. He subsequently became addicted to painkillers and suffered from severe depression, even contemplating opting out of life when he had yet another major setback. Thankfully, he dug deep within himself and his achievements in the past 15 years have been astonishing.

With his ‘anything is possible’ attitude, Aaron began a journey of self-discovery, eventually competing in the gruelling New Zealand Ironman event. Despite a serious cycling accident during the build-up, he went on to represent New Zealand at Ironman USA Lake Placid.

Aaron recently completed the Melbourne Ironman, and has entered his seventh Ironman event, Ironman New Zealand, in Taupō in March 2016.

Aaron’s book, Purpose, provides motivation to readers through his story of how an ordinary young New Zealander achieved an impossible dream through sheer determination and gutsy self-belief. Aaron’s incredible fortitude and outstanding contribution to his community led to his being selected as New Zealand’s Ambassador to carry the Olympic Torch in Canberra for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In conjunction with his sporting endeavours, Aaron has raised a considerable amount of money for cystic fibrosis, changing many lives along the way. Aaron continues with his philanthropic attitude with proceeds from recent sales of his book being donated to the people of Nepal, who have suffered so dreadfully in the two major earthquakes. You can purchase Aaron’s book by email Aaron.Fleming@hcc.govt.nz.

We have all been touched by the devastation and horrific loss of life in Nepal, and the scale of destruction can seem insurmountable and unimaginable to us, so far away. Yet it was not so long ago that Christchurch suffered the same fate, and the rest of New Zealand, and indeed the world, rallied to support them.

Now Nepal needs our support. The challenges they face as a developing country, including high levels of hunger and poverty, have only been heightened by this disaster. New Zealanders feel a special affinity for Nepal thanks to the achievements of Sir Edmund Hillary and his life-long work for that country after he and Sherpa Tenzing conquered Mt. Everest.

The positive attitude of the Nepalese has been inspiring and, as always, I have been moved by the generosity of New Zealanders who always seem to dig deep for others in times of need.

With winter upon us, the days are shorter and the weather makes it less appealing to get out and keep active. It can be easier to simply hibernate in the warmth of our homes rather than brave the elements. Reminding ourselves of those less fortunate, such as the Nepalese who still manage to smile and carry on, can make it easier for us to do that as well.

There are many different events, meetings and activities that we can choose to attend to stay active over the winter months, including the National Agriculture Fieldays which has grown into the largest agribusiness expo in the Southern Hemisphere since its beginnings at Te Rapa Racecourse in 1968.

The Premier Feature them for Fieldays 2015 is “Growing our Capability in Agribusiness”. The theme stems from the need to build on New Zealand’s position as a global leader in agriculture, and recognises the challenges in maintaining and growing a skilled workforce.

Fieldays offers a multitude of rural events and activities, including traditional Fieldays favourites, like Tractor Pull competitions and the Fencing Championships through to Ag Art Wear competition and cooking demonstrations from Masterchef winners at Kiwi Best Kitchen. Wrap up warmly and head along to enjoy this quintessential Waikato experience.

I welcome all visitors to the Waikato who are here for the Fieldays, and look forward to seeing you at Mystery Creek.