He's a bowls champion and a family man who values giving back to his community.

Nooapii sits in his armchair with his guide dog Garner at his feet. Medals with brightly coloured sashes hang on the wall behind him.Nooapii weaving

Nooapii weaving

“I guess I’m pretty good at bowls,” he says with a grin.

Pretty good is an understatement. He’s won the Dunedin totally blind bowls competition more times than he can remember in almost 30 years of playing. He’s a national champion too.

Nooapii plays regularly with his brother and sister, supported by his coach. His dream is to take on his brother in a future blind championship after challenging his sister in the last one.

Nooapii and his family moved to New Zealand from the Cook Islands when he was a teenager. He started to lose his sight in the 1980s and in the 1990s he got in touch with AccessAbility. Throughout his years working with the organisation, his independence has grown. He receives help with household jobs and has had handrails added to his front door steps.

Nooapii and his guide dog Garner

“When you are blind everything in your home needs to be in its place. It’s important to know where everything is,” he says.

Having a guide dog has also increased Nooapii’s independence. Garner is his third guide dog, following Badger and Insley. He is provided through the Blind Foundation and is Nooapii’s key to his community. By getting out and about with Garner, he’s become well known in the neighbourhood.

Local rest homes are often treated to a visit from Nooapii, who entertains residents as part of ‘The Sound of Niwa’ group. “Music is something I enjoy and they are very good to me and Garner,” he says.

Family is very important to Nooapii and he is fortunate to have his grandchildren within walking distance of his home. He has learned to use a laptop with specialised software, so he can keep in touch with other family members and friends online.

Nooapii is also a proficient weaver and has crafted an impressive cane basket that takes pride of place in his hallway. Finger knitting is his latest challenge and ten-pin bowling is also a hobby.

Life in Dunedin is good for Nooapii and he says that things are going well for him.

His next mission is to get ready to take on his siblings in this year’s bowls championship!

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