Bianca Hawea, with her family and a new barbecue that has been donated to them after a house fire. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

When Claire Hills looked at the Times-Age on Tuesday, she saw a familiar face – one she hadn’t seen in many years.

“I picked up the paper and I thought, ‘that’s Bianca!’… I used to teach her at Chanel College.”

She was referring to the story about Bianca Hawea, whose Masterton home burnt down in an electrical fire last Sunday.

Hills visited Hawea at the Clyde St property, where the family was living in a shed behind the remnants of the house.

“She recognised me immediately, and we had a big hug and a great catchup,” Hills said.

“I said to her, what would be the thing that is most practical for you at the moment?”

The family needed a barbecue, something they could prepare meals on without electricity.

Hills worked with the Masterton branches of Mitre 10 and St Vincent de Paul, asking “if they would be willing to come to the party”.

With their help, Hawea’s family was able to get the much-needed barbecue within a matter of hours.

“It was strong and sturdy and practical. It would do the business,” Hills said.

“I think it’s a lovely sign of the community in Masterton.

“She’s been wrapped around with family and community love.”

Visiting the house had shown her the “horrific” impact of the fire and increased her pride in her former student.

“When you go to the back of the house you can see how incredibly lucky they were to escape that,” Hills said.

“I think her spirit and resilience are amazing.”

Hawea said she was planning to have a big barbecue with her whanau.

She was surprised to see Hills, whom she had not seen since her school days.

“She was one of my favourite teachers,” Hawea said.

“She actually knew two of the firefighters that came here … she used to teach them at Chanel.”

Many people had been coming up the driveway to offer support, she said. She had been unable to offer them a cup of tea as she usually would, but did have plenty of water.

“That’s what you do when you have people come over.”

  • A Givealittle page has been set up to help support Hawea and her family: givealittle.co.nz/cause/help-bianca-hawea-rebuild-after-losing-her-family.


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