Sandra Wood describes herself as forthright, and it’s her frank outspokenness that makes the Gisborne local an ideal candidate for a national disabled leadership group brought together by Life Unlimited Charitable Trust (now known as Your Way | Kia Roha).
The new group will bring a mix of expertise, lived experience and fresh thinking to help inform the future direction of the organisation and the services it delivers.
Sandra Wood has been a paraplegic for 23 years, the result of an encounter with a horse at Waipiro Bay in November 1993, which broke her neck. As she says, “a horse gave me a hongi and he won.”
She also has breast cancer but remains an active advocate for disabled people and is a member of the disability advisory group for Gisborne District Council.
Of Ngati Haua/Mahanga/Kahu ki Whangaroa/Tauiwi descent, Sandra is a mother and grandmother.
“My children are Ngati Porou of Te Whanau a Hunaara lineage, and my backbone.”
Sandra accepted the position on the Disabled Leadership Group with the aspiration of improving services for people living with impairments and the wider support networks in society for all. She is interested in developing effective strategies and implementation methodology.
“Being a paraplegic for 23 years does not mean I am an expert in this field, rather that I am experienced and – live it – where I believe this group’s primary focus is.”
Her concerns are not only about disabled people of the Tairawhiti region but also about the rapidly ageing community.
“They fall through the chasms created by policy, location, lack of cohesive support networks and lack of empathetic understanding of pride and wants — often categorised by the mainstream as a ‘need’.”
For the last 15 months, Sandra has received ongoing care in the fight against breast cancer.
“Following fusion of my neck, it was discovered that an anomaly existed in the thoracic section ascribed as being cancer. However, I still exist.
“I consider myself very fortunate that I have received and continue to receive attentive expert and caring healthcare here in Te Tairawhiti.
“However, support networks and care outside the medical arena has been woeful — there were gaping holes then that still exist now.
“I can only hope that I am able to be effective in this role — for all.”