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In Your own Words

Zoe Johnston, 24
Tourism, Teacher, Touch Rugby, Skier

Zoë Johnston is a very busy and pro-active 24 year old who completed a Diploma at the New Zealand School of Travel and Tourism then promptly got the first job she applied for at The Hotel Grand Chancellor, loving the public interaction.

With a change in focus, Zoe decided to return to study to become an early childhood teacher because she believes strongly that children and developing their healthy self esteem makes such a huge contribution to the adults they become.

Zoë wants other children born with cleft to know that the cleft is just a small part of who they are. That it doesn’t change who you are, but adds so much more to the person you become; patience, understanding, uniqueness and an inner strength far beyond your years.

Zoë has never let the cleft hold her back, whether participating in sports (Zoë plays touch, and skis), succeeding at school, or just getting out there with everyone else her age. Zoë believes it’s important to follow your heart, to do what you love to do without any constraints.

Having a cleft has had a very positive impact on Zoë’s life. She believes it has taught her the benefits of patience – patience to wait for the results that come at the end of all the treatment. She has developed an understanding of the unique attributes of others and a real desire to help.

Zoe feels that sometimes children born with cleft don’t see their good points; their strengths and individuality, and that’s why she sees her role as encouraging them to follow their dreams, and helping them through any rough patches.

Kenny Ardouin, 18
Award Winner, Radio Host, Counsellor, CleftKids NZ

Kenny has been through many surgical procedures both here and in the UK, meeting many new people and making new friends along the way. The experience has been tough, but Kenny believes his cleft has given him the skill to be less judgmental toward others, and given him a real appreciation of life and all it has to offer.

He wants to give practical support and advice to other kids born with cleft who are going through similar procedures and who might need questions answered.

In Kenny’s words, “Having a cleft lip & palate is so minor because it isn’t life threatening and it can be fixed. It’s a lot better than having a heart problem or a serious illness such as cancer and it definitely makes me realise there is always someone worse off than you. Having a cleft lip & palate hasn’t stopped me doing anything.”

Kenny was very involved in school life graduating college at the end of 2009 and winning the ’25th Anniversary Special Prize for the widest contribution to school life by a male student’ and the 2009 Rotary Award for services to the school. Pretty impressive!

Kenny’s interest in helping and supporting youth led to his hosting his own radio show and becoming a national youth representative on Urge – Youthline’s Youth Health Advisory Group. He is also passionate about giving the opportunity for young people born with cleft to get in touch with each other and gain the benefits of never feeling alone.

So he set up Cleft Kids NZ, which has now become the KidsOnly and TeensPlus sections of this website.
You can talk with Kenny through our TeensPlus Facebook page or through asking a question in the Kids Only section of the website.

Alice Gower, 34
Lawyer, Opera Singer, Horse rider, mother

Alice graduated from Waikato University in 1999 with an LLB and a BA, and was admitted to the Bar as a lawyer in 2000 and now has her own law practice in Hamilton where she specialises in employment, criminal and family law . Alice together with her husband are now the proud parents to Grace, with another baby on the way.

Alice took up opera singing when she was 23, after her last surgery and was then invited to do her Masters in Music at Waikato University, graduating with First Class Honours. Already singing professionally in New Zealand and with her career blossoming, Alice was invited to perform a lead role in an Italian Opera. She has already been invited to return to Italy for another lead role – an amazing achievement for any New Zealander!

Alice’s other passion, competitive horse riding, has also kept her busy for over 20 years and on her trip to Italy she managed to fit in some horse-trekking while indulging in her love of singing. It is a true inspiration to see anyone following not one, but two of their passions, singing opera in Italy and riding through the Italian countryside – amazing goals to achieve.

Alice has learnt a lot from having a cleft lip and palate and says she would not be the person she is without the experiences she had as a child and hopes every child born with cleft can be as positive and happy about their lives as she is about hers.

Dr Bevan Roy
GP, Health Advisor, Volunteer

I was born into a family where I have two older brothers who have a cleft lip and palate, so by the time I came along my parents were well versed in making my life as routine and normal as possible. From a young age I was strong academically and in sports, and with such supportive parents I wasn’t shy about this which attracted both negative and positive attention from my peers. It is hard, looking back now, to truly recall how difficult a struggle it was at times but without that struggle I would not be where I am now.

During my school years I was a Rotorua rep gymnast, coach and competition judge ; ambulance volunteer, Air Training Corps NCO (corporal). I then studied medicine at Otago University, also volunteering in three community organisations, and frequently supporting fellow students during their difficult times. I believe they recognised that I had the kind of inner strength that comes from having faced adversity.

I now own an Auckland General Practice, working there as a GP with medical students and post graduate doctors on placement with us for teaching. I also serve on the Ministry of Health Aids Medical and Technical Advisory Committee, and on the local District Health Board Community Laboratory Testing Clinical Advisory Group.

And there is still time left from all that to enjoy frequent travel and fun times with friends and family

Stephen Selwood
CEO, Infrastructure New Zealand, Cleft NZ Board Member

There’s an old saying – the older you get, the wiser you get. To me there’s nothing truer. When I was a kid, I used to think my cleft was a handicap because I looked different, I was bullied, I worried about getting a girlfriend. All the usual things.

As I grew up, I learned that most people get bullied and although I might have got a bit more than my fair share, I learned a self reliance and strength of character and a tolerance of others that was stronger than most.

Being different makes you stand out from the crowd which can be a real advantage. For instance, people remember you and what you say and because I’m on TV from time to time and do a lot of public speaking, it never ceases to amaze me how many people that I’ve never met say that they know me. I think it’s because I’m a bit different and that it’s the same when it comes to relationships. It’s who you are, the respect that you show for others and the confidence in yourself that really counts – not the cleft.

So consider that having a cleft is an opportunity, not a handicap, and use it. I have.

Stephen is also on Cleft NZ’s Governance Board.