December 9 2015 | Kapiti News | Article written by Cloe Willets.
Brigitte Redman understands what it means to be hungry.
In fact, she will never again feel the comfort of a full stomach.
The Paraparaumu Beach woman suffers a daily battle with gastroparesis, a condition that prevents the stomach emptying properly.
No longer able to eat any food and allowed just one cup of coffee or coconut water a day, the self-proclaimed foodie lost all spontaneous muscle movement in her stomach after botched surgery for a hernia seven years ago.
“Having gastroparesis has heightened my awareness of food and how much evolves around it,” said Ms Redman, who is using the passion taken from her to run a community meal initiative.
“I understand hunger more than I ever have in my whole life because I can’t physically eat even though my body might be telling me I’m hungry. If I eat one thing, I can end up hospitalised for days.”
Attached to a machine for nine hours a day, her energy draining, Ms Redman had to slow down from work as owner of Paraparaumu Beach’s Queen B Nail Studio. Instead of slipping into doing nothing, today she launches her Arms of Angels charity.
“Arms of Angels kind of came about unintentionally, when I was dealing with the change.
“I found myself making large quantities of food, which I couldn’t eat, so took it to the Koha Centre on Ngahina St.
“The cooking was like a coping mechanism for me, allowing me to stay in touch with the smells and textures of food, while bringing something positive to others.”
Ms Redman used to be a social worker, and has a heightened awareness of the financial battles faced in communities. When a girl asked how to make a meal she had prepared, Ms Redman was quick to jump at the chance to help.
“I offered to get her the necessary ingredients and recipe so she could make it herself, and after she passed on her thanks, volunteers suggested another person I could make a package for. That’s where it started.
“It wasn’t a conscious decision, but the numbers of families in need started to grow.”
Within two months of coming up with the idea for Arms of Angels, Ms Redman had support from New World Paraparaumu.
“This enables you to go online and nominate a family and sponsor that family, or sponsor any family on the database, who will receive ingredients to make a meal valued at $15, once a week for six weeks.”
Distributed as vouchers that can be handed in at New World Paraparaumu, the packs include meat and “could be a family’s best meal all week”, Ms Redman said.
Other businesses stepped in to support the cause. “I’ve even had young people who don’t have much money put in $15 to sponsor a family,” she said. “I’m so proud of the community.”
Focused on a larger-scale sponsor scheme for the holiday season, Ms Redman has also organised a one-off $50 meal pack for in-need families over Christmas.
“Some of the feedback has included people saying how thankful they are, because they hadn’t realised someone in the community cared enough to sponsor or nominate them.
“There’s this whole area of people living in the community who are struggling and other people don’t know. When they receive this gift, they feel really blessed.”
Focused on expanding her fast-growing initiative, which is now becoming a registered charity, Ms Redman’s new hobby is slowly filling an empty void.
“Arms of Angels runs solely on the generosity of the community, and I want to see this initiative grow. I’ve put it at the forefront so people know we’re here to stay.”