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Alexander is a videoJournalist in the Palmerston North/Whanganui region for NZH Local Focus

Local Focus: The road to paying it forward

This is a story about the simple joy of paying it forward.

It begins with Michael Young, a driving instructor who lost his wife Denise to cancer last June.

Young's loss is still raw, but the love and generosity his wife taught him during their 40-year marriage lives on in him.

"She always gave, she gave herself, her time and that's rubbed off on me and I'm glad I married someone like that because it's helped me see my purpose in life too," Young said.

That's when Sushila Khatiwada comes in. She moved to New Zealand with her husband in 2016 after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake tore through Nepal.

Times were tough for Sushila when she arrived in the country with no drivers licence and no money. That's when Young answered her call.

"She rung me up because she wanted help," Young said. "She said 'look I don't have much money' and [I said] 'no problem'. I had time so I just fitted her in when I had spare gaps. I didn't think much of it. You'd do it for anyone that really needs help."

Sushila was appreciative. "He was like a god for me, he was a good man."

Young gave Sushila over 15 free lessons until she was road safe and passed her licence.

"You see someone's face when they pass their driving test - it's priceless. And when she passed her driving test that made my day. The whole thing was worth it - every minute, every hour - just to see her pass her test to get her licence.

"Because it's just a life changing thing for people, it's something they need. I get a big thrill out of it and that's why I've been doing it for 26 years," Young said.

But this relationship wasn't just a one way street - Sushila was helping Young get through his toughest time yet.

"I don't know if she realised that, but she was actually helping me as well, so we were kind of working on it together I guess."

So when Sushila decided to return to Nepal for 10 months, she wanted to donate her car and give something back for the generosity and kindness Young had given her.

That's when Young suggested the Arohanui Hospice in Palmerston North that cared for his beloved wife, Denise.

"I didn't expect it as I thought she'd want some money for it surely. And when she said 'okay' I was like 'wow that's cool'.

"I felt good for the hospice, I felt good for them and I could finally give them something back after all the help they had given me, even though it was from someone else," Young said.

Robyn Naylor, Arohanui Hospice Commercial Operations Fundraiser, was blown away by Sushila's generosity, making it especially significant that she was only returning home for 10 months.

"This year we have to find $2.67 million from our community to meet the shortfall so that we can care for in excess of 1000 patients and their families, that will come under our care. So we're very, very grateful," Naylor said.

"I'd like to see the country full of people like her," Young said. "Funny isn't it? Can you imagine being surrounded by lovely people like that all the time? It would be amazing, absolutely amazing."

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- NZ Herald

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