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Who We ARe

Birthright Canterbury was registered as a charity more than 50 years ago on 18 October 1963 with the principal goal of supporting single parents and their children. Over the subsequent years Birthright has sought to respond to the myriad of needs that emerge when a family has just one parent. Support includes financial, social, recreational and educational and is provided in a practical and non-judgmental way that seeks to support the family.

Our Philosophy

The purposes of Birthright Canterbury are to work with single mothers, single fathers and other caregivers in Christchurch, Ashburton and surrounding districts. Our stated aim is to assist a parent and their child/children to gain confidence, develop life skills and achieve financial and personal independence.


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Rachel Huggins


Rachel is an experienced and passionate leader, having worked most recently in the educational leadership sector. She is dedicated to advocacy for children and believes that the vision for Birthright Canterbury is in perfect alignment with her personal beliefs. She is a born and raised Cantabrian, with two young adult sons. Post-Earthquake Rachel and her family lived abroad in Germany, China and Switzerland, as well as previously living in Wellington and Napier. Her interests include travelling, gardening, spending time with whanau and friends, and cooking. Rachel thrives in opportunities to build team culture, work with people and support the community through her work.

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Desiree Patchett

Programme Support and Volunteer Coordinator

Desiree enjoys working for Birthright because of the variety of work, the people she comes across each day and the teamwork. She believes that all children should be given opportunities to succeed. Multi-tasking, a passion for children’s welfare and a sense of humour are all qualities that Desiree believes are essential for her role.


Gloria Medina

Social Worker

Gloria is a registered social worker, originally from Chile, South America. She has been living in New Zealand since 2003 and studied a Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Canterbury. Before starting at Birthright Canterbury Gloria spent almost two years working for Women's Refuge in Wellington. She enjoys working at Birthright Canterbury because she has the chance to walk alongside clients, supporting them to improve their lives. Gloria is also a Mum to a daughter. In her spare time her family enjoys going for walks with their dog, spending time with friends & family and travelling to discover new places.

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Elaine Riach

Social Worker

Elaine is a registered social worker who studied at Ara Institute. Elaine worked at Caring for the Carers for four years and before that she worked for two years at Open Home Foundation. Elaine loves helping clients and their children to achieve, to grow and become independent people in their own right. Elaine is a mother of 4 grown up children and 8 grandchildren. Elaine loves to spend time painting, colouring-in and travelling.


Jo Arbuckle

Senior Social Worker

Jo has worked as a registered Social Worker and registered Early Education Teacher since graduating from Otago University.
Jo loves supporting families and tamariki in the community setting and has previously worked as both in Christchurch, Ashburton and Timaru.
Jo loves line dancing, walks with her West Highland terrier Bailey, doing voluntary service with her local library and church.
Jo loves wearing bright colours and spending time with family and friends.
Jo is looking forward to working for Birthright Canterbury and keeping links with Ashburton.

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Ruth Logan

Ashburton Volunteer Family Visitor

Ruth has volunteered for Birthright since 1994. One of the reasons she joined was because she enjoys working with children. Family is very important to her and, as a mother and grandmother, she is always interested in what is happening for them and her Birthright families. Ruth has also trained as a budget adviser and worked as a kindergarten teacher.


Pat Weir

Ashburton Volunteer Family Visitor

Pat has been involved with Birthright for more than 25 years. She enjoys visiting families on a regular basis to see how they are. In her spare time, Pat likes to knit, garden, do craft, write letters to friends outside of Ashburton, travel, spend time with her family, volunteer for other organisations and learn about other people’s cultures.

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Christine Muff

Ashburton Social Worker

Christine started as a Volunteer Family Visitor in 2003 and became a Field Worker in 2008. She has always worked with people and, having been a single parent for a short time, knew how difficult it could be without support, so she felt she could give something of herself to the role. She has studied social work at the University of Otago on a part-time basis. What she most enjoys about working for Birthright is the families. “They all bring something of themselves that warms your heart. I enjoy seeing people gain confidence and grow within themselves to achieve independence and goals.”


Loraine van Der Colff


I have been volunteering with Birthright for 5 years now. Initially I gave the group talks on nutrition for example healthy affordable meals, healthy lunch boxes for school aged children etc. Now I am the facilitator of a Friday group of single parents. I organise speakers and educators from a range of disciplines to come and chat to our single parents. Sometimes we just do fun stuff like crafts such as jewellery making or scrapbooking.

I have an honours degree in Biochemistry and Microbiology and also recently completed my postgraduate diploma in Nutrition through the University of Otago and did a paper on Maori health at ARA. I moved to New Zealand with my husband and daughters from South Africa in 2000.

 I love the variety of people I meet through my volunteering work. The sense of accomplishment when we have a group of parents getting together and really connecting with each other and helping each other. It puts me on a high for the day.

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Camila Silva


Camila is a Brazilian system analyst currently pursuing a PhD in Computer Science. She is happy to be part of the Birthright volunteers' group because she feels that, by doing that, she can give back to the community and support Birthright's vision.

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Leandro Sumida


Leandro comes from Brazil and has been living in New Zealand since 2018. Being raised by a single and hard-working mom, he understood some of the challenges faced by families led by one person, and was thrilled with the opportunity to volunteer for Birthright and help support its vision. Currently working as a Portuguese-English translator and having just finished his studies in Data Analysis, he enjoys playing card games in his spare time.

our Governance team

Fiona Robertson


Fiona in being a social worker for over 35 years has always known of the existence and purpose of Birthright Canterbury. During 2014/2015 Fiona acted as part-time interim Manager and has been Rhodora’s, the current Manager’s supervisor until her recent selection as Board Chair. Fiona brings to  Birthright a unique combination of skills of understanding people and understanding organisations. She has a background in accountancy which she brings in addition to being a social worker, consultant, and counsellor. Fiona describes herself as a ‘rural girl’ from North Canterbury and brought up in bare feet and gumboots.

Her commitment to the social work profession is demonstrated through her membership of Aotearoa New Zealand Association (ANZASW) continuously since 1989 and she has served in various ANZASW volunteer roles over this period.  With her unique skills, she has also been involved in international social work.

Overall, Fiona provides understanding and the skills to work with all cultures within the need for human dignity and social justice.


Brenda Lowe-Johnson




Judy Roughan


As a social worker, I have been privileged to work in a number of different community agencies around Christchurch. For the past fifteen years, I have worked at Christchurch Women Prison, both as a Case Manager and as a social worker. I now find myself thinking about retirement and looking at ways to continue to have links to the social work community. When I heard that Birthright was seeking a Board member, it evoked wonderful memories for me. As a solo parent raising my sons, we were supported by Birthright, we all have fond memories of joining other families on a holiday camp. Later I became a volunteer home visitor, my experience with Birthright proved to be a significant influence in my later decision to train as a social worker. 

These days, my greatest joy is spending time with my three grandchildren and watching my sons being fully involved loving fathers. I look forward to again being involved with Birthright Canterbury.


Alison Argyle


Alison was a board member of Birthright Ashburton from 2010 including spending 6 years as its Treasurer. She is a teacher who now tutors private students as well as being a voluntary tutor at the local secondary school. Alison is a mother and grandmother who believes all children should be given the opportunity to realise their full potential. She sees Birthright as an important link in the community providing such opportunities.


Charles Whatman


Charles is a solicitor at Argyle Welsh Finnigan. He has recently joined the Board and is looking forward to sharing his legal knowledge with the other trustees. Charles is keen to contribute towards enriching the lives of young people in Ashburton. Outside of work Charles is a keen footballer and cricket fanatic. Charles has one young son.

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David Fisher


David has lived in Ashburton since February 1983. He is married to Janet and they have 3 children - Tim, Emily and Charlotte. Their children did their schooling through Allenton School, Ashburton Intermediate and Ashburton College. They have all left home after university educations, living in Berlin, Palmerston North and Wellington. David is a keen sportsman. He regularly plays golf, tennis and bridge.  He has spent many years playing hockey. Now that David has retired, his time is spent with family and doing voluntary work.

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Jacci Tatnell


Jacci has worked in the Community Sector for her professional career, starting with Red Cross and now as the Head of Community Education for St John, for whom she has worked for the past 11 years. Originally from Nelson she has lived in Christchurch for the past three years after spending time living in Wellington and Hamilton. Jacci has had a passion for volunteering starting as a volunteer in the St John Youth programme at 15 up until she was in her early 40’s. Jacci was attracted to join Birthright because of the wonderful difference it makes to families and was looking for a meaningful volunteer role.

Our Team
Our Trustees
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