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'Daughter's health battle my motivation', Wayne Howett

Updated: May 14

Welcome Wayne Howett to Purposely, where he shares his organisation's mission and his career and life journey. Wayne is the CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities® New Zealand (RMHC NZ), an organisation dedicated to providing practical help and compassionate care to families of hospitalised children.

Wayne has experience of having a sick child and this lived experience led him to the work he does today. His daughter, Claudia, was just eight weeks old when he noticed something amiss while playfully lifting her in the air. Prompted by a concerning observation in her eyes, Wayne's wife took her to the doctor, leading to a swift referral to a specialist. Within a day, they were in consultation with medical experts, indicating the severity of the situation. Two days later, Claudia underwent surgery to remove her right and to treat cancerous tumours in her left eye, diagnosed with bilateral Retinoblastoma.

This marked the beginning of Wayne and his family's challenging medical journey. In their thirties, Wayne and his wife found themselves travelling overseas in pursuit of the best treatment for Claudia. Their journey took them to Miami in the United States, where Wayne, facing the challenge of lacking insurance, ingeniously found ways to cover the mounting medical expenses. This included securing local employment and juggling work responsibilities with caring for their daughter. Despite the immense challenges, the treatment proved successful, and Claudia, now 23, leads a vibrant life. Though she lost her sight due to the treatment, Claudia remains active and joyful, particularly enjoying horse riding, often accompanied by her father, who acts as her guide on the trails.

When presented with the opportunity to lead the Auckland branch and then the combined RMHC nationwide, Wayne recognised himself as an ideal candidate. His firsthand experience of caring for his daughter, combined with his professional expertise honed during his tenure as an audit professional, uniquely positioned him for the role.

The charity Wayne leads supports parents and families navigating the challenges of medical treatment for their children. Wayne has drawn from his own experiences of both domestic and international medical journeys to lead the mission locally in Aotearoa NZ and his lived experience really helps him to empathise with the parents going through their own journeys.

"I've been in that situation personally. And so I know that the day-to-day challenges suddenly become monumental. They're not trivial matters that you can easily brush aside; they become significant hurdles in your mind because you're dealing with this trauma."

Ronald McDonald House Charities worldwide are dedicated to providing practical help and compassionate care to families of sick children. The RMHC team know the importance of empathy, support, and involving families in paediatric healthcare, and this was particularly relevant amidst the challenges posed by the pandemic.

RMHC New Zealand operate on a $12 million annual budget, employs over 130 staff and relies on the dedication of around 400 volunteers. Its facilities, spanning across the country, include Houses in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, alongside Family Rooms in Auckland, Invercargill and Christchurch, and a Family Retreat in Rotorua. This retreat, situated on the shores of Lake Rotorua, serves families whose journeys have been particularly challenging.

Wayne's journey with RMHC began in June 2010 when he was appointed CEO of RMH Auckland Trust. He assumed the role of CEO of RMHC NZ in early 2015, overseeing the amalgamated trusts of RMH Auckland and RMH Wellington, and later the amalgamation of the South Island trust (RMHSI). His tenure includes four years as the first New Zealand representative advising RMHC Global on expansion and network strengthening and latterly on Global Impact Strategy. Wayne's background in finance and business development, coupled with his personal experiences as a father navigating his daughter's treatment, uniquely position him to lead RMHC NZ with bold and innovative strategies, guided by the organization's motto of 'Rule number one, Mission, Mission, Mission'.


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