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Our First Home winners: ‘We never thought we would make this trip’

We join Robyn and Tom Schreuder as they embark on a trip of a lifetime - and welcome a new member to their family.

It’s been a wild ride for Tom and Robyn Schreuder since winning last year’s series of Our First Home.

The Auckland couple put their busy lives on hold to compete on the reality TV show. It was all in the hope of helping their youngest daughter Karen and her husband Jono into the difficult property market.

Together, the four were triumphant – and luckily for Tom (62) and Robyn (57), there was an added bonus to their prize: a safari holiday in South Africa.

Although for Robyn, who became a fan favourite on the show and caused the biggest gasp of the series when she had a nasty accident with a wheelbarrow, the thought of going on a seven-day safari initially wasn’t her cup of tea.

“Me, on safari? I don’t think so!” she laughs.

Robyn says it sounded like something that would push her well out of her comfort zone, but as it turns out, it really was the trip of a lifetime.

Tom, pictured at Auckland Zoo, says the main thing he took from the show was learning more about his family.

“I was completely taken aback by it,” she tells. “It was the most incredible thing we’ve ever done and I absolutely loved every single second of it!”

Tom says the action started as soon as they got there.

“We arrived at the game reserve at 2pm and by 3pm, we were out on a drive looking for animals. That first day we got lucky and saw a cheetah with her five young cubs. We probably spent an hour with them, watching and taking photos of her feeding her babies. She’d caught a little impala for them. They were within one metre of us!”

The experienced builder, who was the family’s secret weapon on the show, says the trip was the best thing the pair had ever done.

“It’s not something we’d ever planned to do… but I’d do it again tomorrow if I could. It was just incredible. It’s one thing seeing animals like that in the zoo, but it’s incredible seeing them in the wild.”

Joining the Weekly to take a look around Auckland Zoo – which opened its new African savannah area at Easter – Robyn is enjoying recounting their trip, while revisiting some of the incredible animals they spotted up close on safari.

A bonus for the pair was opting to extend their trip by 10 days to spend time with son-in-law Jono’s parents, who hail from South Africa.

“We got to meet Jono’s grandparents and his family over there. And we saw where he grew up – his old home – which was a really special experience,” tells Tom.

Upon their return home, they had an even more exciting new face to meet – their first grandchild, after Karen gave birth to gorgeous Isla last November.

“It’s awesome!” says Tom of his new role as granddad, “and it’s about time!”

Karen is the youngest of their four children, Marie (36), Steven (34) and Richard (31).

“Yes, we have four kids and it took the youngest one to produce a baby!” laughs Robyn.

They say they’re enjoying keeping an eye on the new series of TV One’s reno show, and this week, they even make a guest appearance! Tom features as “a prize” on the show – something that would benefit all the families.

“It’s a bit different this year, as last series a lot of us were builders, but this year’s lot don’t have that advantage,” explains Tom. “That means they also have to worry about booking tradespeople and all that side of things.”

Despite the disadvantage, Tom says he’s impressed so far by what he’s seen of their homes.

“They’re all doing a great job – the houses are coming up really nicely. From here, it’s just about keeping to their budget and having everything well planned out so they don’t get too stressed at the end.”

He can certainly empathise with the families’ show-related stress, but he also knows what a life-changer it can be.

“Above all, the thing I got most out of it was spending all that time with my family – learning more about each other, and particularly learning a lot about Jono. It was terrific.”

Words: Alice O’Connell

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